THIS set of four addresses by the late Michael Mayne affirms that “at root, the Christian life is about giving attention in order to become what we truly are” — attention to God, to the fallen world, to our neighbour, and to ourselves.
His message will be familiar to those who know his sermons, as he explores the “mystery” (a favourite word) of our existence, the “Passion and compassion” of God, and “the deep conviction that we walk through this world as those who are loved.” What he says is not, in itself, original, but he says it compellingly and with well-judged citations from those figures — Tillich, Farrer, Merton, Ecclestone, Harry Williams — who shaped his generation, and, in particular, its rediscovery of de Caussade’s “sacrament of the present moment”.
A fine chapter on “What the cross says to me about me and what the cross says to me about God” is the exception in making no reference to his linking theme of attention. It begins “I wrote earlier”, whereas other chapters refer to what he had previously said, and source-criticism might suggest an independent origin; readers may spot half a dozen passages familiar from his published Good Friday preaching.
In a book whose theology is largely individual, it is noticeable that Mayne makes no reference to the Church or the sacraments, except in his final paragraph. The power of his gospel is the way he holds together the mystery of our lives as those loved by God despite everything, and the mystery of the Passion.
The Revd Philip Welsh was formerly Vicar of St Stephen’s, Rochester Row, in London.
Giving Attention: Becoming what we truly are
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