To paraphrase Degas: There is blogging and there is life; and we have but one heart.

In a hurry yesterday, I neglected to say that Bouyer’s The Decomposition of Catholicism is not particularly representative of his writing. It is a brief, highly personal howl of dismay at the results of the Second Vatican Council, in which he himself played a significant role. The polemical energy of it appeals to me but polemics, I know, is not everyone’s cup of Twinings. So perhaps it is a book to meet later, after engaging the tenor of his mind and flavor of his scholarship in his many works on spirituality, the sacraments, the liturgy and Church history.

Unattributed. St. Paul and St. Anthony the Great
Unattributed. St. Paul and St. Anthony the Great

I keep beside me his stunning Cosmos: the World and the Glory of God (1982). Bouyer reflects on the questions asked by the ancients and the moderns of the mystery of the reality that surrounds us and in which we have our being. It is a dense, recondite, glorious synthesis that ends with characteristic loveliness:

We have now reached the end of this series of essays in which we have attempted to study the many facets of the Mystery of God and his creation. At best we have been able to do no more than suggest a way into the silence where all of us . . . shall await the moment when God himself will grant us the repose and peace of his eternal Sabbath.

As we await this outcome in the evening light of faith, may we recognize—in experiencing the love poured into our hearts by the spirit sent into us—the shadowless light of the eternal day, in order to prepare for the impending night to which we are drawn in joyful hope of our resurrection.

I can only recommend what else I choose to own and can read profitably: Rite & Man: Natural Sacredness and Christian Liturgy (1963); Liturgical Piety (1954); and Bouyer’s chapter “Asceticism in the Patristic Period in Christian Asceticism and Modern Man (1955). His classic Introduction to Spirituality (1961) pricey on the second hand market, is being reprinted in paperback as Introduction to the Spiritual Life this fall. His biography of Newman is still in print.

Ignatius Press’ blog Insight has a fine introduction to Bouyer : “Fr. Louis Bouyer: A Theological Giant” by Keith Lemna.

Fr. Bouyer wrote of spirituality with modesty and grace. In both of those qualities, his writing exceeds that of currently more fashionable theologians. (Or so it seems to me, an imperfect consumer of theological reflection.) It is one thing to write about prayer and spirituality; it is something of a different order entirely to write prayerfully. The latter is a gift of the Spirit. And the Spirit breathes through his work.