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Book Review

Enzo Bianchi

Words of Spirituality -Towards a Lexicon of the Inner Life

ISBN 0 281 05456 8

SPCK, London, 2002, 8.99

(price at publication of review)

Reviewed January 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2004

This book is a series of short chapters, modelled on the Desert Fathers' tradition of responding to the request: Abba, give me a word.  It comes out of the experience of an ecumenical monastic community founded in 1965.  I hope to hear more of them.  (Editor's note: Enzo Bianchi founded this community at Bose in northern Italy, which Sisters Beverley and Helen Julian, and Brothers Maximilian and Samuel visited in February 2004.)

The chapters carry on this living tradition.  The first chapter is on the understanding of spiritual life as the discovery of a personal relationship with God lived in a community context, rooted in attentive listening to the Word of God, formed by the Eucharist, and expressed in a life of faith, hope and love.  The second chapter is on asceticism, and having quoted Tertullian: 'We are not born Christians, we become Christians', it defines this 'becoming' as the space in which Christian asceticism reveals its meaning. The third chapter is on holiness and beauty, a welcome combination.  These serve as samples of the themes.  There are almost fifty chapters in all.  They cover a wide range, including various aspects of prayer, silence, faithfulness, the desert, forgiveness and loving our enemies, self knowledge and solitude, and deal towards the end with illness, old age and death, but the last word, in a truly Franciscan way, is with joy.

There are quotations from the Fathers, but also from modern literary, psychological and scholarly sources.  In other words, it is a lively example of the tradition in today's world, drawing on such diverse resources as Bloy, Bonhoeffer, Olivier Clement's dialogues with the Patriarch Athenagoras, Fromm, Illich, Jung, Leclercq on the Middle Ages, Henri Le Saux's studies of the Upanishads, Rilke's poems and Teilhard de Chardin.  Ecumenical the community may be, and certainly catholic in the best sense.  For many of us, it will broaden horizons in one way or another.

Gillian Clare OSC

 

 

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