Hello, y'all readers of Sacred Page!
I'm saying "y'all" because I've just spent a weekend in New Orleans and feel partially Cajunified already. "Y'all" is actually an extremely useful word, because it supplies modern English with a second-person plural pronoun that has been absent for quite some time. Seventeenth-century English, memorialized in the King James Bible, could make a distinction between second-person singular (thee, thou) and second-person plural (ye, you)--a distinction we cannot make in Standard English today without awkward circumlocutions. Therefore, regional dialects supply one: the South generally uses "y'all"; southwestern Pennsylvania uses "yinz" (a contraction of "you ones"). But I digress.
Trying to be a full time professor, husband, father of seven, a faithful Catholic, and actually get any scholarship done is a tall order for me, as it is for my colleagues on this blog (mutatis mutandis--Brant and Michael don't have seven kids [yet]). One of the things you learn to do is to try to squeeze all the time you can out of the day by "multi-tasking." Today I had to drive my youngest son to the Cleveland Clinic--a six-hour round trip from humble Steubenville. Not wanting to lose all the time, I brought along my second son to read to me out of a book I'm working on, Jean Corbon's The Wellspring of Worship (Ignatius Press).
Corbon, like a good modern Frenchman, doesn't actually argue for a position or tell you what he's doing--he just begins describing his vision in beautiful semi-poetic language, and any argument behind his thought--if there is one--is either aesthetic ("it's so beautiful it compels me!") or implicit. It made me wonder if the last Frenchman to write with logical clarity was Thomas Aquinas (if teaching in Paris makes you French), but not being familiar enough with French culture, I decided I wasn't in a position to affirm that definitively. My apologies to the French if my impression of their literary style is inaccurate.
In any event, Corbon writes beautifully. The book is about liturgy, and the early chapters are about the divine economy or salvation history, which Corbon views as the true object of the celebration of the sacred liturgy. What fascinated me at times was the maximalism of Corbon's interpretation as he re-told the biblical story line. His basic perspective is that the water motif--a common one throughout Scripture, from the river of Eden in Gen 2 to the river from the New Jerusalem in the final chapters of Revelation--really points to a metaphysical reality: the continually self-outpouring of the persons of the Trinity, one to another, and the self-gift of the Godhead to humanity by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Corbon's perspective leads him to make some striking statements. For example, he will affirm that the outpoured Holy Spirit is essentially what the patriarchs were digging for when they sunk wells during their sojourn in Canaan. Striking thought, no? It's the kind of thought one would expect from the Church Fathers but not from a twentieth-century theologian. So what do "y'all" think? It what sense can a Christian affirm that the patriarchs were really searching for the Holy Spirit as they dug wells in Canaan? What metaphysical presuppositions does such reflection on Scripture require? Or is this too "maximalist" for contemporary Christians to affirm? I may wade in with some more thoughts in a future post.