I have decided to keep a list of some of the books and articles I have read in the last month or so. So go to Anchorite Reading List.
Aelred of Rievaulx, in his Rule of Life for a Recluse, laments that some anchorites like gossiping:
… their purpose no longer to being to arouse desire but to gratify it.
I think that is also true for a lot of reading in a modern context. People read all the time – online, on their phones, emails, etc. In a sense, anchorite solitude is all about space to read. But read well! Reading to “arouse desire” for Jesus. Not reading to pass the time or “gratify” a base desire. Reading to move closer to Jesus.
I think people of faith should make more time for reading to arouse desire. Not just the Scriptures or the Prayer Book – both of which should be a very important part of every day. Lectio Divina should become a part of every Christians’ day.
Also good Christian books. Our tradition is overflowing with good reading material for which a whole lifetime would not be enough to read. Guided reading – with a spiritual guide – would be a magnificent place for people to feed their spiritual life.
Sorry if that is a little preachy.
You only need a naked intent for God. When you long for him, that’s enough.
I have been reading The Cloud of Unknowing which I have not really read previously. I think there are books that I am aware exist and have some idea about their content but that I have never really read.
So two things: there is such a thing as really reading something. Slowly and with intent. Allowing the words to penetrate and feed your inward person. I know that is true with the Scriptures but it is also true with other literature. And the difference, between reading for information and reading to be fed, is in the intent. A relationship is much more than information and hits the very centre of what it means to be “me”. It is this centre that reads with intent.
Second: “a naked intent”! A longing for God in every aspect of my life. Putting time aside is very much part of it. But every moment of my day (and night) is a continual longing for God. My intent today is for Jesus.
I think I like The Cloud of Unknowing. It is simple in its language but deep in its ideas.
I have been reading this book. The chapter on vocation is great – full of experience and wisdom.
What are you reading?
… because everyone is drawn almost irresistibly back towards this urge to manage.Rowan Williams. Silence and Honey Cakes, 26.
I have been reading Silence and Honey Cakes – a book by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on desert spirituality. It was recommended to me by a lecture in history at a Catholic theological institute.
The above – “this urge to manage” – is a very strong image for me in the first chapter. The withdrawal into the desert is not a withdrawal from a sinful world but an opening of my own sinfulness. And at the core of this is my need to manage people. To set limits on other people’s access to God and to always place myself between God and people. To make myself the spiritual guru, the person with the answers, the person who has it all worked out. To place myself above the other is not an act of love but hubris.
But that is nothing but my sinfulness. And in silence, I hear that most clearly. The desert is not a place but part of my heart that I need to listen to intently. Only when I know what it means to be broken can I really appreciate what it means to be whole – or holy!
Spiritual guidance affirms the basic quest for meaning. It calls for the creation of space in which the validity of the questions does not depend on the availability of answers but on the questions’ capacity to open us to new perspectives and horizons. We must allow all the daily experiences of life—joy, loneliness, fear, anxiety, insecurity, doubt, ignorance, the need for affection, support, understanding, and the long cry for love—to be recognized as an essential part of the spiritual quest.Nouwen, Spiritual Direction
I have been listening to Henry Nouwen’s book on spiritual direction. I have not read much by him so I am super impressed with this book. Especially as an audiobook that I can listen to while doing other things.
So I thought I would share the above. Questioning is important and very much part of the journey into Jesus.
witnesses to Jesus
I have been continuing to read The Freedom to Become a Christian: A Kierkegaardian Account of Human Transformation in Relationship with God. (I had a very pleasant hour on the beach yesterday reading and watching the waves.)
I just wanted to share two quotes that really struck me:
When Christian conceptions or propositions become the object of the Christian faith (for example, in the form of Christian doctrine), ‘Christianity’ becomes a plaything for intellectual pursuits, cultural sensibilities and political agendas. This is not, of course, to deny that Christian concepts and propositions serve a purpose. Their primary purpose, however, is to serve as a witness to God: to provide us with teaching that helps us to talk about, understand and know both who God is and who we are before God. But, for Kierkegaard, they are not to take centre stage.The Freedom to Become a Christian, 4.
I was struck by the idea that doctrine etc are witnesses. And that these provide a framework for us to speak about God.
The conclusion that this work seeks to draw is that, for Kierkegaard, Christian belief and understanding are subordinate to a person’s relationship with God. They do not constitute the relationship itself. They are nothing more than a witness to and expression of the fact that God actively relates to us in history.
This is the main aim of the book. And I think this is a really important point to remember: it is all about a relationship. As the author further explains it is about a choice for the Christian life, it is not about conclusions but rather a resolution. (The last part is me!)
… it is conceived as a transformative journey that is grounded in an active relationship with the God who is present with us and encounters us in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it involves a growing in relationship with God that does not simply result from God’s encountering us from the eternal beyond but takes place concretely within the history of this world. Accordingly, becoming a Christian requires responding to God’s historical engagement with us within the limitations of time.The Freedom to Become a Christian, 2.
I have been reading The Freedom to Become a Christian with much interest. I think it discusses some issues that need to be discussed more – a theology of conversion. Further I think this theology of conversion should stand in the middle of our theology of mission. So I might share one or two quotes from the book as I progress through it. I am also hoping to write a full review and discussion of the book when I am done.
a good find
What a good find! A book on Keirkegaardian theology of conversion. YES! I will read the book and try to write some notes. I am glad to have found it!
holiness and mission
I have been reading The Mystic Way of Evangelism. It is an interesting read with much to think about – much more than I had first assumed. The book takes a wider view of mysticism than other books I have read. I have been exposed to the thoughts of individuals that I had not previously encountered. And that is always a good thing!
Last night I was thinking about how, in the mystics (and maybe modern-day “charismatics”) there is a real connection between a desire for holiness – oneness with Jesus – and the proclamation of Jesus to the world. In the history of the church movements have arisen that connect this desire with mission – mysticism, pietism, charismatic movement. Holiness and discipleship are intimately related to mission and witness.
There is no holiness without mission, no discipleship without witness. We cannot put discipleship in one box and have mission in another. Or have witness in one and holiness in another. These areas of the Christian life are not mutually exclusive – they are intimately related. A person set apart for God will reach out to people with the good news of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus will follow Jesus and witness to Him with their life.
I have been thinking that rather than a plan for mission, parishes should have a plan for discipleship that includes a plan for outreach. A plan for holiness that reaches out into the world. People transformed to transform people. To sound terribly judgemental, people need to understand that Jesus changes them and this relationship is not a private matter without consequences.
Transformed people ready to transform people.