The year 2000 marked the 600th anniversary of Chaucer’s death. The Winter, 2000 Communio published a short text in his honor by Erasmo Leiva, which we would like to present again now, ten years later. Here is the article (pdf), and here is the link to the Winter 2000 issue. From the text:
Whenever I read the Canterbury Tales for any length of time, I afterwards feel a slight ache in the facial muscles: I realize that the entire time I have been either smiling or laughing. Both the smile and the laughter derive from Chaucer’s skill at evoking wit, that wonderfully ambiguous word that connotes both “wisdom” and “cleverness” and that is such a perfect example of the unity of the highest and the lowest in the medieval outlook. In what other cultural era would a Christian poet have dared to construct with utter mirth and boundless freedom of soul the dazzling analogy that opens the Tales? . . .
As late as 1400, even after the devastation of the Great Plague of 1348, Chaucer still believes that, despite all the deformations in human beings, human nature is one and good and overflowing with possibilities. Human existence is unified and comprehensible. Much can be forgiven because human beings are ultimately not the masters of their own destiny. At each step they are faced with their own fallibility and corruptibility. It is God who is responsible for the intrinsic goodness of human nature, and not the individual who finds himself already to be a human being when first becoming aware of himself. The creature cannot be responsible for the whole, either the individual for his own life or mankind itself for all of society. But the mercy of God permeates both the individual and the world of nature and society, and this frees us up to enjoy, to laugh, to learn and to repent.
Also by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis: The Anointed Imagination: The Character of Catholic Literature in the Twentieth Century (pdf, 1991) | The Catechetical Role of the Liturgy and the Quality of Liturgical Texts: The Current ICEL Translation (pdf, 1993).