Today I finally got around to starting in on my project of reading St. Hilary's De Trinitate. Only a few pages in, I've already found some beautiful doctrine. For example, as he reflects on the revelation of the Word made flesh in the Gospel of John, Hilary pauses to note one of the foundational delights of theological education:
Proficit mens ultra naturalis sensus intelligentiam et plus de Deo quam opinabatur docetur. (I:10)
"The mind goes beyond the understanding of its natural knowledge, and is taught more about God that it had imagined it could be."
To me, this is where prayer and theological study have their most compelling intersection. Without a genuine and sustained encounter with Sacred Scripture, God remains an abstract concept. So abstract, most of the time, as to be so thin an idea that there is hardly anything to say about it, much less any personal response. This is the state of our secular culture; it hasn't forgotten about God but only allowed the idea of God to become so faint and transparent as to make no demand and unable to enter into any conversation.
But when you begin to live with the Scripture, and then put yourself into prayerful conversation with those who have been reflecting and exerting themselves to understand its meaning over the centuries, the abstract concept begins to achieve a density that finally transcends everything else. Your soul is taught with a sort of knowing you didn't even know about before.