It’s a good thing to be from the South when you are studying theology. A very good thing. I’m up in Minnesota this summer studying theology at Saint John’s University and reading works filled with words that I know but that are arranged in such a way that what they say is not always what they seem to signify, as in that which “signifies that which sanctifies, it must needs signify the effect, which is implied in the sanctifying cause.” Yes, that is truly what the sentence says.
Thankfully I am from the southland and I know what to do with a sentence such as that. I already know how to move very slowly through impenetrable air that is heavy with the humidity of summertime, thick with the mist that hovers between one tree-line and the next. I know how to make my slow and careful way through the fog that rises in the hollows of the Great Smoky Mountains, or that settles into the Tennessee River Valley. I know how to sit on a front porch and shell butterbeans so slowly that the gnats don’t even know that I’m there. And I know how to sit quietly and let a sentence work on me for just as long as it takes.
So Aquinas is a piece of cake. Schillebeeckx, no problem. I’m used to moving slowly and letting the profound beauty of a summer evening – or a summer sentence – unfold in its own sweet time. After all, I’m from the South.
Postscript: We southerners may have a summertime advantage in knowing how to sit still in the heat. But it doesn’t take being from the southland to see the Beauty toward which the words of the theologians point. North, south, east or west, we are all called to pause and perceive the glory of the Lord that unfolds like a summer rose in the mist of morning.