Easter in Ordinary
Funny how associations are kindled. Matthew Boudway’s post of George Herbert’s lovely poem on Lent brought to mind Herbert’s famous poem, “Prayer,” one of whose descriptive lines is: “Heaven in ordinarie.” This, in turn, reminded me of Nicholas Lash’s wonderful book, Easter in Ordinary, a title Lash derives from joining Herbert with Hopkins’ well-known plea: “Let him easter in us.”
Towards the end of the book Lash writes:
There is, in all responsible human labor, not only the labor of human relationship, but also the academic labors of the mind, a necessary discipline, respect, or courtesy which imposes upon our patterns of speech and imagination not necessarily doubt or hesitation, but at least a kind of reticence.
Theological investigation is, in itself, neither preaching nor prayer. Nevertheless, it seems to me that, if theology is not to lose touch with experience, if it is not to sever its link with that discipline of labor, interpretation, and suffering, that contemplative practice, of which it is a particular, educated, reflective, and critical moment, then it too needs to be characterized, in its uses of argument, by something close to (and often indistinguishable from) prayerfulness.
This is not a recommendation for pietism or mindless religiosity. It is simply a suggestion that theology is not exempt from that requirement of reverence, reticence, or courtesy which is, in fact, a requirement laid upon all responsible human speech and that the form of such courtesy is dictated by its relationsip to the incomprehensible mystery on which it seeks to reflect.