Oxford Fathers Conference Talks

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Without one or two of the special communications, it would be something that would require an
hour or two.
I'd like, first of all, to just say a word about this particular conference, which was
founded by a very distinguished scholar, whom I was privileged to know, who began his life,
I believe, like our own prior, as a specialist in the natural sciences, and then became a
patristic scholar, and produced an edition of Athanasius, De incarnatione, for students
during the war time.
He was one of the very shyest men I ever knew, and I was telling various friends of mine
during the conference how I escaped one rather large job that he had asked me to do just
before he died.
He was, as I say, so shy that he would sit beside one for some minutes before he said
One day we were at a meeting, I forget what it was about, some technical meeting, and
after a long silence, he suddenly said to me, will you help me to do a dictionary of
the liturgy?
And so I said I would, he never lived to begin, though his dictionary of the Christian church,
which we either have or are about to have, is an absolutely invaluable aid, and in many
ways it's a travelling encyclopedia, and one single volume, it's extremely well informed.
I must say, of course, that his interests were so specially Catholic that he was actually
delighted by his fellow Anglicans in the North of Ireland for making too Catholic a
book of this.
Well in 1951, Dr Cross conceived the idea that it would be a wonderful thing if we could
continue the Oxford, the ancient Oxford tradition, namely that a university is a place where
people come from absolutely everywhere in the field of Buddhist studies, and we wouldn't
of course do this once or twice, but would make it something which we could come together
about every three or four years and report on progress of work or new discoveries and
so on.
And this has been continuing with the help of his secretary, Dr Cross himself died, as
I say, not so long after the beginnings, which were very distinguished, and many, if one
remembers, one of the people we all miss is Cardinal Daniel, who was present at the very
first occasion, and whom I was happy to see on the last time he was alive for the Congress.
Cardinal Pellegrino, unfortunately, is now too sick and ill to be able to come anymore.
He had proposed to speak to us last time we met, but had to cancel it, and I believe he's
still just alive, he wasn't able to be there anymore.
It's very sad for me because he and I worked in silence for many years in the Theology
Room in the Bodleian Library.
I think to understand how this functions, you must have a picture of what Oxford as
an old university city is like, and that was all nice enough to give us a rather pretty
map of Oxford, and you must imagine that to some extent we have to circulate to various
places in the city, as I will explain.
The old heart of the city, where Newman preached, you'll see the Point of Spire of St. Mary's
in the middle, and we ourselves were roughly in this sort of area here, in the examination
schools chiefly, but sometimes, as I shall say in a moment or two, in the colleges.
So, in fact, we began, as we usually did, with one lecture by a distinguished professor,
in this case a woman lecturer from Erlangen in Germany, on St. Nino of Georgia, and I would
say in one way, this particular lecture set the tone of something that I've noticed increasing,
and I think it's extremely important.
She herself justly made the point that our picture of the undivided church has still
been, until very recent times, comparatively incomplete, because we've concentrated on
what we know of East and West, usually meaning by the East chiefly the Greeks and Russians,
but now more and more scholarship is being done on writers in Syriac and the other oriental
groupings, including Ethiopians, and I don't have to mention Ethiopians presently.
These lectures are usually something of a treat, this was a rather good one, but not
so. We had all the brilliant stars on the last day, finishing with Professor Peter Pellicant
from Yale, talking about Newman and tradition.
The days are very, very intense, because we live a very Oxford life. In fact, I was very
amused when Brother Casimir Macunder from Spencer said to me, heavens, I've never been
exposed to anything like this in my life before, because it's not only what we do when
we're actually talking formally to each other, but it's also what we do at meal times in
the corridor, sitting in little window bays and so on, talking to each other, it's going
on all the time, we've never heard so much talk in so many different languages. We manage
to function chiefly in French and German, I suppose I must have spoken French about
half the week, but other languages were in use. I was actually present at one interpretation
which I didn't understand very much, I'm afraid of, but she was a very charming lecturer and
couldn't speak very well in French, I'm glad to say as well.
So when we arrive on the first day, we have a very short get-together, usually in the
college garden for a garden party, with tea and ice cream, things like this in the background,
and I was very touched when Bishop Callistos Ware broke out of a large crowd of people
and came towards me and said, how wonderful it is to see you again, and said how touched
he was that I'd been able to come from Big Sur because he had a very positive memory
of this house and thought it was one of the most wonderful monasteries he'd visited in
the time she'd been in the United States. And then Sister Benedicta Ward, much to everybody's
ignorance, got me in a corner and we also talked a little bit about this house and about
what's going on in religious life, as well as her own book, which is on the sort of subject
you would guess is rather specially hers, The Field of the Desert Fathers, and this
book I think is already in press and will be coming to the Oxford University Press in
not so long a time, and I think if we can wait for a little bit whenever it gets advertised,
she says it will also come in a paperback edition later on, if we want to.
This is not a translation?
This is not a translation, it's a study, it's her doctrine, thesis in fact. I was also able
to meet a number of students of mine, one of my students in my liturgy course, for instance,
he was called Rasmussen, a Dane from Copenhagen who is now teaching liturgy at Notre Dame,
was there and so we had a rather sort of Scandinavian group and there I was talking Norwegian for
a bit. But as far as the personnel intake is concerned, this is an international conference
and I think it's the very first time, as Professor Wiles mentioned, I wasn't aware of it myself
when we began, for the very first time we had one professor from the Orthodox Seminary
in Leningrad, that's how he's getting back to Russia, I don't quite know, probably through
Finland or Norway I imagine. So we had a fair number of representatives from the Iron Curtain
countries, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, two from Poland, and so we really are a very international
group. There are very many more Americans than there at one time were, I suppose the
ones who stood out most because they were wearing the habit, which very few people do
even if they come for their masteries. There were two sisters and one monk from Still River
who were obviously hardly intrigued by the whole thing and really did play a very interesting
part I think, though they weren't actually talking. I must say that a great number of
scholars are present precisely because, not because they intend to give a communication,
but precisely because they want to hear what other people are doing and to exchange ideas,
it's a wonderful opportunity of doing so. The day is an extremely intense one, we begin
the day at 9 o'clock in the morning and it goes on roughly till 9.30 at night. The day
is divided into different kinds of activities. The morning normally begins with short communications,
one of which I gave on the Thursday of the week we were together, and these are generally
about some small technical point on which any one of us has been working and on which
we want to find other people's echoes and very often explicitly help. I didn't know
that Dr. Ray is working with an ex-monk of Coor, who I know very well, on the library
of Bede, and his paper was partly an explicit appeal for assistance in what it initially
was my find in reading Bede, about the kind of books which Bede knew. But these conferences
were these communications, as I say normally on very small things, I was particularly touched
by one of Father Paul Henri, the Jesuit who is now, I calculate, since what he told us
about himself on the last night, must mean he was 80. He is still very, very alive, telling
us how he had done a thesis, Summa Cum Laude, on 1 Corinthians 13.13, and in connection
with Irenaeus, pointing out that really the value of it for once is quite wrong in translating
and make it appear that faith disappears in the next world, whereas as Irenaeus understood
from the Greek, Paul appears to be asserting that faith persists, and so one goes ahead
in the way that Gregory of Nyssa also later conceived, though no connection between Irenaeus
and Gregory of Nyssa can so far be produced. We were a very large number of people listening
to him, and nobody could bring forward any evidence, but we all felt this very convincing
that Gregory's idea and that of Irenaeus, that we should penetrate into God, seeing
more and more, being more and more delighted, as Paul Henri said in his rather nice English,
we shall never be bored in heaven. He revealed that in fact as a boy of 11 he had come to
Oxford in 1914, and being in Oxford from 14 to 18 he was still in contact with people
who looked after him there. Well this continues until the middle of the morning, and then
we have generally various representatives of the various editions of things that are
coming out, so that this is called Instrumenta Studiorum, Instruments of Study, and I'm
afraid that's the time when so many of us want to talk to each other that we don't usually
all of us go to all of them. I made a rather special point of going to the last day, when
most of the things that interest me were going to be talked about. The speakers only have
a very few minutes just to tell us their immediate projects, and to give us an opportunity to
ask them about what is coming. So when Father Montesieur talked about Suscretienne, I went
to him afterwards and asked him why we're not getting a new edition of Syllabus in
Syllabus of Jerusalem, whom I expect some of you know interests me a lot, and I hope
to give you perhaps another translation from him one day at Vigil very soon. And he said,
well I think somebody's actually starting it, and I'm afraid you'll have to wait four or
five years. He also told us, when speaking in general, that they do hope to be able to
do something rather than to reduce the enormous price that Suscretienne has become, so that
people can less and less buy it as private individuals. The Corpus Christi Norum is beginning
to do what looks as though it will be of interesting importance here is on apocryphal writings,
because of course we need to know much more very often about the background of works which
were eventually accepted in the mainstream of tradition. Then we return to communications
until lunchtime, and most of us go off to lunch either with our friends in some other
college or sometimes to a pub. The Oxford pubs are also rather like little common rooms in
a way, because then it was full of people who are members of the university, and so many
technical conversations can continue there. And I had one lunch at the Benedictine house,
Bennett Hall, which gave me an opportunity of finding one of Brother Ephraim's teachers,
Father Hugo Feist, a few Feists from Mount Angel, whom I hadn't been able to discover
when I first arrived. He was one somebody I didn't know by sight. And there I met a couple
of young college-goers who were obviously having their first experience of this. With Dr. Marcus,
the professor of history at the University of Nottingham, we found it most convenient
to go to a pub. Mentioning him enables me to pass over to the afternoons, when I have a
lecture. On the afternoons we normally had a lecture and or from some person holding
an academic post of some kind somewhere, or the treatment of master themes, usually the
one following up on the other. So that in fact the master themes were divided up into
things like Christian norms in the second century, Arianism. This is another very interesting
thing, in fact the study of Arianism was the subject of a good many communications, and
Bishop Hanson, the one Arian bishop we had, but this is rather rare to have so few, did
give a very spirited and fascinating talk on the Arian doctrine of the Incarnation at
one point. The rooms which interest me and the two which I went to, and one which I'll
just briefly tell you a rather amusing story about, first of all one afternoon in the new
common room at Christchurch, which is the big college founded by Cardinal Woosey, Dombrenio
from Solemne, who I was delighted to see was there, gave us a splendid afternoon discussing
the origins of the sayings of the Desert Fathers, because of course many of us would very much
like to know how near we can get to the real sources. And he has, as you know, devoted
more or less of his life, he has also been prior to that, he's been a very busy man but
he's worked very hard too, and he had prepared very carefully for us a list of parallel columns
in which we were able to see that sometimes the Ethiopian collections which are not alphabetical
must certainly be the earliest ones we have, because very often they begin by somebody
saying that he was talking to Father so and so, and he said to me, and these are all the
sorts of things which have been omitted or tailored away in the alphabetical collections
of the sayings of the Fathers, so very often some of the more amusing, striking things
that the Fathers said to their disciples have tended to get cut out. A very personal
element has disappeared, as Dombrenio was saying, it's doubtful whether we can ever
get very much closer to the sources, because primarily they circulated orally between disciples
and masters until you get to the alphabetical collections which are based mainly on collections
from earlier sources. So these afternoons, as I say, we are wandering from college to
college, as I said to Miss Livingstone on the last day, how tired one's feet get walking
so many streets, and she said, oh yes, they are hard indeed. And the other afternoon I
promised myself was Bishop Callistus on the last afternoon session, talking on the spiritual
Father in St. John Timmins, and then St. Timothy the New Theologian. It was a very brilliant
lecture. Callistus is an Oxford man, his father Pete Griffiths is, in fact they both were members
of the same college. And in order to make his point clear about the importance of the
teaching of both Timmicus, rather more pointedly I think than Timmicus, but not also absent
in St. Timothy the New Theologian, that the Father is one to whom you tell your thoughts
of every kind, so that he may help you not only with the ways you fail, but the ways
you might come to fail. Callistus has told a rather delightful story about his own days
as an undergraduate at Magdalene, when a new dean who was responsible for the services
of the college chapel arrived, and was confronted by a rather formidable old virgin, what we
call I suppose here in the community a Saxon, who showed him around the church and told
him what to do. And this man's a man, a tiny little man, called Tallboys. And the dean
feeling rather nervous having gone around all these new duties with Tallboys, said to
him, well, you know, I'm so grateful you'll help us when I go wrong, you'll put me right.
So Tallboys looked at him very solemnly and said, no sir, I shall put you right before
you go wrong. And then as I say, after these rather wonderful afternoon sessions on the
unspecialised topics of that kind, we had normally an evening lecture, and I suppose
the last day was a very especially glaring one, because we had Professor Chadwick talking
about Augustine and the pagan media. My friend Dr. Marcus from Nottingham had earlier on
in the week given a very interesting paper, indeed I thought, on the enormous change that
you can trace between Augustine and Gregory the Great, by the fact that Augustine is very
much concerned really with the problem of toleration, in one way, the sort of thing
which, another dimension, the sort of thing that Father Beat Giffords has been talking
to you about, and it's fascinating, it's the same as I've so far heard, to notice how much
he is still saying things that he was saying to me already in the 1940s. But in Augustine
you can see how Augustine is still concerned to talk to his people who are going to the
pagan theatres and attending the pagan festivals and so on. By the time you get to Gregory
the Great, the public processions are the church's penitential processions and so on,
so that the word sacrum, the word world, and the word profane has become quite different,
in fact the word has perhaps disappeared in this particular thing. And then on the, as
the final lecture, we had Professor Piddicombe talking about tradition in Newman, and he
really, in substance, made it clear that from his earliest time, from his earliest anechoic
days, his very first book, Like Not Cross, Athanasius was, and so especially Newman's
favourite among the fathers, and from the very beginning, in the early ends of the
fourth century, you can see emerging something which becomes very clear among Newman's convictions,
namely that apart from the canonical gospel and scriptures, there is the church as a living
organism, it has its own sense of what tradition is, and then Professor Piddicombe mentioned
Peer Congar's work on this subject and said that he felt convinced of Peer Congar's idea
into this conception of a living conception of the church as communicating within itself
as we in many ways as a small group were communicating with each other, Orthodox and Catholics, a
very heavy proportion of Catholics, a good number of Anglicans, and then some Lutherans
and so on, which is Professor Piddicombe's own background.
Piddicombe was insisting how into this conception of tradition as something communicated from
person to person, is inserted very slowly in Newman's thinking, the idea of a developing
penetration into doctrine. So I think one can say that the whole atmosphere of the Christian
conference was very much that of sharing and communicating our own works in however small
a way. I may say that one of the things I've always kept in mind is that I know that it
was Dr Bosley's original intention, I've always tried to do this in the way I give a communication.
Usually I hope, and it proved to be so in this case, that I had taken into account what
scholars had been saying on this particular subject, but also tried to communicate it
in a way which anybody who was interested in these things could understand. And I think
perhaps less and less this has been happening. In fact, one of the Frenchmen, a very charming
monk, Dom D'Ussé from Belloque in South France, said to me he thought that some of the French
papers had been delivered rather badly because people were talking much too fast about technical
things which even those of us who were interested in them needed to have explained more thoroughly
to us. Inevitably, of course, the more experienced masters and speakers have always been communicators
as well, as Pierre Daniel who was, with his many interventions from the very beginning,
and there always are a few Frenchmen of this kind. I should have included, of course, the
French Canadians, many French Canadians. In fact, I spent my first afternoon, I may say
that hardly any of us go to absolutely everything. First of all, it's physically impossible to
go on from 9 to 9 without breaking a tie, but I just did spend one afternoon with a
French-Canadian friend of mine, Pierre-Mathieu de Durand, because he is doing the edition
of the Syllable of Alexandria for Sosquetien and is practically alone in Montreal in this
kind of interest. As he says, he lives in a house where people say good morning and
talk about the weather or something like this, but can't talk about anything else. Well, I'm
going to cover that so briefly, but I hope it gives you some idea of how lively it is
and how very, very useful it keeps us going. If you want me to say just a word about what
happened about my own work, I was very pleased to see so many people there, including Father
Armand Veillier, who told me that he's just been elected, apparently the Holy Spirit had
been, I take it, as Abbott, I'm afraid.
Is it Georgia?
It is.
Is it?
It is in the United States.
Yes, it is, yes.
That's true.
He used to be there.
Fr. Tom used to be there.
Oh, did he? Yes, yes, that's right. But he was present because he had been, to my surprise,
he'd been following, he told me he'd read everything I'd written, so this was a very
nice thing for me. But I was also very delighted that Tom Verbracken, who did the edition
which I was using for the work I was talking about in Gregory Grade, was present and came
out rather verily in my defence when somebody put a question which was very interesting
for me and one which I'd considered, namely, how much of the work I was talking about was
by Gregory, in fact I explicitly mentioned this during the course of my lecture, and
Verbracken in replying, in other words, quite wanted to reply, I've got in fact a paper
by the man who put the question, who is doing in the next, during the course of this next
year, a book which will really be a new, a re-examination of whether the dialogues really
are entirely by Gregory, and we'll have one small chapter on the work I was talking about,
namely Gregory on the Book of Kings, and where I think we all of us feel, including
Tom Verbracken, the editor himself, that some hand has certainly intervened other than that
of Gregory. Dr Clark, who is in fact in charge of Religious Studies for the Open University
in England, which is an institution, post-war institution, to enable people who wish to
take up study again, to do so with the help of radio and television, as well as with
direct tutorials. He was suggesting, in a way which I find rather tempting, that possibly
there is a third hand, apart from the disciple called Claude, who took down this account
of what Gregory had said, which Gregory himself was not satisfied with, we know that, that
there may perhaps be a later hand, because one of the puzzles about the dialogues, and
even about the life of St Benedict as a whole, is that there are no, it seems, references
to the existence of the dialogues, either in the papal accounts of what Gregory wrote,
or in any other writers, until quite late in the 7th century, and it's really Pope Gregory
II who puts St Benedict on the map by instituting a feast for him, and encouraging his cult
and restoration of Montecassinia. But Domtheo Bracken also said it was rather nice to meet
somebody who'd just read the text, which is what I normally start to do, wait till they
say something to me, and many other people were doing this. Father Robert Murray, I'm
sorry now of course people crowd into my hands, on the first night Father Robert Murray
came to sit next to me and gave us a splendid papal account on the Holy Spirit in Afrahart,
as you know he's written the first, really first read papal symbol, and sign of symbol
in Syriac tradition. And while he was sitting next to me he asked me if I remember that
he'd once kept me up till well past midnight talking about these things, in one house where
we happen to be together. So it's very, very nice that we all of us have an opportunity
of meeting on these sorts of occasional conditions, when we're nearly always working in a little
corner, in between other things, as I'm still continuing to do here, and it seems to be
right that what a monk should do, that one takes part in the life of the community and
does one's jobs and one's garden, or whatever the thing is you do, but keeps this thing
going all the time. It's very good that we can come together, and so Miss Livingston,
who got of course many bouquets at the end, including a very enormous real bouquet, has
agreed that we should meet again in 1987, if we're all here. Still, some of us won't
be of course, one of the sad things for me is that I've seen scholars I knew disappear
by illness or death, as I say a part of it, I don't really know him so much, he was a
very real presence to me, and the lively Father Danilu, who was always surrounded by a great
swarm of people, especially for this just now, I think that's all I can use. Is there
anything anybody would like to ask about it all?
I have a question, which is something that I wanted to ask before really, before you went.
The definition of who is a father, because of course the Orthodox have a very different
definition than we have. They don't have a cut-off date, but I noticed that you have
Bishop Colley still speaking of Clemicus and Simeon, who was already in the 11th century,
and then Newman comes into Professor Delcan's lecture. So, the medievalists, do they have
a place in it?
Well, you see, to some extent, of course, I suppose many of us, like myself, have perhaps
started as trained medievalists and then moved our way backwards, because we needed to do
so in order to understand medieval texts properly. I think we can say that what we are allowing
ourselves to do is to get, as this was very marked in this particular conference, a much
wider conception of what we mean by a father. It's really an attempt to get an overall
view of the Universal Church as it developed chiefly in the earlier centuries, because
then we can be much more aware of the contribution of specifically Eastern-formed people. I think
the introduction of everybody into this, when I arrived for Bishop's List this afternoon,
which was very crowded, of course, a young scholar, Andrew Palmer, sat down beside me
and said to me, you know, he knew all about the things that I've been doing, and he had
been studying the monastery, for instance, right out on the Sydney border. He'd done
his doctorate thesis on this, and I think very, very slowly, in fact, part of the point,
even of the introduction lecture by Dr. Friedlander von Erlangen, was to talk about the interesting
fact that a woman, who was one of the pioneers in the introduction of Christianity to Georgia,
is referred to in the early texts as an apostle. And so these kinds of things are constantly
being ventilated, and I think the fact that slowly, I may say, since I mentioned Arnold
Weger, his contribution was to talk about the apocalypse of James, and its very interesting
information on narcissism. Because here it seems that some of the more recent finds have
made it possible for us to extend the sort of thing which you formerly had to build
up from Irenaeus' quotations, which, where it looks in this particular case, as though
Irenaeus perhaps knew this work, but didn't really fully report it, and now we've got
a much bigger picture of it. So I think one can get the sense of doctrine, as it were,
in struggle. And I think this is what made President Pelican's final contribution so
interesting. You do get the thing of the church, the sense of the church as alive, in which
what is orthodox is struggling its way towards the surface by common consensus over the very
broad field. So I think it is a very, as I say, very stimulating thing. So I think you
can understand that some of you have never been to anything like it before, like Jasmier
McCombly, who is by no means a dull boy, he's very, very bright. I was very struck by that
when I met him first at Gethsemane in 1975. Mark from Spencer, he said, well, this is
extraordinary. I think the whole area is kind of buzzing with the things that feed us and
help us and bring us to a sense of the church as a big, undivided unity. I think that's
the nearest I can come to giving you notes, but I think I can say that what we do is try
to hold ourselves open to evidence about the tradition, and very, very slowly you can see
how the great masters, the great early masters, like the modern ones, find the key word or
the key phrase that finds the way through the jungle, as it were.
If we had some time, I don't know if you have done this with the younger or the juniors,
to give us a talk about your own formation, you know, how to become the, I would say,
the fantastics of what's behind the formation, how you come to that. Not that I have an idea,
but I'd like to...
Something I would be very prepared to talk about if that were desired, of course. I think
that I can say that perhaps one of the things I missed out, which is relevant to the point
you're making, Father, is that I think when we began, Dr. Cross himself was a higher
church analyst, in fact he always said his Roman brief in Latin every day, as well as
his Anglican offices. I think that nearly all of us in the original groupings, like
Cardinal Danilo himself, had really been trying to move into a monastic tradition
of Lectio Divina. This is how it really began. And then, of course, inevitably questions
develop out of this. In other cases, I think it's the kind of questions which have gradually
begun to be asked about theological matters where some people, instead of trying to argue
knowing practically nothing at all, just out of their feeling or the top of their head,
have wanted to go back to see really what the early documents say. And I would say that
one of the slightly new things I noticed about our grouping this time is that we're rather
fewer monks than we used to be. It is very sad, because nearly all the monks I had contact
with were working practically in isolation within their own monastery, perhaps I suppose
for them it's rather especially privileged, because Domrenio obviously has a number of
younger disciples, but there aren't enough within any given house sharing in this way.
And I think that's a pity. But what is happening is that the young one, younger people, both
men and women, in the newer universities, both in America and in England especially
strikingly, there was one very, very bright man from Southampton, Loman, who had obviously
got into this, although he gave a very, very good paper on the Transfiguration, had got
into this because he needed to know it for his own spiritual life. Whether you were doing
it inside the monastery or outside, I think most people start on this interest because
they're hungry to know something, or else because they're puzzled as to how we know,
what we know about any given dogma. So I think that's in the nearest way I can give a short
But for that you have a whole formation in Latin and Greek.
Well sometimes you can learn it. In fact somebody has on the way, I remember walking past the
one lecture one afternoon, was trying to persuade me that I might learn Syriac, and I think
I would take it seriously. That's all I can say. In fact, of course, often one has to
learn something en route as well. It soon becomes quite absorbing, I think, if one...
I know that Fr. Ephraim would like to work on this and perhaps do that.
I don't think it's an absolute essential. I feel very, very grateful that I certainly
went through the throes of doing my Latin grammar when I was young. In fact, normally
that's very easy for me. Unfortunately, because my family was not very well off and I thought
I probably wouldn't be able to continue studies, I concentrated rather more on modern languages
than I think it would have been advisable to do at that point. So I didn't do as much
Greek as I should have done. Now I have to work rather harder at Greek than I do at Latin.
I think you're right to say that it's good to have the equipment if you begin, if you
want to begin. But it isn't, I think, essential. You can actually, if you care about it enough,
you find it interesting enough, then you can get drawn into doing it. You can. Anybody
can do it. I don't know whether you remember, he may have had occasion to mention it to
you, that Don B. Griffiths remained in contact with one of his own tutors, C.S. Lewis, until
his death. And I remember there's an exchange which has been published, a letter of C.S.
Lewis to Arthur B. when he first got out to India. Arthur B. was saying, oh, I'm so much
slower, I can't really work on Sanskrit, I can't really learn it. And C.S. Lewis wrote
back to him saying, don't you think it's not true? You don't really. It always took a long
time. You've forgotten how long it took. You're not patient enough now. You're not
doing it slowly. You're just as right as, as I met him here the other day, he seemed
to be as alive when I first met him in 1943. But it can be done, I think. It is just the
conviction that, as I say, what would help, I think, any of us working in a monastery
on the Fathers is at least to feel that other people care about this too, even if they're
not necessarily doing it themselves. To feel that kind of support is very helpful. As I
say, some of the time, as with one or two of the people I mentioned, we rather need
to encourage others to carry on this kind of work. Of course, it is hard and dull,
especially if you're anxious and not very strong. I would say that perhaps the very greatest
obstacle to getting really going is if you can't be French, because it's through many
of the things, many French studies, that one gets one's interest awakened. I think
that's perhaps the greatest handicap, is not having at least one language. If you've
got one other language in your head, you can be sure you can carry on, if you've got
the courage.
Just, you know, about the classical languages, it's not necessary to approach them from
the classics. In other words, the languages themselves can perhaps even better be learned
inductively through the Fathers themselves, perhaps through the Fathers.
Yes. Well, this of course is, this is very interesting, Colin Farther, because in fact
this is partly what happened to be in my own studies, that in fact I did begin to notice
how, and as you notice if you read St. Bernard, for instance, you can feel the French, and
you were saying to me yesterday, I remember, you can feel the German underneath the Latin.
And this is something which does mean so, of course there is no such thing as Latin
as a kind of Finnish thing. It's, as long as Latin is alive in the language, it's always
growing and changing.