Sat 20 Dec 2014 @ 10:12
New at the bookshop - In God's Hands by Desmond Tutu: http://t.co/wdBx8XW1dc http://t.co/w7o84XkX9G
Author(s): Maggie Ross
If obedience is deep listening to God, then Maggie Ross's new book is a powerful, effective and understated guiding to faith and soul-truthfulness. There is a rarity, freshness in her writing. Insight, scripture, wisdom and prayer swirl around here in this challenging earthy write. You will see God clearly and more honestly than in most other places. The sense of having wrestled with the wilderness, wanderings and wideness of humanity are striking. Repentance, tears and fire rarely get such a wise and moving exploration. Reality permeates this wonderful new BRF title. Faith and experience will be enriched should you invest in the reading of this fine book! Reviewed by Revd Dr Johnny Douglas Maggie Ross clears away the 'white noise' that so often attends writing and talking about faith. She invites us into real quiet, which is also real presence, presence to ourselves and to the threefold mystery that eludes our concepts and even our ordinary ideas of 'experience'. A really transformative book. Archbishop Rowan Williams ...for everyone who has had enough of 'spiritual writing' and is looking for something that will make sense of normal human experience and integrate it into the knowledge of God through Christ. Professor John Barton, University of Oxford There are so many good, rich insights in this book: All our ills come from the loss of silence and beholding, our failure to listen and our insistence on our flawed and limited interpretation..., The public rhetoric of religion employs such words as 'freedom' and 'liberty' even while it is taking away our sense of wonder... The tragic search for security in exterior validation makes us hostage to what other people think... The book blazes with originality. Maggie Ross is an anchorite, a solitary - a role which she manages to combine with that of a professor of theology who spends her winters teaching in Oxford. She is a mystic, a contemplative, a strong supporter of negative theology and the apophatic way. (negative theology is an attempt to achieve unity with the Divine Good through discernment, gaining knowledge of what God is not (apophasis), rather than by describing what God is ). She is so enthusiastic about these things that she almost becomes fanatic. But I must start with misgivings. First, the author permits the Oriel Professor of Theology in the Foreword to say, This is not a book about 'spirituality.' It most assuredly is a book about spirituality and a highly intellectual one at that. Secondly, I wish Maggie Ross did not say, from time to time, Put more simply. This is patronising. Moreover, it raises the question of why, if a topic can be put more simply, it was originally made difficult! There is no mistaking the spiritual depth in her book. Anyone who reads it will come away with a transformed view of prayer and the spiritual life. Maggie Ross offers no anodynes and she is brave enough to insist: Most worrying of all is our unwillingness to accept pain as part of the ordinary tissue of life, and the waste and suffering that are the consequence of efforts to avoid it at all costs. Yes to all this. And again, yes, yes. But I am troubled by what seems to me to be her extreme emphasis on the way of silence to the exclusion of other aspects of religious life and devotion, and especially doctrine. If we are only permitted to speak of God in terms of what he is not, then where does that leave positive dogmas such as the doctrine of the Trinity? The church has always had regard for mysticism as a noble pathway of the spirit, but at the same time insisted that mysticism needs to be complemented by doctrine. Mysticism and Dogma are equal partners in any mature religious understanding. Goethe expressed this as the necessary tension between Dichtung und Wahrheit - poetry and truth. Without intuition, poetry and the mystical endeavour, devotion can become staid, unimaginative and therefore uncreative. But mysticism without dogma is in danger of drifting off and becoming entirely free-floating, heterodox and Gnostic. Ross gives an account of being so moved by landscape and atmosphere that the Eucharist she had gone out to celebrate seemed to her redundant. And again: Why do we still say Creeds that failed to pacify a Roman empire that became extinct more than 1500 years ago, words that attempt to define what should be left to silence? Answer: because left undefined, false and misleading definitions will prevail. Sometimes mystics forget that heresy is a real possibility. There is also occasionally the sense that mystics who pray the prayer of silence are the really first class Christians and that the rest of, imprisoned as we are alleged to be in mere words, are not quite up to the mark. But there is more profit than loss in this fervent and faithful book. Nowhere more movingly than when Maggie Ross answers her aged mother's fears about death in these words: My views on this subject are mindlessly simple. I think the universe is made of love and that when we die we are somehow drawn deeper into that love. Reviewed by Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen, St Sepulchre-Without-Newgate, London
Maggie Ross is the pseudonym of a professional Anglican solitary, who divides her time between Oxford and the USA, preaching, lecturing, leading retreats, offering pastoral care, and writing books and liturgies. She blogs as http://ravenwilderness.blogspot.com.