I recently read through Benedicta Ward’s new book book, Give Love and Receive the Kingdom, a collection of essays and papers. The topic is English spirituality, but it’s early English or Anglo-Saxon spirituality and not modern stuff at all.
She focuses on Bede the Venerable and Anselm of Canterbury but there’s plenty more, like St Cuthbert, 12th Century hermits, Julian of Norwich and preachers (Lancelot Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, Mark Frank) and a little about John Bunyan.
If anything, these essays model the sorts of papers or addresses or lectures that can be given publicly. In other words, crisp and clear and absent of rabbit trails and arcane discussions. She’s a model writer.
A quote worth recording, about Cuthbert:
A Christian saint is not remembered as wise or great or righteous, but as a humble and sinful human being who learned, through who knows what agonies and darknesses, so to walk in faith in Christ through his daily life that at the point of death he revealed to others, if not to himself, that underneath are the everlasting arms.
His reply is the key to his life and a way to begin to understand him: “And indeed,” he replied, “if His will is set upon this I will gladly obey His will. However, if He would prefer me to stay among you, at least until I can settle a question about the origin of the soul which I am turning over in my mind, I should welcome this with gratitude, for I do not know whether anyone will solve it when I am dead.”
There is in this reply first the obedience of the monk—a joyful love of whatever might be God’s will for him; and secondly, a true estimate of his own intellectual powers as a scholar, without false humility—a mind still employed to its utmost in understanding the things of God for the sake of the people of God.