One thing that I have learned by walking with my Catholic brothers and sisters is the importance of involving diverse voices in the formations of faith. Homogeneity is not seen as a virtue, and uniformity is recognized as monotony. One example of this tendency can be seen in a conversation that I had with Dr. David Fagerberg, a professor in Liturgy at Notre Dame, on what he thought of the recent re-translation of the Latin Mass. He told me he liked it because of its diversity. He said that it allowed the prayer of the people to echo throughout time. It was understandable, yet not comfortable. One does not use words like “consubstantial” in everyday conversation, but good Christian worship invites participants to pray beyond their own words and outside of their own comfort zones in a new realm of divine disclosure.
Another tradition that forces me into the magnificence of the outlandish is through the reading of spiritual classics. Spiritual Classics are books that have taken hold of something in people that crosses through time and presents God to new generations with old voices. Reading old books has become an essential part of my own journey to encounter a living God. God is not only beyond race, gender, and social location; God is beyond time itself. To encounter God we can’t be trapped in the understandings of our own time. C.S. Lewis describes this problem beautifully in his introduction to On the Incarnation. He states,
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.
Spiritual classics have been, for me, one of the most powerful ways that God has spoken to me about who I am and who God is. God has used them to break open my heart and my mind. The Classics are an invaluable tool for letting God be God and not simply a projection. They open us up to a world where we are not introduced to the God of philosophers but the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul, Theresa, Francis, Perpetua, Athanasius, and countless others who have known God and loved God in a diversity of ways at a diversity of times.