Author: Dominic White
ISBN: 978-0-8146-8269-2
Date: 2015
Price: $24.95
Publisher: Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota

I’m afraid to say that this book confirms many suspicions I have had for some time. Even if Dominic White OP is not wholly right in all his conjectures but only in good part, then we are going to have seriously review a lot of our perceptions of Western spiritual and liturgical practices. Fr White’s ambitious project is to review the roots of our liturgical and spiritual practices linking them to esoteric practices and attitudes long since vanished. Let me take one example. For many years I have enjoyed gazing at the Byzantine mosaics to be found in Italy in the dim half-light in situ. Admittedly my eyesight is not what it was, but once accustomed to the gloom I have noticed that the ikons begin to shimmer and glint almost in three-dimensional fashion only to vanish when the next tourist deposits their obligatory one euro coin in the meter, so that all is now revealed in garish modern electric light (primarily, as is often the case, for the purposes of taking another photograph).

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January/February 2016

Author: Mark Vickers
ISBN: 978 085244 823 6
Year: 2013
Price: £25.00
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Publisher: Gracewing

Evelyn Waugh wrote of Cardinal Francis Bourne: ‘He combined a genuine personal humility with an exceedingly lofty conception of the dignity of his position and with an absolute confidence in all his opinions (which he believed to have been revealed to him in prayer). He was thus singularly disqualified from normal social intercourse.’1 Waugh was no admirer of Bourne’s, but even the Cardinal’s admirers admit to tensions in his personality. Archbishop of Westminster for over thirty years, he has been ill-served by one of the worst ecclesiastical biographies ever written by the man he put in charge of The Tablet, Ernest Oldmeadow.

Mark Vickers has now put that right with this outstanding new work: a biography of a man who was both Bishop of Southwark and Archbishop of Westminster, and the first Rector of Wonersh seminary. One could say that his heart never left the seminary, metaphorically while he was alive and literally after his death (in the wall of the chapel of St Francis de Sales). Vickers has relied heavily on primary sources, particularly Bourne’s extensive correspondence with other bishops, clergy, leading lay Catholics and public officials, and he makes considered and careful judgments about his subject.

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January/February 2016

Author: Lindsay Wilson.
ISBN: 978 0 8028 2708 1
Date: 2015
Price: £18.99
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Publisher: Eerdmans [UK Distributor: Alban Books]

Lindsay Wilson of Ridley College, Melbourne, here offers a well-written and intelligent reading of the Book of Job, analysing the theological ideas that emerge, the book’s place in Scripture as a whole, and the implications for pastoral ministry.
The Introduction sets out the ways in which Wilson reads the Book of Job. It has parallels with other ancient Wisdom books, but only up to a point. It is best to read it in the form that it has come down to us, without being too concerned as to whether some parts are secondary additions. All parts should be given equal weight. One reason for its composition (the date of which is uncertain, and of no great moment) was to counter a reading of the Book of Proverbs in terms of an over-rigid doctrine of retribution, such as is put into the mouths of Job’s friends. It is also concerned to explore the proper relationship between God and humanity. God is sovereign creator and maintainer of order, and cannot be constrained by narrow human categories. As for humanity, ‘a stance of meek submissiveness is not the only permissible response to God.’ Job is a long, repetitive book, but it has to be. It is not seeking to give propositional answers to questions but to explore patiently ‘the process of loss and grief, the reworking of faith, and the transformation of Job’.

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January/February 2016

Author: Sarah Coakley
ISBN: 9781441103222
Date: 2015
Price: £14.99
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Publisher: Bloomsbury

This book throws down the gauntlet to an extremely controversial matter in contemporary theology: is there space for the issues of sexuality and genders within theological debate?

Coakley does not limit herself to openly discuss celibacy, female priesthood and homosexuality within a theological framework, but she proposes a solution combining erotic desire and asceticism. If at a first glance such juxtaposition might seem absurd, one acknowledges its validity once she grounds her thesis in the Greek patristic tradition of Origen and the Cappadocian fathers: it is erotic desire that drives human yearning for God. Thus, she inserts her reflections within a patristic theological tradition, of which she stretches the boundaries to face contemporary cultural demands.

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January/February 2016

Author: James McKeown
ISBN: 978 0 8028 6385 0
Date: 2015
Price: £14.99
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Publisher: Eerdmans [UK Distributor: Alban Books]

In the first half of this excellent commentary on the minor literary masterpiece that is the Book of Ruth, James McKeown from the Union Theological College in Belfast concentrates on the main hermeneutical issues. He notes the difficulty of dating the Book and of deciding on its purpose. Is it a post-exilic work, perhaps meant to challenge the view of foreign women and of mixed marriages presented in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah? Or is it a pre-exilic book perhaps presenting the choice of David (Ruth’s great-grandson) as part of a divine plan? The evidence on these matters is far from conclusive. Again, there are many exegetical ambiguities in the text. Thus, was it wise or unwise of Elimelech to go to Moab? Is Naomi implied to have approved or disapproved of Ruth’s decision to accompany her to Canaan? Did Ruth ask only to gather the few kernels left behind (as sanctioned by the Torah), or, when the supervisor says that she had sought leave to glean among the sheaves (2.7), is the implication that Ruth was engineering a meeting with Boaz, who alone could allow this? After Boaz has permitted Ruth to accompany his female harvesters, why does Ruth, when telling Naomi about it, use the masculine word for harvesters? Why, when Ruth returns to Naomi, does the latter say ‘Who are you, my daughter?’ (3.16).

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January/February 2016

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