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Book Review

Vanessa Herrick and Ivan Mann

Face Value

God in the Place of Encounter

ISBN 0-232-52377-0

DLT London, 2002, £9.95

(price at publication of review)


Reviewed September 2003; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2003

Most of us can point to defining moments in our lives.  They were points when we knew that life would never be the same again.  They may have been associated with the birth of a child or the death of a friend or parent, or when we realized that we had been called to a particular and personal vocation.  A time of failure and weakness can also lead us towards an acceptance of our own frailty and sinfulness and that too can be a defining moment in life.  In this book the authors use the familiar and wonderful gospel story of the Transfiguration to help the reader to encounter God afresh, then to reflect on defining moments in our life and in the life of the world, in the light of that experience.

The authors draw attention to the sad truth that in the Church of England the Feast of the Transfiguration is somewhat neglected.  The lectionary contained in the ASB made provision for the theme of the Transfiguration to be used on Mothering Sunday.  It is probable that this provision was not widely used.  However Orthodox liturgy and iconography gives a considerable emphasis to this.  They note what Michael Ramsey drew attention to, in the approach of East and West.  Ramsey noted that while there was a tendency in the West to ask ‘what moral and practical lessons are to be learnt from the event, the East has often been content to simply rejoice in the glory which Mount Tabor shed upon Christ, the Christians and all creation’.

The authors offer, as background, a ‘flavour’ of the story of the Transfiguration in each of the Synoptic Gospels and of the Transfiguration theme in St John’s Gospel.   Five key themes emerge from his study as they explore the significance of the Transfiguration today.  These themes are Knowing Christ, Worship and Fear, Time and Experience, Suffering and Obedience and Discipleship.  We are reminded that there is a place for the ‘spiritual high’ but that we need to see the face of God ‘reflected and shining in the ordinary, the mundane and the suffering.’

A good book about a great mystery.

Christopher Taylor

(formerly Br Dominic Christopher SSF)


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