I have learned over the years that students, wearily carrying out a writing assignment, often have recourse to the dictionary. Assigned to write on a specific topic, they will begin with a dictionary definition. Let it never be said that I have learned nothing from reading their papers all these years.
A few months ago I had a visit from the college-age daughter of a friend of mine. The young woman, an exceptionally gifted linguist, had developed an interest in religion and philosophy. What books, she asked, would combine her longstanding love of Latin and Greek with her newfound desire to plumb the mysteries of the cosmos?
Prayer. We read, write, talk and agonize about it, resolve to do it, wish we’d done it more than we actually do it. In this it resembles other pursuits of which people overestimate the intensity, frequency and duration—such as reading, writing and sex.
On every Lenten journey many people stumble over the paradox of the Christian story. Jesus’s death saves the world, and it ought not to have happened. It fulfills prophecy, but it was the work of sinners.