Thoughts are still going through my head from a lecture a few weeks ago on Life in the Spirit and the Church. There was much discussion about the interaction between us as individuals and tradition and the teaching of the Church.

A couple of days later, I remembered something from my degree days. One year I did a module on Medieval Literature and studied Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Troilus stomps around Troy making fun of the lovers he says. He is unmoved by their sighing, letter writing and devotion. However, on seeing Criseyde he falls head-over-heels in love and becomes what he has previously despised. What Troilus discovers is the truth of the clichés. All the time he had not experienced love, he could not make sense of what the lovers did or said. When he had fallen in love suddenly everything made sense.

Sometimes the way we engage with Tradition can be like this. We experience God and reading the writings of the Saints, we discover that they have put into words something of that encounter. For example I felt like that when I read the St Augustine quote in the Divine Office last week:

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!”

Early on in doing the exercises I remember feeling just like this, only I couldn’t articulate it. Reading these words brought a kind of relief, that this feeling had been put into words by someone else.

There is also the experience of reading something that makes sense of something that you only saw partially before. Even in my Baptist days, I was aware of the important of communion. Despite being in a church that didn’t really value it, somehow I felt it was significant. I can’t tell where that feeling came from. When I read Alexander Schmennman explaining that the Mass is the centre of what we do because God intended that the whole of life to be Eucharistic, a movement of receiving and offering back, constant flow of thanksgiving, only then did the pieces fall into place. “Oh THIS is why I have felt this feeling about communion all these years.” In fact it widened my horizons far beyond anything I had expected.

Sometimes Tradition talks about something we cannot put into words, sometimes it takes what we feel and places it in a wider context and this causes a shift in our perception. It does not end here but we have a great body of writers, saints, theologians, nuns, monks who walk with us and show us what we would otherwise miss.