Article: The Night Office: Loss, Darkness, and the Practice of Solidarity, by Douglas E. Christie

In contrast to its cataphatic spirituality and its emphasis on divine presence, fullness, and light, Christianity’s apophatic spiritual practices offer believers an alternative path that reflects the human experience of divine absence, emptiness, and darkness. Douglas Christie‘s article introduces his readers to this path, a “practice that can help us discover the courage and empathy necessary for entering into those places of profound loss and unknowing that have become so pervasive in our world and standing with those who suffer and struggle there.” Here is the article’s abstract:

What does it mean to enter the night? This question has long haunted the Christian mystical tradition. There, entering the night almost always means accepting uncertainty, insecurity and loss as inevitable and necessary, part of what it is to come to know ourselves in God and in relation to one another. In our own time, amidst increasingly acute encounters with loss, suffering and insecurity, the language of darkness is taking on new meaning and significance. In this essay, I consider what it might mean to retrieve traditions of spiritual darkness as part of a transformative spiritual practice. How might such practice help us cultivate the courage and empathy to engage the profound loss and unknowing that has become so pervasive in our world and to stand in solidarity with those who suffer and struggle there? How might it help us become, in the words of Pope Francis, more “painfully aware?”

Here is the article’s citation data:

Douglas E. Christie. “The Night Office: Loss, Darkness, and the Practice of Solidarity.” Anglican Theological Review. 99, 2 (Spring 2017): 211-232.

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Book: Mysticism in the Reformation (1500-1650), by Bernard McGinn

The first of two volumes focusing on the Reformation, this title is the latest in Bernard McGinn’s multi-volume history of Christian mysticism in the West called The Presence of God.  Here’s the publisher’s summary:

Mysticism in the Reformation, Part I of Volume 6 of The Presence of God Series, is the first full account of the role of the mystical element of Christianity in the Reformers who broke with Rome in the period 1500-1650. Although some modern Protestant theologians tried to distance the Reformation from any contact with mysticism, recent scholarship, by both Protestants and Catholics, has shown that Protestant mysticism is an important part of the heritage of the Reformation. After an “Introduction” surveying modern disputes about the nature of the Reformation and the Catholic reaction to it (both Catholic Reform and Counter-Reformation), Chapter One deals with how the pioneering Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin reacted to the heritage of Christian mysticism, concentrating on Luther’s complicated relation to mystical traditions. Chapter Two turns to the role of mysticism in select “Radical Reformers” of the sixteenth century, who created models of interior mystical religion that continued to have an effect over the centuries. Chapter Three analyzes the writings of the two most famous Lutheran mystics of the early seventeenth century, Johann Arndt and Jacob Boehme, whose impact in later Western religious traditions has been both powerful and controversial. Finally, Chapter Four considers the significance of mysticism in the English Reformation, both among those who accepted the Elizabethan Settlement that established the Anglican Church, as well as with the dissident Puritans who rejected it.

Here is the full citation for this work:
McGinn, Bernard. 2016. Mysticism in the Reformation (1500-1650). The Presence of God, V. 6, Pt. 1. New York: Crossroad Pub.

A review of the book appears in the latest issue of Spiritus.

Burrows, M. S. “The Presence of God. A History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. VI:1: Mysticism in the Reformation (1500–1650) by Bernard McGinn (review).” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 17 no. 1, 2017, pp. 117-121. Available to SSCS members.

 

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Article: Two Ways of Seeing: The Challenge of Julian of Norwich’s Parable of a Lord and a Servant, by Philip Sheldrake

In an article appearing in the latest edition of Spiritus, Philip Sheldrake explores one of the central passages in Julian of Norwich’s Revelations, the parable of a lord and a servant. Sheldrake argues that Julian is using the parable as a an exemplum as a way of showing how she can hold two contrasting beliefs, her often quoted “Every kind of thing will be well” with a central belief of the Church: “one article of our faith . . . that many creatures will be damned.” Here are the article’s opening paragraphs:

In what is described conventionally as the Long Text of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, or A Revelation of Love, Chapter 51 is the longest chapter. In important ways it is also the heart of the text and a key to Julian’s major theological insights and teachings. The chapter outlines a parable of a lord and a servant and then reflects upon this narrative in challenging ways. The parable is presented as God’s answer to Julian’s various anxieties about how to understand her own experience of daily sinfulness in the light of her growing sense of God’s lack of blame.

In Chapter 45 of the Long Text, Julian outlines her background problem that is a result of her visionary experience. How is she to reconcile the “judgment of Holy Church” that “sinners sometimes deserve blame and wrath” with the fact that “I could not see these two in God”? However, “to all this I never had any other answer than a wonderful example of a lord and a servant, as I shall tell later, and that was very mysteriously revealed.” By “example,” Julian means an exemplum of the kind that medieval preachers used to illustrate their message.

Here is the article’s citation data:

Philip Sheldrake. “Two Ways of Seeing: The Challenge of Julian of Norwich’s Parable of a Lord and a Servant.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality. 17, 1 (Spring 2017): 1-18.

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Book: Ordinary Saints: Lessons in the Art of Giving Away Your Life, by Stuart C. Devenish

SSCS member Stuart Devenish’s book, Ordinary Saints, offers a definition of sainthood applicable to the people we encounter in our everyday lives who are deeply committed to living out the Gospel message. Here is the book’s abstract:

In the post-Christian age, after the death of institutional religion, is there any place left for holy people to live as lovers of God? Yes! God’s favorite way of making himself present in the world is through the righteous lives of his holy people. This is a book about saints (defined as activated disciples), who are alive now, and whose everyday goodness announces that God is at work in the world.

Saints are blood-bought, love-steeped, twice-born, re-made people who are Christianity’s living witnesses. Like Jesus, their Master, they are the message, the messenger, and the working model of the kingdom of God. In following Jesus, ordinary saints are invited to give away their lives and spend out of their resources to convey the substance of their faith to a waiting and watching world.

If ever there was a time when Saints need to live courageously for Christ in the world, it is now. But it will take conviction, credibility, and a great deal of audacity. Ordinary Saints explores what it means to be a saint in the 21st-century, by exploring the depth-dimension of saints’ lives, bodies, emotions, values, and relationships.

It offers the simple recipe that if God exists, if the Bible is true, if Jesus saves … What’s going to prove it are the lives of ordinary saints. Thinking of the great saints of the early era of Christian history, St Augustine asked himself, “If they, why not I? – If those men and women could become saints, why cannot I with the help of Him who is all-powerful?”

Stuart Devenish, Ph.D., is the Director of Postgraduate Studies at the School of Ministry, Theology, and Culture, Tabor College of Higher Education, Adelaide, Australia.

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Article: Spirituality in Contemporary Ireland: Manifesting Indigeneity, by Bernadette Flanagan and Michael O’Sullivan

The article‘s two authors, Bernadette Flanagan and Michael O’Sullivan, write that scholars of Christian spirituality need to look beyond classical Christian texts to understand developments in contemporary spirituality.  In the case of contemporary spirituality in Ireland, we need to explore practices that predate the advent of Christianity in that country. They introduce their approach in the following excerpt:

… this article will focus in particular on an ethnographic/historical account of how the inter-spiritual blend of indigenous tradition and Christianity is a characteristic feature of an emerging spirituality in Ireland.

In other words, many have responded to the crisis of credibility of religious institutions by wedding a Christian upbringing with pre/early Christian spiritual practices, which are orally available from living older generations in Ireland. The significant emerging spiritual practices that will be reviewed in this article will be the revitalization of Pilgrim paths; the visitation of Holy Wells; the restoration of Pattern Days, celebration of the four key festivals of the Celtic calendar; the engagement between Old and New Monasticism and the turn to public celebrations of ancient Celtic festivals. For some people these new expressions are a retrieval of a neglected stream within Catholicism; whereas for others the new expressions are a mark of separation from the past.

Here’s the article’s citation data:

Flanagan, B. & O’Sullivan, M. “Spirituality in Contemporary Ireland: Manifesting Indigeneity.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 16 no. 3, 2016, pp. 55-73.

A subscription to Spiritus is one of the benefits of membership in the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.

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Paper: Spirituality and Culture in Interaction: The Illustrative Recurring Debate on the Role of the Oldest Testament in Christian Theology and Broader Culture, by Christo Lombaard

Christo Lombaard‘s paper was presented at the inaugural Lumen Research Institute Conference held at Excelsia College, Sydney, on 4th and 5th October 2016. According to the Foreword in the conference proceedings, “The conference considered a broad range of theory, scholarship and research at the interface of theology, spirituality, culture and well-being with a core emphasis on how theology and spirituality can contribute to a richer understanding of culture and well-being – and vice versa.” Here is the abstract for Christo’s paper:

During the past two years, an ancient controversy – running from the first to second century theologian Marcion via, in more modern times, for instance contemporaries Adolf von Harnack’s culture-critical theology and Friedrich Delitzsch’s Babel-Bibel oppositioning, to Zimbabwean theologian-politician Canaan Banana’s call for an Africanized Bible, to British rationalist Richard Dawkins and others – has resurfaced anew with the Berlin theologian Notger Slenczka: that the Old Testament in/and the Christian canon is reconsidered. The options proposed range from excluding the Old Testament from the canon to altering its scope to revising its contents. These proposals and some of the culturally related reasons for them are in this contribution taken into review. Is it however not perhaps precisely the “non-harmonious” characteristics of the Hebrew Bible, and by extension the Christian Bible, which have contributed to the resilience of the Jewish faith, to the influence of the Old Testament in Christianity, and to the intellectual-cultural contributions of these texts in the Judean-Christian spheres of influence across two millennia?

SSCS members may obtain a copy of the PDF version of the Proceedings of the Spirituality, Culture and Well-Being Conference by e-mailing the CSS moderator.

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Article: Holistic Health Care and Spiritual Self-Presence, by Michael O’Sullivan

In this freely available article appearing in a 2016 issue of Religions, Michael O’Sullivan argues for the importance of spirituality in healthcare. In so doing, he explores the meanings of “spiritual” and “health,” concluding that “Providers of healthcare are dealing, not simply with people faced with wellbeing or healthcare challenges, but people formed by narratives to do with being on a journey about the meaning of their lives.” The article’s abstract follows:

In this paper, I present evidence of the developing interest in spirituality in healthcare and treat three questions it raises: (1) what makes a person and a life spiritual so that a strictly medical model of health and care won’t do?; (2) what is the scope of healthcare?; and (3) what makes care in healthcare ‘spiritual’ precisely? In addressing the first question I attend to the etymological roots of “spiritual” and articulate how the notion of “spiritual” in Pauline biblical texts is being retrieved today in spirituality studies and research but in a way, also, that does not attach it strictly to religious affiliation. In addressing the second question, I highlight the holistic meaning of healthcare by first attending to the etymological roots of health. I then show that adequate healthcare also requires reflection on the notion of the good and illustrate what I mean by interpreting a biblical narrative. In addressing the third question, I draw on lived experience to illustrate how care-providers may need enhanced religious literacy to read and respond to care-seekers irrespective of their own personal beliefs. However, I also argue that what makes care distinctively spiritual in the first instance has less to do with the subject matter of the care—the what of the care—and more to do with how carers act, with, that is, the self-presence of the carers.

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