AMONG my collection of old prayer books, I have a splendid one published many years ago, when it was assumed as a matter of course that ordinary Anglicans would want to live disciplined lives of daily prayer. And it was also assumed that an indispensable part of that discippine would be a regular pattern of meditation — that, apart from the soul’s being fed by the structures of the liturgy of the Church, it needed a less formal time of quiet offering of the heart, the mind, and the will.
My book commends various different ways of entering into mental prayer of one kind or another. What they have in common is an imaginative response to a person or subject, a time of thought and prayer leading to some kind of response.
Around the Table is a distant cousin of this family of methods. The author wants his readers to share in his fascination with the eucharist and what it might mean, and his book enlists for this the help of 14 characters from the Gospels. After giving a brief introduction to each person, Hurd takes us on an imaginative journey with his subject. We are invited into that person’s world, to see Jesus with his or her eyes, and so on. This leads to thoughts on a particular aspect of the eucharist; and each chapter ends with questions for reflection, a short prayer, and scripture passages for further reading.
This book — like the eucharist, and like my old prayer book — is concerned not merely with the internal life, but also with the external actions of the reader: we meditate not to achieve inner tranquillity, but that both our hearts and lives might be changed.
I am not normally given to the “put yourself in the scene” kind of meditation espoused here, but I found Hurd’s reflections compelling. This is an extremely good introduction for people who may be new to, or put off by, the very word “meditation”.
The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest-Vicar of Westminster Abbey.
Around the Table: Retelling the story of the eucharist through the eyes of Jesus’ first followers
R. Scott Hurd
Ave Maria Press £11.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.80