Friday, December 4, 2015

Religious and Aesthetic Sense

Many years ago, I participated in a group of Christian faculty who met a couple of times each month for prayer and discussion. Oftentimes we took turns choosing a book for the group to read – a delicate situation since tastes in religious writings can vary widely. I once chose Cardinal Newman's The Idea of a University, and no one else liked it, not even the one Catholic member of the group. When that colleague's turn came around, he selected a book by a more recent Catholic priest. Surprisingly enough, he didn't like that one, either. In fact, once again, I was the only one who cared for the selection.

The book was The Religious Sense, by Luigi Giussani. I enjoyed it mostly because the author used a lot of poetry from around the world to make his case for some universal sentiments about the Nature of Everything. Our faculty group, however, consisted mostly of engineers and economists: not the most poetic people on the planet. The fellow who picked the book was a law professor and similarly prosaic.

It's been about ten years since I read The Religious Sense, and last month I finally got around to reading the sequel to the book that appealed so strongly to both my own religious sense and my aesthetic sense. At the Origin of the Christian Claim started out much like the earlier offering, with quotations from Egyptian odes, a fifteenth-century Indian poet, Homer, the Koran, and other sources from throughout history and from around the world. But I soon realized that this fresh approach would only last during the first couple of chapters of the book, the portion dedicated to recapping the preceding volume. The rest of the book was good, but not especially novel.

But still, there's one more victory for the reading plan. I wanted to read this book for many years but probably wouldn't have if I hadn't scheduled it. And I know now that if I schedule any more Giussani on future reading plans, I should probably just return to The Religious Sense.

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