views, reviews and previews
FACING THE MODERN:
THE PORTRAIT IN VIENNA 1900 National Gallery
until January 12th, 2014
ST THOMAS Aquinas would have approached this show through the via negativa, the way of negation, it’s a lot easier to say what this exhibition isn’t than what it is. Because, despite the title, it doesn’t face the Modern, which after 1900 was Post-Impressionism and Cubism, and it’s not limited to the year 1900 or the immediately surrounding years. The show is not a portrait of Vienna nor is it a history of Viennese portraiture. It’s not an investigation of the high suicide rate amongst young middle class Viennese Jews in the years between 1900 and 1914. And it’s certainly not a show of the greatest art produced in Vienna either side of 1900.
Another of the great Scholastics, the genius Franciscan William of Occam, might have called for his famous razor and applied it to the many dull pictures on show. These repeat the point in room after room that there was a lot of poor art in Vienna.
The razor might equally have been applied to the suggestion that an unfinished painting, and there are a number on show, represents minds in turmoil, the curse of the rootless middle class. More likely and taking for an example the best of the unfinished works, Klimt’s portrait of Amalie Zuckerland, the artist didn’t have time to resolve the problems he had with it, he died before he got the arms and hands right. Or should we conclude that Michelangelo and Leonardo and Manet were suffering souls because they didn’t finish many of their works?
Aquinas and Occam are two of the great names of the Western university system and it is that system which hasbrought us this show. It is a triumph of academic theory, loosely argued academic theory. This exhibition is not about art nor is it a collection of great paintings in which connoisseurs point out unjustly neglected artists.
It is a book of essays which has been illustrated by taking over gallery space at the National.
But you can just come to the show and take it as an example of the hodgepodge of work you might have been able to see if you had access to the right places in Vienna ca. 1920. And if you forget the academic framework and the romantic notion of doomed Jewry, shockingly true but hardly in the atmosphere of Vienna in 1900, and if you allow that not everybody in Vienna was tubercular or suicidal, then you can simply enjoy some gripping works.
Klimt and Schiele are then ameswhich stand out. There are some excellent works from Schiele, a marvellously arresting self-portrait, three quarter turned, head and shoulder set against a thick, bright white; a so-called family portrait of artist, woman and child like a mediaeval Trinity; an intense portrait of Albert Paris von Giittersloh, and a dandyish one of Erich Lederer. Sadly there’s none of the seriously sexy works, but there is a poignant sketch of his wife made a few hours before she died of Spanish ‘flu, and three days before Schiele’s own death.
The room where that sketch hangs focuses on the Viennese interest in a beautiful death. There is the deathbed of the senile Franz Joseph IInd, reminiscent of Henry Tonk’swatercolours of wounded servicemen from the same period. But, curiously for a room which features death between
1910 and 1920, there is no mention of the First World War. Perhaps that cataclysm doesn’t fit the show’s thesis.
Also in the Room of Death there are two paintings by Klimt of Ria Munck, who did commit suicide, and one of Otto Zimmermann, one of Klimt’s children. The dead child is also shown in a photo surrounded by flowers which helps make sense of some of Klimt’s famous patterned paintings. A similar insight is offered by the portrait of Maria Breunig, wife of the Imperial Baker, who we are helpfully told came from the provinces and took up shopping.
The portrait is much more conventional then Klimt’s later languorous decorative work, but the hanging turkey carpet is another hint where some of that decoration might have come from.
The other major artist is Oscar Kokoshcka (died 1980). If there was a Viennese artist who was actually deranged it was Kokoshcka. He thought his 1909 picture of children playing was Edenic. His contemporaries thought it was sick. Less worrying, but more powerful are his portraits from a TB sanatorium with sick men staring wildly at the viewer and the marks of coughed up blood on the walls.
This is not a show which you will leave with a song in your heart, I hope, but it is a provoking one which deserves time because there are some good pictures here.
ARCHBISHOP JUSTIN WELBY The Road to Canterbury Andrew Atherstone DLT, 128pp, pbk
978 0232529944, 9
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN is among those to whom is attributed the aphorism about getting up in the morning and reading the obituaries to make sure one is not dead. There are times when reading this brief, sympathetic and very readable unauthorised biography feels rather
like that; not only is its subject not dead, he is the Archbishop of Canterbury and thus leader of the Worldwide Anglican Communion. So here we have many of the hallmarks of episcopal biography: the quotations from presidential addresses at diocesan synods; the official reports and unofficial attributions; the reactions of the press to a particular event or action; the enthronement sermons; and the quotations from the publications of the subject. And yet all of these things are strikingly recent, and refer not to events from decades and centuries ago, but to controversies and debates which continue to shape the contemporary Church of England (and Anglican Communion). For precisely this reason, once crucial element of traditional biography is missing: personal correspondence. That sums up both the strength of this book, and its weakness: it is on the one hand an informative and entertaining account of the path that led Archbishop Welby to Canterbury and Lambeth, and as such it sheds light on his priorities and beliefs, but at times it is frustratingly short of analysis.
A simple example of this is the well-publicised decision of Welby whilst Bishop of Durham to invert the Parish Share or quota system, so that parishes paid what they could afford and the diocesan budget was set accordingly. The admirable motivation for this course of action is well set out, but there is no attempt to explain or discuss what the result of the scheme was. Atother times, the book is remarkably detailed, and again the proximity of the events under discussion adds a certain piquancy to it all. A good example of this is the discussion of the departure to the Ordinariate of riest and people from the parish of St James the Great Darlington whilst Welby was Bishop of urham; having served a training placement in the parish some twenty ears earlier, he preached at their final Mass, and spoke of the need for repentance and blessing, not cursing.
Andrew Atherstone writes well, with an eye for the catchy facts that made the elevation of his subject so remarkable: not since the seventeenth century has an archbishop had less previous episcopal experience than Welby, who was ordained later in life, aged 36, than any Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation. Much is made throughout of Welby’s passion for reconciliation and his skills as a reconciler. It has to be said that recent events in General Synod have pushed that reputation to its limit; but of course the work goes on, and it remains to be seen where the present synodical process will end up.
Having said all of that, it would be churlish not to acknowledge, as Atherstone does in some detail, both the breadth and the importance of Welby’s work for reconciliation during his time in Coventry, where he worked alongside Andre White and visited places as diverse (and as dangerous) as Iraq, Nigeria and Burundi. The other thing for which the Archbishop is probably most well known among the general public is his previous incarnation working in the oil business. Atherstone deals with this proficiently, along with Welby’s early Evangelical days and his call to ordination. It will be many years, decades, beforea full and balanced account of the life and ministry of Justin Welby becomes either desirable or possible.
In the meantime, Atherstone’s short biography is a welcome introduction to the man who is the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mother Maria Candida of the Eucharist, translated by Chiara Calabrese
Carmelite Book Service, 205pp, pbk 50 - Available from the Carmelite Bookservice, Oxford, OX1 5HB http://www.carmelite.org.uk/Books.html
THE RELEASE of this book is perfectly timed as the Carmelite Order celebrates the tenth year of the Beatification of Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist in April 2014. Eucharistic Colloquies is the first book about Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist and of her writings to be made available in English.
The translator’s introduction places the life of Maria Candida in context and gives us insight into the olitical, social and religious environment in which this Sicilian Carmelite nun grew up and developed her articular charism. The first half of the book consists of a thorough iography, giving the olitical and historical context of the period, er formative years and entry into Carmel, election as prioress, and the work of founding new Carmels in Enna and Siracusa. There is a Chronology of events in the life of Maria Candida, a select bibliography of her writings and various spiritual studies (in Italian), and several pages of colour photographs.
Like Teresa of Avila, Maria Candida sees the role of the Carmelite as one who keeps Jesus company in his sufferings, who loves him solely for himself on behalf of the world. This is borne out in her particular charism of love for Jesus in the Eucharist, and the desire to offer herself as a victim to His Love, like St Therese of the Child Jesus, and other Carmelite figures. She draws deeply from the writings of our Carmelite Saints, also from the newly Canonised Teresa Margaret (Redi) of the Sacred Heart, and from the spiritual notes of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity, which had been recently published at that time.
The second half of the book consists of the Eucharistic Colloquies; a collection of meditations on the Eucharist which Maria Candida began writing in 1933, when she was asked by the Prioress to write some reflections on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are ten of these reflections followed by a Consecration to the Eucharistic Jesus.
In the first chapter, Acation for the Eucharisthe reflects on the development of her vocation and experience which bound her to the Eucharist. We find a summary of her interior journey and the mystical experiences in the Ragusa Carmel during Corpus Christi 1933. Her desire to share her experiences is made possible in the instruction of her Prioress to write it down.
The second chapter, ‘The Eucharist and Faithis the first of three reflections in which Maria Candida meditates on the relationship between the mystery of the Eucharist and the theological virtues. She draws her faith from the Real Presence of the Jesus who dwells among us in the: ‘Ciborium of the Holy Tabernacle and the ciborium of our hearthe cannot separate the two and she refers to St Teresa of Jesus in the Way of Perfection to underline her thoughts.
In the chapter on ‘The Eucharist and Hopeshe develops the theme of being transformed by the Eucharist, drawing into this her desire for reparation: ‘I can do everything, thanks to the strength that your cherished Body instills in mearia Candida synthesises her complete fascination with the Eucharistic Jesus with the life of a Carmelite. Her religious name, Maria Candida of the Eucharist, in itself reflects this deeply rooted Mystery from which she draws strength to be an example and a warm motherly prioress to her nuns.
Maria Candida meditates on ‘The Eucharist and Charity the next chapter, expressing the passionate martyrdom she experienced within her intense spousal relationship with Christ. The experience of an ‘immense need to be with Him, and my inability to be one with Him from afar, gives me terrible fits of pain [...] a true martyrdomminiscent of the experiences of St Therese of the Child Jesus and Bl. Elisabeth of the Trinity.
In the fifth chapter, ‘The Eucharist as Communion with Godhe continues with her theme of transformation and union through the Eucharist. She reveals the awareness of her unique vocation to be a true apostle of the Eucharist: ‘Jesus, how I wish I could make myself heard, and be an Apostle of Holy Communion, allowing everyone to have such an experiencefont>
The chapter on ‘The Eucharist and Reparationraws us into the heart of Maria Candida’s desire for reparation, to keep Jesus company in resonates with Carmelite themes, the Eucharist, ‘on those poor, neglected which we can endeavour to make our altars, where the lamp is half extinguished or extinguished altogether, it is there that my heart is close to Jesusike St Margaret Mary Alacoque, she is drawn to becoming a victim of Love and reparation to the Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist.
In the following chapter, ‘The Eucharist and Immolationhe meditates on the sacrificial nature of the Mass and her desire to offer herself as a holocaust of Love: ‘I will immolate myself with the Divine Victimever missing an opportunity for self-sacrifice.
The eighth chapter, ‘The Eucharist and Religious Vowsfers a brief reflection on the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and how they find their fullest expression in the Eucharist. She unites the purity of chastity, the simplicity of poverty and the sacrifice of obedience with the sacrifice made upon the altar. Like St Therese and other Carmelites she uses the imagery of the cross and of nature.
In ‘The Eucharist and Love For One’s Neighbouraria Candida draws us into the fire of Love which is found within the Heart of Jesus and which impels us to love our neighbour: ‘Let us love one another. If we manage to
The eighth chapter, ‘The Eucharist and Religious Vowsffers a brief reflection on the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and how they find their fullest expression in the Eucharist. She unites the purity of chastity, the simplicity of poverty and the sacrifice of obedience with the sacrifice made upon the altar. Like St Therese and other Carmelites she uses the imagery of the cross and of nature.
In ‘The Eucharist and Love For One’s Neighbouraria Candida draws us into the fire of Love which is found within the Heart of Jesus and which impels us to love our neighbour: ‘Let us love one another. If we manage to draw fire from the furnace of the divine Heart, Jesusarity will impel us to do thisfont>
The final chapter; ‘The Eucharist and Marys about the ‘hiddenlationship between Jesus and Mary: ‘Finally, everything becomes clear, finally I understand and have found Mary! want to be Mary for Jesushe Immaculate Heart of Mary is inseparably united to the Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, from whence comes the spiritual motherhood and self-immolation of Mother Maria Candida. She never loses sight of the humanity of Christ.
Maria Candida’s ‘Consecration to the Eucharistic Jesuswhich concludes this book, like the previous chapters resonates with Carmelite themes, which we can endeavour to make our own.
Heidi Cooper SCL
Alex Oliver & Timothy Smiley
OUP, 350pp, pbk
978 0199570423, 00
Some forty years ago, I went up for interview to study philosophy at Clare College. Desperately nervous, intimidated by the classical perfection of Old Court, I arrived at the appointed time before the heavy oak door. ‘Come in,id the tutor, ‘make yourself at home, have a drink.was seventeen, and opted for a beer. A half-pint glass filled to the brim. It sat on the table in front of me, untouched throughout the interview, as I kept hoping my hands would stop shaking enough for me to drink it without spilling it all. I failed to gain a place. And returned exactly a year later. This time I opted for a sherry, and was accepted.
I was marginally less bemused than the rest of the first-years, when we were all invited to the lecture room in the first week, given paper and pencil and asked to ascribe truth or falsity to a seemingly endless string of statements that began with: ‘The present king of France is bald, something like: ‘It would not be untrue to say that the present king of France is not bald' and beyond Timothy Smiley was a charming man, and I would have had warm memories of his esoteric eccentricity, if only he had not been my director of studies.
My first year was the most miserable waste of time of my entire life. Nine o’clock classes in formal logic, a single, bored supervisor for the entire year; it was dreadful. There was me thinking we’d be doing Marx and Nietzsche, and it all turned out to be sense data and truth functions. Smiley did not understand my confusion, and simply ignored me. I must have been a miserable student. But now I am older and wiser, it has been fun and exciting to return to his highly technical branch of philosophy. This book might be entitled: ‘The rediscovery of the blindingly obvious.
Ordinary life is messy. Hence the ordered attraction of science, from which one moves to the still tidier world of mathematics. Applied mathematics may seem highly formal to you and me, but this too is messy. Pure mathematics removes all the clutter of the world, and for a while it seems as though our desire for rational order will at last be satisfied. Except that numbers turn out to be so weird and strange and unpredictable. Hence the invention of formal logic, an attempt to keep the logical functions of mathematics while jettisoning the oddness of numbers themselves. But is even logic logical? It doesn’t always seem so.
And so the high-priests of this philosophical equivalent of particle physics, the bedrock of all the other branches built upon its foundation, are forced into ever increasing formality and technicality to keep the lid on the constant threat of messiness. The idea of the present king of France being bald makes perfect sense, even if there is no such person, bald or otherwise. That which makes sense should somehow be made to fit the logical categories we are familiar with in ‘ordinaryscourse. But how? There is the endless challenge.
As I said, the highly technical discipline of formal logic achieves what it does by removing number from the foundations of mathematics. This means that all such logic is singular, but the world isn’t, so plurals have to be translated into singular terms (set theory, for example, if you have ever come across it). Nonsense, says my old director of studies and his younger colleague; and so they set out to produce a more complex, confusing but ultimately far more satisfying collection of solutions to these logical problems.
Is this book a milestone on the journey away from the mechanical simplicities of the Enlightenment world? I rather think it might be. It may take fifty years before one could attempt such a judgement, but to see the old world order crumble is exhilarating. The rest of the world may not be aware of it, but there is a revolution going on here. It is brilliant stuff.
This is a more than ordinarily challenging book even for philosophy graduates, which makes one appreciate the very high production values of OUP. Clarity of thought needs clarity of publishing. Would that this were more widely understood.
CULTURE AND ABORTION Edward Short
Gracewing, 308pp, pbk 978 0852448205, 99
IT HAS a sober title and a serious front cover, but this is not a very serious book. Quite what Edward Short intended when first he conceived the idea of writing Culture and Abortion is unclear, but what resulted from that decision is a patchwork of the trivial, the unremarkable, the inappropriate and the bad-tempered. In his Introduction Short proposes ‘to see if some aspects of culture ich is to say works of poetry, history, criticism, fiction, and the encyclicals of popes uld help make sense of [the rationale behind abortion provision].s ambition goes unfulfilled.
Time and again mawkish sentimentality is played against examples of the crude and objectionable excesses of the contemporary commentariat, mainly seems vilify the pro-choice lobby. Certainly I am on Edward Short’s side of the argument, but I find his writing in this book in defence of opposition to abortionewildering. No reason is given for the choice of those ‘aspects of culturehort here includes: and thus we read in turn about the poetry of Anne Ridler, the novels of James Joyce, the verse of W.B. Yeats and the short stories of Penelope Fitzgerald. Excerpts from Humanae Vitae and Pope Bl. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae burst onto the pages periodically, interspersed with meditations on William Wilberforce, the religious life of Rose (daughter of Nathaniel) Hawthorne, and Little Dorrit.
An entertaining literary meander, perhaps, but not in my opinion the ‘finely wrought essaysth which Prof. Mary Ann Glendon credits Edward Short. The second chapter of Culture and Abortion is 'titled, ‘What English Literature Would Be Like If Pro-Abortion (indeed with all those capitalisations): perhaps I might have stopped there. Instead, I read on, picking my way between tolerable Americanisms and intolerable nonsenses. When else, for example, has that Tudor monarch been styled ‘the eighth Harry'? and what on earth is the adjective ‘pongid doing in this book? There are occasionally in Culture and Abortion some quite sensible and imaginative contributions to the abortion debate. But they are too rare to redeem the wider project. Nor does the book evidence sufficient positivity to justify Short’s idea. Perhaps it can be done: the literary defence of the unborn and a thorough-going theology of culture. But not in these pages.
Books of the Year
MARGARET THATCHER The
Volume One: Not for Turning
Allen Lane, 859pp, hbk
978 0713992823, £30
I’M NOT asking you to love her. I’m not asking you to loathe her (though I hope you won’t.) I’m simply asking you to answer this question. What was the most formative time of your life? Your first six months? And after that: your teenage years, and those you spent at university? If you think this is true, then you will forgive my choice. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minster from 1979-1990; your proprietor celebrated his thirteenth birthday in 1979 (just a few months after The Lady came to power) and concluded his graduate studies in 1990 (just a few months after she left office.)
This is a phenomenal biography. Fluent, lucid, informative and dispassionate: this is no hagiography. The portrait of the younger Margaret – Margaret at Oxford, Margaret corresponding with her sister about clothes, Margaret distancing herself from her childhood home genuinely revelatory. Margaret in the Commons, in opposition. ‘The right hon. Gentleman Jack Diamond, Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury) ‘is not so good on clothes washing and dish washing machines as I am, so he had better sit down.' And the iconic final scene: the Victory banquet after the Falklands campaign. Margaret to the assembled generals – 'Gentlemen, shall we join the ladies?'
We cannot wait for Part II.
EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI
The Concubine who Launched Modern China
Jonathan Cape, 464pp, hbk 978-0224087438, £20
WHEN I first visited the Forbidden City I was only 10; it was then as it is now a magical and wonderful place. The courtyards and alleyways speak of a forgotten time when Palace and indeed nation were ruled by a woman behind a large yellow screen. The story of the Dowager Empress Cixi is a fascinating one of intrigue and sexual politics. That a mere concubine could rise so far as to basically rule over such a large nation is quite amazing. Jung Chang’s biography is well written and very detailed and serves as a good introduction to the period. I would encourage anyone who picks up this volume to follow it with the Last Emperor Pu Yi’s own autobiography.
The book is very well illustrated and there is one wonderful photograph which shows the Dowager Empress smiling; a rare sight. This is a story not just about the life of one woman but of a nation and the role that woman had in bringing to birth the modern nation that we call China. She could not have known that some of her reforms, and in some cases lack of reform, would lead to the rise of communism and the collapse of all that she had worked so hard to protect and build up. Buy it, read it, and I expect you will not be able to resist a holiday in China.
PATMOS IN THE RECEPTION
HISTORY OF THE APOCALYPSE
OUP, 288pp, hbk
MANY READERS of New Directions will have cause to be grateful to Ian Boxall for his outstanding ministry of pastoral care, teaching and scholarship during his time as New Testament Tutor at Chichester Theological College (1992-94) and more recently as Senior Tutor and New Testament Fellow at St Stephen’s House in Oxford (1994-2013); Ian departed these shores in the summer of 2013 to take up a post as Associate Professor of New Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington.
This book is an acclaimed study from e OUP series of Theology and Religion Monographs, and is the published form of Ian’s doctoral thesis. As such, it illustrates the passion and enthusiasm for the study of the Book of Revelation that has been at the heart so much of his thinking and teaching. Also, this is a groundbreaking piece of scholarship, gathering together many fragments of narrative and tradition concerning Patmos and its place in our understanding of the context of the Book of Revelation. It is a serious read, and also a real treat for anyone who wants to delve further into a fascinating and rich topic.
THE EXAMINED LIFE
How we Lose and Find Ourselves
Chatto and Windus, 240pp, hbk 978 0701185350, 99
ANYONE INTERESTED in the process of psychotherapy will find in this book answers to their many questions about what really happens within the psychotherapeutic relationship. The book contains a collection of stories told by clients and interpreted by the author. There are five sections to the book each touching on experiences we can recognise from our ordinary daily lives. These sections include such things as laughter, pain, intimacy, loving and hating. Gradually throughout the book the reader becomes more and more aware of the importance of really listening to others.
It is also interesting to note that the therapist learns almost as much about himself as he does the client during these interactions. The great merit of this book is that although written by a very experienced practising psychotherapist it is written in a jargon-free manner. This enables the book to be read as an excellent and fascinating collection of short stories.
Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings
Thomas Nelson, 244pp, pbk 978 0849964800, £9.99
Full review in September’s NEW DIRECTIONS
THIS BOOK is a very personal account of a Christian couple’s dream of having a child. It tells the tale of Sheridan and Merryn Voysey’s ten-year nightmare of unsuccessful pregnancies, failed IVF treatments and failed attempts to adopt a child. After these years of disappointment and frustration they decide that they will have a ‘year of resurrection'. Leaving their native Australia they move around Rome, Paris and S w i t z e r l a n d before setting up a new home in Oxford; the description of the healing process that begins is as moving as that of their years in the wilderness.
I warmly recommended this book to all readers when I reviewed it in September. I do so again, but especially to those who feel that their dream has died. Without smoothing over the pain of crucifixion, it shows the reader the very real possibility of resurrection.
WINTER OF THE WORLD
Pan Books, 640pp, pbk 978 0330460606, 9
KEN FOLLETT’S new novel is the second in the planned three-volume set about the history of the twentieth century. One doesn’t have to have read the first to catch up quickly with the lives of the Russians, Germans and English caught up in the events of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Follett’s ability to quickly engage the reader in the hopes and desires, fears, and sheer will to survive makes one need to remind oneself this is fiction, not fact.
A heath warning: this relating to said characters takes an early blow when a sadistic murder takes place, though as Follett is writing about Nazi Germany it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
This is also an excellent way to mug up on the events of the time, seen through a whole array of lives: poor, rich, powerless and powerful. From the end of the First World War through the Second, climaxing in the development and use of the atomic bomb, Follett allows his characters to live, and die in a fascinating interaction of nationalities.
This is a good read, but uncomfortable at times, probably because of the proximity to the events of our own world.
A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin
Biteback Publishing, 448pp, hbk 978 1849545969, /font>
THIS BOOK is not for the faint-hearted! It is frequently crude, rude and lewd. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, it paints a vivid picture of life at the court of Gordon Brown in his latter years as Chancellor and his time as Prime Minister, up to the moment of McBride’s sacking for sending ‘thosemails. It is not perhaps one of the great political memoirs, but it is certainly one of the books of this year for anyone with even the slightest interest in politics and the associated dark arts of spin-doctoring. McBride’s prose is easily readable and carries the reader along in a page- turning sort of way. There are three main players besides McBride himself: Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. This means the book sheds light on the current leadership of the Labour party as well as the previous one; perhaps even two as the presence of Tony Blair is rarely far from these pages, and almost always in a malignant way.
McBride has written a good book, though he fails to convince me that Gordon Brown is the great man and l e a d e r that McBride so passionately believes him to be.
HANDBOOK OF JEWISH
ETHICS AND MORALITY
Edited by Elliot N. Dorff
and Jonathan K. Crane
OUP, 530pp, hbk
978 0199736065, /font>
Full review in May’s NEW DIRECTION S
MUCH TO my surprise, the book I have appreciated most this year was this heavy: academic essays from American professors, mostly rather hard work with little compensation in the writing. But the ideas have stayed with me and nagged away at my intellect, demanding further attention and consideration.
Two things I mentioned previously make Jewish moral thinking of especial value to English Christians now. Firstly, Jews seem to have coped with, even enjoyed, the Enlightenment better than Christians; perhaps they were less caught up with the science debates. I don’t know.
Secondly and more powerfully, they’ve known what it is not to be members of the Establishment. The moral conclusions, and the traditions they come from, seem more usable, exciting and perceptive than what we can now find in a Church of England which is riven with institutional disagreement.
A vivid personal involvement with the word of the Lord is what many of the essays on such moral topics as business, sexual relations, politics, animals rights and a range of bioethical challenges conveyed. A biblical sense of the moral person under God; these writers have taught me more than I expected.
LUMEN FIDEI The Light of Faith
Catholic Truth Society,
978 1860828843, 0
Full review in November’s NEW DIRECTIONS
T H I S WAS the h a r d e s t read I’ve had for any 56 page booklet in my recent memory, but well worth the candle! For a start Christmas sermon ideas are flowing well around its several themes centred on faith as ‘enlightenment thought it literaly ‘brilliant counter widespread perceptions of faith as ‘a leap in the dark composing a papal encyclical that shines with the light of faith!
The two Popes, Francis editing Benedict’s draft, paint their picture in bright colours: ‘In the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation. God’s light comes to us through the account of his self-revelation [...] in Jesus, faith perceives the foundation on which all reality and its final destiny lies.ith, far from being an obscure preoccupation, eagerly ventures towards the cosmic future, counting on the hand of God, bringing light to an unenlightened world through hope and love.
The booklet is indeed weighty but I found it a counter-weight to much Christian writing that sits lightly to the transcendent, and it will be of service to suitably literate Christian enquirers.
THE LIFE OF RAYMOND RAYNES
American Church Union, 335pp, pbk
No ISBN. ncluding shipping and handling,
The American Church Union, PO Box 40020,
Berkeley, California 94704. USA.
Full review in November’s NEW DIRECTIONS
VERY FEW books remain with you for a lifetime. This one has stayed with me and inspired me since I first read a battered old copy of the original edition some fifteen years ago or more; the publication of a new edition is therefore a major event worthy of celebration and notice.
The reader is introduced to a uniquely inspired and inspiring priest and prophet who had an uncanny ability to cut through the layers of comforting rubbish with which we surround ourselves, collectively and individually, and cut straight to the heart of the matter be it in a private pastoral encounter or in his published works.
The Church of England, typically, did not know how to cope with him or how best to use his gifts. The Church’s loss was probably Mirfield’s gain, and it was certainly South Africa’s. In the end, Raynesfusal to slow down killed him. Even his death holds a lesson for those of us who would follow in his footsteps. Mosley’s biography is at times hopelessly romantic in its outlook, but there is nothing wrong with that. It makes for a great book, about a great priest, a great Christian and a great man.
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