Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Neither Flowed Through Them

This past weekend, I picked up a copy of Cultural Amnesia, a book I fell in love with at the first word of the essay on Margaret Thatcher, namely "Solzhenitskin", but had never bought for myself. I have been dipping into it here and there, enjoying it. Along the way, I encountered sentence or two I had seen quoted:
I don't want the teachings of Jesus taken from me. He might not longer be my redeemer, but still he is my master. If I no longer know that my redeemer liveth, I know that he speaketh not like Tony Blair.
I have little good to say about bad modern translations and liturgies, but this reminded me of a passage in Santayana that the sight of Harvard Yard a few weeks ago had also brought to mind:
On the whole, it was the architecture of sturdy poverty, looking through thrift in the direction of wealth. It well matched the learning of early New England, traditionally staunch and narrow, yet also thrifty and tending to positivism, a learning destined as it widened to be undermined and to become, like the architecture, flimsy and rich. It had been founded on accurate Latin and a spellbound constant reading of the Bible; but in the Harvard of my day we had heard a little of everything, and nobody really knew his Latin or knew his Bible. You might say that the professor of Hebrew did know his Bible, and the professors of Latin their Latin. No doubt, in the sense that they could write technical articles on the little points of controversy at the moment among philologists; but neither Latin nor the Bible flowed through them and made their spiritual lives; they were not vehicles for anything great. They were grains in a quicksand, agents and patients in an anonymous moral migration that had not yet written its classics.

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