Fully Alive: The transforming power of
Laurence Freeman, editor Canterbury Press
Church Times Bookshop special price
£8 (Use code CT656 )
God Where Are You?
SPCK £9.99 (978-0-281-06959-0)
Church Times Bookshop £9 (Use code CT656
THESE two books have a shared theme: the desire and search for
God. Fully Alive is a collection of edited talks by the
late John Main on the practice of Christian meditation, by which we
learn to be present to God. In God Where Are You?, Enzo
Bianchi explores, with a delightful freshness and profundity, some
encounters between Old Testament characters and God.
Main's vision was to make the contemplative prayer of the desert
tradition of early Christianity available to everyone. He founded
the first Christian Meditation Centre in London in 1975, now the
World Community for Christian Meditation. It has become "a
monastery without walls" for people from all walks of life and all
ages, meeting in weekly groups in more than 100 countries.
Fully Alive brings together 24 introductory talks by
Main to such weekly groups. Laurence Freeman, the editor, a
Benedictine monk, describes these talks as "a demanding yet
realistic call to see meditation as a spiritual discipline (twice a
day) and asceticism for the 21st century". They address humanity's
heart-longing for God, emphasising the need to learn selfless
attention, to know that we are anchored in God, and to enjoy an
awareness of God through daily meditation.
The talks are inevitably somewhat repetitive, and a prescriptive
tone creeps in, so that repeatedly we are told that we must
meditate for at least 20 minutes twice daily, and must gently
repeat a word, a mantra, throughout the meditation.
Enzo Bianchi's God, Where Are You? reflects on
encounters between God and familiar OT characters: Abraham, Moses,
Jacob, Elijah, and Isaiah. This is not Sunday-school stuff; nor is
it heavy academic theology. It offers a fascinating biblical
exploration of God's presence and absence, of God's
self-revelation, of God's glory or Shekhinah, of the place
where God is. "Place", maqom, is one of the names for God
in Judaism. Bianchi concludes that the God we are searching for
comes to dwell in the womb of Mary as Jesus, the Shekhinah
in the flesh. Through Jesus, God "takes up his dwelling in every
Christian and, together, in the community of believers, the body of
Christ, the temple of God".
Bianchi is founder and prior of the Monastero di Bose in Italy,
an ecumenical community of men and women, and a prime example of
the "new monasticism" movement. In his foreword, Rowan Williams
describes Bose as a community "in which the corporate study of
scripture is central; those who have experienced biblical
reflection in the community at Bose will know what an extraordinary
experience it is, an opening of unimagined depths in the text."
These essays give a taste of that experience, and provide fresh
insights into familiar Bible stories.
Canon Bruce Duncan was the founding Principal of Sarum