For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Angelic Joys

Now that secondhand book selling has retreated out of shabby little shops in side streets and onto websites, one forgets the pleasure of a long browse and its serendipitous joys. Inevitably, something catches one's eye in a bookshop, because it is by Holy Luck on that particular shelf, which one would not have seen on Amazon - for Amazon does not have bookshelves, just empty "search" boxes that can only return what one has entered in them.

In the last two weeks I made a point of going to Charing Cross Road, then to the top notch Skoob shop near Russell Square, and some books fell into my lap that I have been thinking about with longing for years. Charles Williams' Many Dimensions, Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne, Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Evelyn Waugh's biography of Campion all jumped out at me without me even looking for them.

The last mentioned, Waugh's biography of the Jesuit martyr, is the one I picked to read first, and I note that Waugh thinks that Campion's leaving Douai was a great loss to the translation of the Bible that was proceeding there, the Douai-Rheims. He rates Campion as one of the great prose writers of his generation. Campion writes fondly of his time in the novice house in Moravia, of the shared life of prayer and manual labour,
How could I help taking fire at the remembrance of that house where there were so many burning souls - fiery of mind, fiery of body, fiery of word with the flame which God came upon earth to send, that it should burn there always? O dear walls, that once enclosed me in your company! Pleasant recreation room, where we talked so holily! Glorious kitchen, where the best of friends - John and Charles, the two Stephens, Sallitzi, Finnit and George, Tobias and Gaspar - fight for the pots in holy humility and charity unfeigned! How often do I picture it; one returning with his load from the farm; another from market; one sweating, sturdy and merry, under a sack of refuse, another toiling along on some other errand! Believe me, my dearest brethren, your dust and brooms, chaff and loads are beheld with joy by the angels.
Dust and brooms beheld with joy by the angels: I think a Pre-Raphaelite painter could have done something rather splendid with that image.

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