Astonishingly beautiful prose is rare and nothing to be to be trifled with. When it is applied to spiritual matters with the delicacy of a veteran artist, it can be earth-shattering.
Such is the work of Caryll Houselander. Wonderfully eccentric, beautifully English, always insightful Houselander provides some of the choicest passages on spiritual writing ever written in English. Here she is at the opening of her classic The Reed of God:
That virginal quality which, for want of a better word, I call emptiness is the beginning of this contemplation.
It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended.
It is emptiness like the hollow in the reed, the narrow riftless emptiness, which can have only one destiny: to receive the piper’s breath and to utter the song that is in his heart.
It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine.
It is emptiness like that of the bird’s nest, built in a round warm ring to receive the little bird.
The pre-Advent emptiness of Our Lady’s purposeful virginity was indeed like those three things.
She was a reed through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd’s song.
She was the flowerlike chalice into which the purest water of humanity was to be poured, mingled with wine, changed to the crimson blood of love, and lifted up in sacrifice.
She was the warm nest rounded to the shape of humanity to receive the Divine Little Bird.
Read Caryll Houselander if you dare. Just be warned: you may find yourself bereft of all reasons to stop reading her.