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Make it new

The extraordinary presentation of the Old Testament in the liturgy: as a whole library of ancient texts that are all about Christ.

Re-new-al, re-nova-tion, restoration: even the bright lights of the “Renaissance” (a term desperately in need of qualification) knew that making new means going backwards. Backwards towards the new. Newman: “Walking to heaven backwards.” Jesus: “I come not to abolish but fulfil.”

From the vantage of the new we (Christians) can better see the newness in the old; how Virgil Aristotle Plato Homer rise above the oldness. Why sagely Chinamen and Brahmins are redemptive in some partial way; they, too, grasping fragments of the future (and timeless) Christian vision. But it took Christ to show it whole.

Dante is so wonderfully severe; so new. Reading (instead) Piers Plowman in bed last night I thought, Can any poet match Dante in moral severity? Langland is so tolerant, so understanding, so utterly charming, so later. What an enchanting evocation of life in the fourteenth century! But there is a man getting old again.

In a world that rots, we need new. We need to keep it new. That is why mere conservatism can never cut it. We need the full-bodied reactionary attitude; the take-no-prisoners approach of Dante.

Just thinking aloud.

By David Warren, lecturer in religion and literature, St Philip’s Seminary

St Philip's Seminary, Toronto
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