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a review of Christian spirituality published by the British Jesuits

July 2006 Volume 45, Number 3


Aziz Ferit Eraslan

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

to be religious today is to be interreligious

a positive relationship with believers of other faiths is a
requirement in an age of religious pluralism.
Jesuit General Congregation 34
THE WAY July 2006

The Spirit in Contemporary Culture

The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions: 7-21
A Problematic Encounter
Ludovic Lado
In African Christianity today, the colonialist past is a matter of guilt.
Instead we practise inculturation, and express Christianity in ways
somehow sensitive to the values of African culture. But perhaps
inculturation is as patronising as colonial Christianity was oppressive.
A young theologian from Cameroon argues that todays Africa requires
us to think in ways that are at once quite new and yet deeply traditional.

Monastic Life, Interreligious Dialogue, and Openness to 23-37

the Ultimate: A Reflection on the Tibhirine Monks
Christian Salenson
In 1996, seven Trappist monks were murdered in Algeria. Christian
Salenson considers the witness of the Tibhirine monks and how it
illustrates the deep connections between a monastic vocation and a
commitment to interreligious dialogue.

Exile and Virtual Space: The New Frontiers in 39-52

Interreligious Dialogue
Benot Vermander
Globalisation and the internet have radically altered the conditions
under which interreligious dialogue occurs today, and are enabling the
process to move forward in some startling new ways. A French Jesuit
working in China explores the future of Christian mission in this
changed context.
THE WAY July 2006

Mary, Daughter of Sion: The Mother of Jesus in the 53-66

Dieter Bhler
Christian tradition has grown to think of Mary in a wide variety of ways.
In the New Testament, she appears principally as the Daughter of Sion,
the heart of the holy remnant of Israel around which God will gather all
the nations. When Christians honour Mary, they are acknowledging too
the intimate dependence of their faith on the Israelite heritage.

From the Ignatian Tradition

Ignatius and the Turks: Two Letters from 1552 67-78
Ignatius own openness to interreligious dialogue was limited. The
Turks appeared to him simply as a threat. We look at two letters in
which he advocates that Charles V mount a large fleet to protect Italy
and Spain against the prospect of Turkish conquest.

Theological Trends
The Catholic Church Subsists in the Catholic Church 79-93
Peter Knauer
One of Vatican IIs most creative teachings was the suggestion that the
Church of Christ is broader than the Roman Catholic Church; the two
are not simply to be identified. Peter Knauer suggests that the Church in
which we profess our belief in the Creed exists wherever people believe
in Christ as the Son of God.

Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 95-112

Ian M. Randall
The rich evangelical tradition of spirituality has focused on moments of
conversion, on the Word of God in the Bible, on the cross and on active
missionary commitment. A Baptist historian shows how these aspects of
evangelicalism have been nourished throughout its history by Catholic
THE WAY July 2006

Book Reviews 113-134

Howard J. Gray on daily life in Ignatius house
Paul Nicholson on a new dictionary of spirituality and on the
Jesuit Refugee Service
Peter Edmonds on Pauls letters to the Philippians and to
Tina Beattie on restoring Marys magnificence
Thomas M. Kelly on Ignatian discernment and the commitment
to justice
Mark L. Yenson on interviews with contemporary theologians
Susan K. Wood on what it is to risk being Church
Billy Hewett on Teilhard de Chardins The Mass of the World
Andrew Louth on a biography of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

The Way warmly invites readers to submit articles with a view to publication. They should normally be
about 4,000 words long, and be in keeping with the journals aims. The Editor is always ready to discuss
possible ideas. Further details can be found on The Ways website, In the second half
of 2007, we will be publishing a special issue entitled Spirituality and Social Transformation. Contributions to
this project will be especially welcome.

The article on the Tibhirine Monks was first published in Collectanea Cistercensia; Exile and Virtual Space
first appeared in Cahiers de spiritualit ignatienne (Quebec City); Mary, Daughter of Sion was originally in
Geist und Leben; the presentation on Ignatius and the Turks is based on material commissioned by
Christus. We are grateful to the editors and authors for permission to reproduce this material. Translations:
Philip Endean SJ. The scripture quotations herein are generally from the New Revised Standard Version
Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of
Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.


ground-breaking study in comparative religion, full of subtle and
rich experimental observation. Underlying it was a conviction that all
the religious phenomena James described were expressing a common
nucleus of intellectual content: a sense that there is something wrong
about us as we naturally stand, which is resolved by a sense that we are
saved from the wrongness by making proper connection with the higher
powers.1 James claimed to be avoiding questions about truth and
dogma, but his perspective on his material was decisively shaped by
Western Christianitys understanding of the self under God. Moreover,
the influence was all the more powerful because it was not
acknowledged. Wherever his researches roamed, James saw variations
on Western Christianitys themes.
There are problems here, and not just because there are certainly
some religions that do not fit James generalisation. Such a vision
confines Gods truth to what conventional religion makes of God.
James working understanding of religion depends on how people
apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may
consider the divine.2 Christianity, by contrast, has to reckon with a
God constantly expanding and subverting whatever we may consider
to be the truth about ourselves, about the world and about God. We
only understand Christian truth aright if we recognise that we must
constantly be learning it. When, therefore, we engage in what we
might want to call mission and ministry, we are not seeking simply to
find our conventional ways of thinking and feeling present reflected in
others too. Rather, we are seeking to open up relationships with the
potential to change all concerned, relationships with others who are,
and remain, different from us. An authentic engagement with God
renders our sense of truth complex, permanently elusive. As Benot
Vermander suggests in his reflections on globalisation and inter-
religious dialogue, we are coming to recognise that the divine harmony

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, edited with an
introduction by Martin E. Marty (London: Penguin, 1982 [1902]), 507-508.
James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 31.

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 5-6

6 Foreword

is not so much an assertive major chord as subtly patterned serial

music, drawing on all the tones of the scale.
A godly encounter with religious diversity is one that renounces all
attempts to dictate the terms of engagement. Instead, it lets a common
truth emerge gently at its own pace. Much in this issue of The Way
seeks to encourage the dispositions required for an authentic patience
in this regard. Ludovic Lado raises radical questions about the
assumptions behind attempts at inculturated Christianity in Africa.
Christian Salenson evokes how the Trappist community in Algeria,
most of whose members were murdered in 1996, engaged with
Muslims, while Peter Knauer retrieves Vatican IIs ground-breaking
assertion that the true Church of Christ professed in the creed is wider
than the Roman Catholic Church as it currently exists. It is within
such openness to difference that one can rightly appreciate the
convergences that there are. Ian Randall points us to the riches of
evangelical spirituality, evoking both its distinctive stresses and its
affinities with more Catholic traditions, while Dieter Bhler shows how
an engagement with the Jewish roots of Christianity can enrich and
renew conventional Catholic devotion to Mary.
It is of faith that all things work together for good for those who
love God (Romans 8:28). But the engagement with religious otherness
is not always a matter of expansive exhilaration. As Rowan Williams
once put it, the world contains not just well-meaning agnosticsor
indeed enlightened devotees of other faith traditionsbut also
totalitarian nightmares nuclear arsenals, labour camps and torture
chambers.3 In their openness to the Muslim world of Algeria, the
Trappist martyrs were rendering themselves vulnerable to violent
attack; and we can easily forget that Ignatius and the early Jesuits
lived, not very creatively, with the threat of being overwhelmed by the
Turks. To explore the worlds differences is also to engage with the
worlds evil. It is only in hope and trust that we can move forward in
this enterprisehope not only in the Spirits expansive creativity, but
also in the power of God to bring good out of evil and life out of death.
Philip Endean SJ

Rowan Williams, Balthasar and Rahner, in The Analogy of Beauty, edited by John Riches
(Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1986), 11-34, here 33.
The Spirit in Contemporary Culture


A Problematic Encounter

Ludovic Lado


Portuguese pioneers in the sixteenth century, reached sub-Saharan
Africa during the 1800s. When they arrived, they were confronted
with two major religious forces: African religions and Islam. But in the
areas where they settled, the Islamic influence was not generally
strong; it was African religions that were holding together the social
and political fabric.
Roman Catholics have been encouraged to think in positive terms
about other religions since Vatican II, and in particular since the
publication of Nostra aetate, the Councils Declaration on the Relation
of the Church to non-Christian Religions. In the African context, the
effect has been to promote what is called inculturation: the attempt
to discern the so-called authentic African values or symbols, and to
assimilate these within the version of Christianity received from
Western missionaries. And since there is no clear demarcation between
African cultures and African religions, this process of inculturation is
essentially interreligious.
But what do we really mean today by African religions and
African cultures after colonialism? What has been lost and what is
left? Who are the African partners in the so-called dialogue? There are
or have been three ways in which Christianity has sought to engage
with the reality of Africa: colonial Christianity; inculturation; and
interreligious dialogue with Islam and with African religions. In this
article I want to argue that all of these models have severe limitations.
At the end I will suggest a more straightforwardly theological approach:

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 7-21

8 Ludovic Lado

the awkwardness connected with Christian witness in Africa today in

fact reflects the vulnerability intrinsic to any authentic evangelization,
any sustained witness to the crucified Christ.
Before continuing, I draw attention to my choice of the term
African religions instead of the usual African traditional religion. The
conventional term gives a quite wrong impression that we are dealing
with something impervious to the upheavals of history, whereas
African religions are in fact as dynamic as any other religion.
Moreover, there are many forms of religion in Africa. Though there are
some common factors, African religions vary according to whether it is
farming, coastal or forest people who are practising them. Though
there are similarities between these religions, it is wrong to lump them
together disparagingly as fetishism or animism.

Mission and Violence

Early Christian missionary activity in Africa was both ethnocentric and
iconoclastic in its attitudes towards African religions:

neither in the nineteenth nor in the early twentieth centuries

did missionaries give much thought in advance to what they would
find in Africa. What struck them, undoubtedly, was the darkness of
the continent; its lack of religion and sound morals, its ignorance,
its general pitiful condition made worse by the barbarity of the
slave trade. Evangelization was seen as liberation from a state of
absolute awfulness, and the picture of unredeemed Africa was often
painted in colours as gruesome as possible, the better to encourage
missionary zeal at home.

In historical context, such attitudes are all too easily understandable.

Firstly, the missionaries were children of an age in which so-called
early travellers accounts, that were based on inaccurate information
and cultural prejudice made African religions appear to be a morass
of bizarre beliefs and practice.2 Evolutionist theories presented African
religions as primitive, merely the first stage of the evolution of human
religious history; and such ways of thinking remain influential long
after they have become discredited among scholars. Secondly, Western

Adrian Hastings, The Church and Mission in Modern Africa (London: Burns and Oates, 1967), 60.
Benjamin C. Ray, African Religions: Symbol, Ritual and Community (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-
Hall, 1976), 3.
The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions 9

Christianity itself was being challenged and disrupted in the

nineteenth century by rationalism and secularism. It was therefore
rather on the defensive, and not in a position to be open to dialogue
with religious otherness. Thirdly, the evangelization of sub-Saharan
Africa took place within the context of colonisation. For all the
benefits it brought (not only the preaching of the gospel, but also the
foundation of schools and hospitals), it was essentially a violent
enterprise. Missionary societies tended to work in areas where their
home governments were directly involved,3 behaving often as cultural
agents of their own nations. Indeed, in the nineteenth century,
Christianity reached black Africa as part of the Western campaign of
civilisation meant to redeem the dark continent from the claws of
ignorance and devilish superstition.4 The heroic commitment of
Christian missionaries, not only to the preaching of the gospel but also
to the implantation of schools and hospitals, was part of this general
programme of elevating the primitive African to the level of the
civilised Westerner.
In such a context of unequal power relationships, a genuine
dialogue between Christianity and African religions was simply not
possible. The missionary had come to give and not to receive; Africans
had nothing to give but everything to receive. Just as civilisation
meant substituting Western cultures for African cultures,
evangelization came to mean replacing African religions with
Christianity. Overzealous missionaries even destroyed traditional ritual
places in an attempt to persuade the evangelized that their old ways
were worthless. In this early phase of Christian missionary activity,
genuine dialogue with African religions was never envisaged, and the
more recent movement towards inculturation is in part a guilt
reaction against this violent, contemptuous past.

Official Roman Documents

Though much contemporary theology has moved beyond these ways of
thinking, official Roman Catholic teaching has still arguably failed to

Jesse N. K. Mugambi, The African Heritage and Contemporary Christianity (Nairobi: Longman Kenya,
1989), 14.
Kwame Bediako, Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second
Century and Modern Africa (Oxford: Regnum Books, 1992), 225.
10 Ludovic Lado

Spiritan Archives
Bishop Franz Xaver Vogt with the first indigenous Cameroonian priests, 1935

find an appropriately respectful language for its encounter with non-

Christian religions, one that avoids condescension or arrogance. Its
most recent document, Dominus Iesus, published in 2000, evinces an
obvious concern at the influence of relativistic theories which seek to
justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in
principle) (n.5). It insists on a distinction between full theological faith
and mere belief in the other religions that constitutes the human
treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration developed and acted upon
by humanity in its search for truth (n.7). The documents authors feel
a need to specify what they mean by the equality of partners in
interreligious dialogue:

Equality, which is a presupposition of interreligious dialogue, refers

to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to
doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ in
relation to the founders of the other religions. (n.29)

The point is clear: dialogue between the Catholic Church and other
religions is not a dialogue between equal religions.
To date, the most important document of the magisterium
featuring a statement about dialogue between Catholicism and African
The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions 11

religions remains John Paul IIs 1995 post-synodal exhortation, Ecclesia

in Africa, in which we find the following:

With regard to African traditional religion, a serene and prudent

dialogue will be able, on the one hand, to protect Catholics from
negative influences which condition the way of life of many of
them and, on the other hand, to foster the assimilation of positive
values such as belief in a Supreme Being who is Eternal, Creator,
Provident and Just Judge, values which are readily harmonized with
the content of the faith. They can even be seen as a preparation for
the Gospel, because they contain precious semina Verbi [seeds of the
Word] which can lead, as already happened in the past, a great
number of people to be open to the fullness of Revelation in Jesus
Christ through the proclamation of the Gospel.
The adherents of African traditional religion should therefore be
treated with great respect and esteem, and all inaccurate and
disrespectful language should be avoided. For this purpose, suitable
courses in African traditional religion should be given in houses of
formation for priests and religious. (n.67)

Here there is at least talk of respect, but it is still Christianity

which is determining the conversation. The dialogue envisaged here
has to be serene and prudent in order that Catholics be protected
against negative influences associated with African religions. The
dialogues aim is not so much to foster mutual understanding and
mutual enrichment as to discern and assimilate the positive values of
African religions; and positive here means in harmony with
Christianity. The positive values of African religions are portrayed as
semina Verbi, as preparation for the gospel. And it is in this context
that Ecclesia in Africa speaks of a version of inculturation:

It is by looking at the mystery of the incarnation and of the

redemption that the values and countervalues of cultures are to be
discerned. Just as the Word of God became like us in everything
but sin, so too the inculturation of the good news takes on all
authentic human values, purifying them from sin and restoring to
them their full meaning. (n.61)

Whether, however, this kind of writing avoids all inaccurate and

disrespectful language seems doubtful. For example, it is not obvious,
at least from the anthropological point of view, that the distinction in
Dominus Iesus between faith and belief in terms of two different
12 Ludovic Lado

kinds of proposition does justice to religions other than Christianity.

According to the anthropologist Malcom Ruel, it is an error to
presume that belief is central to all religions in the same way as it is to
Christianity.5 More obviously, it hardly fosters dialogue if we begin by
telling adherents of other religions that that what they have (beliefs) is
of less value than what Christians have (theological faith).

Experiments and Challenges

Nevertheless, despite all the ambiguities in the idea of inculturation,
and despite the ambivalence which the Churchs teaching authority
seems to show, some African theologians are making creative attempts
to build bridges between African religions and Christianity. But their
task is not an easy one, since they are confronted with the challenges
arising from the present post-colonial context.
Translating God
One of the main challenges facing every missionary is communication.
How can one get the gospel message across to people? Early Western
missionaries in Africa struggled to learn local languages that were
without alphabets. Some developed an alphabet, and then the very
first dictionaries of African languages appeared, all of which led to
translations of the Bible (mainly by Protestants), of catechisms and of
hymnals. Because language is the home of culture, these translations
blended not only different languages but also different cultures or
cosmologies. Missionaries had to find (or simply invent) African words
suitable for the translation of Christian concepts such as God, Holy
Spirit, Jesus Christ, angels and saints. And thus, for all that these early
missionaries regarded African religions as worthless, they nevertheless
retained concepts from these religions for the supreme deity (Loba, Sse,
Kwoth, Nyame, Mwari, Katonda, Mulungu, Leza and so on) to translate
the Christian concept of God.
This choice had a huge implication: it suggested that African
religions were monotheistic, whereas in fact this point is very much
debated among historians of religions:

Malcolm Ruel, Ritual and the Securing of Life: Reflexive Essays on a Bantu Religion (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 57.
The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions 13

When the so-called high GodMulungu, Mwari, Leza, Katonda,

Kwoth or Nyamewas worshipped, was Yahweh in truth being
worshipped and was such worship truly salvific? How far could the
whole wider complex of pre-Christian religious ritual and belief
focused so often upon ancestors or hero-divinitiesform part of
the salvific relationship between God and human beings? Possessed
of his or her own religion, a world of spirits leading up to Spirit,
did the African need Christ at all?

Through these kinds of translation, missionaries were already (often

unconsciously) initiating a profound but ambiguous interaction
between African religions and Christianity.
Catholic Saints and African Ancestors
Recently, in the name of inculturation, some African theologians have
attempted to move this dialogue to a different level by comparing
African ancestors with Catholic saints (even with Jesus Christ), and
suggesting that both ancestors and saints can serve as mediators. For
example, in 1986 Dieudonn Watio (now a Catholic bishop in
Cameroon) presented to the Department of Religious Studies (Sciences
des Religions) of the University of Paris-Sorbonne a doctoral thesis on
the cult of ancestors among the Ngyemba.
The Ngyemba are a sub-group of the Bamileke ethnic group, and
they live in the Western part of Cameroon. Their local religion is
centred on the veneration of ancestors. When French missionaries
arrived among the Ngyemba in the early years of the twentieth
century, they chose the Ngyemba term for supreme being (Sse) to
translate the French term Dieu. But at the same time they rejected the
practice of the veneration of ancestors as idolatrous. This eclectic,
selective and, in certain aspects, arbitrary approach did not prove to be
an effective way of engaging an African religion. In fact they were
unconsciously tearing apart the religious system of the Ngyemba by
attempting to dissociate in peoples minds and lives their supreme
being (Sse) from the veneration of ancestors. Such a dissociation could
not but be artificial.
Bishop Watio draws an analogy between Catholic saints and the
role of ancestors in Ngyemba spirituality, and makes all due

Adrian Hastings, African Catholicism (London: SCM Press, 1989), 90.
14 Ludovic Lado

qualifications. But at the end of his comparison, he makes the

following suggestion:

I hope, then, that the Church can gradually accept the possibility
of acknowledging that Christians can invoke their ancestors too,
just as they invoke the Christian saints: having recourse to them as
mediators and intercessors with God at difficult moments, and this
without fear of possible excommunication on the Churchs part. I
have already stressed that the cult of ancestors is not idolatry, but
rather an expression of filial piety. It seems to me that if a good
catechesis about the mediation of saints and ancestors were to be
given to our Christians, and if for its part the Church could accept
the need to look more seriously into the cult of the ancestors in
order to capture better its spirit and actual function, then Christian
recourse to and invocation of the ancestors would be possible, just
as it is now for the Christian saints.

Other African theologians, such as Charles Nyamiti and Bnzet

Bujo, have rather chosen to explore the analogy between Jesus Christ
and African ancestors, but on the condition that the African concept
of ancestor be purified of its negative connotations. In their attempts
to fashion Christological titles consonant with African religions and
cultures, Nyamiti speaks of Christ as our Ancestor and Bujo of Jesus
as Proto-ancestor.8 At the beginning of the Congolese rite for the
Mass, approved by John Paul II in 1988 after more than a decade of
experimentation, both the saints and the local ancestors who searched
for and served God with an upright heart, are called upon to join the
congregation for the sacrifice about to take place.
Such rapprochements, unthinkable in the early decades of African
Christianity, are now common in African theology and pastoral
practice. Scores of doctoral and masters theses have been written on
similar analogies between African rites of passage and Christian
sacraments, or between African religious symbols and Christian
symbols. The African bishops monitor such work closely, and
occasionally clash with theologians on some of these issues.

Dieudonn Watio, Le culte des anctres chez les Ngyemba (Ouest-Cameroun) et ses incidences
pastorales (dissertation: University of Paris-Sorbonne, 1986), 361-362.
See Charles Nyamiti, Christ as our Ancestor (Gweru: Mambo, 1984); Bnzet Bujo, The Ethical
Dimension of Community: The African Model and the Dialogue between North and South (Nairobi:
Pauline Publications Africa, 1998).
The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions 15

A newly ordained priest presiding at the Eucharist for the first time
in Ngyembaland, Cameroon. The horses tails that he and his
assistant are holding are symbols of honour in their indigenous
culture, as is the decorated awning behind them.

Nevertheless, what is at stake here is patchwork, and its dominant

thrust is assimilationist. The purpose is not to encourage any sort of
mutual enrichment between two equal partners, but rather to
assimilate into Christian liturgy or doctrine values and symbols
thought to be authentically African. There have to be questions
about the appropriateness of such a procedure; and it is certainly
misleading to call it dialogue. For all this is happening is that
Christians are talking about African religions. There is no way for the
African religions to talk back.
African religions have neither books nor schools of theologies; they
have never fostered speculative thought. They are sets of rituals and
beliefs enacted on specific occasions for specific pragmatic interests.
They are not religions of a creed inviting assent. This lack of
16 Ludovic Lado

speculation in African religions makes it very difficult to envisage a

genuine doctrinal dialogue between them and Catholicism.
It is African theologians who are the ones dissecting these rituals
and beliefs, and then making theories out of them for the purpose of
developing an African Christian theology. The enterprise is surely
highly questionable; it amounts to imposing on these religions an
intellectualist attitude proper to Christianity. There is some danger
that the current fashion for inculturation and assimilation may be
masking just another disguised form of cultural violence.

The Mute Partner

But perhaps there are other reasons why dialogue is not a realistic
term for describing Christianitys engagement with African religions
and cultures today. In the current post-colonial context, it is quite
difficult to identify who it is with whom Christianity can undertake any
dialogue. It is no easy matter to locate African religions today;
moreover post-colonial Africans have very complex attitudes towards
African religions are certainly not dead. But they have been
destabilised, first by colonial forces and more recently by globalisation
processes, and are desperately seeking new anchorages. In many places,
what remains of them today are mere bits and pieces of beliefs and
practices which have somehow survived into the post-colonial context.
When African nations first became independent, there was much talk
about restoring the authenticity of African cultures disrupted by
colonial forces. But the reality was more a matter of the political
legitimation of bloody dictators, as violent as the colonial regimes they
were replacing. There was little genuine concern about collective
identities. It is very difficult to identify the real representatives of
African religions, who could indeed act as partners in a dialogue with
Christianity. In rural areas they may have remained fairly influential,
but in the cities their credibility has been seriously undermined by
money-minded charlatans commercialising bits and pieces of rituals in
the name of African traditions.
Contemporary young Africans in the cities are largely ignorant
about African religions. More attracted to Western styles of life, they
tend to associate African traditions with the so-called backwardness
of village life. Hence, the kind of interreligious dialogue that one might
The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions 17

hope to undertake with, say, a well-schooled Muslim seems impossible.

Yet their parents will often still maintain ritual ties with the village,
especially in times of existential uncertainties. In the event of a terrible
misfortune, they are not above succumbing to temptation and going to
a diviner. And both the older and the younger generations are often
uncertain about what is and is not permissible for Christians. African
religions exist less as coherent independent realities, and more as
collections of practices somehow coexistent with Christianity and

Evangelization, Cultures and Vulnerability

Before its encounter with Islam and Christianity, Africa knew almost
nothing of wars of religion, of proselytism or of conversion. There may
have been religious interchange, as a result of ethnic groups borrowing
beliefs and rituals from one another, but one was automatically
initiated into the religion of ones ethnic group. Ethnic groups, and still
more families, all shared the same religion.
In post-colonial Africa the situation is different. What remains of
African religions now coexists with a variety of forms of Islam and
Christianity. African ethnic groups, African families, are often pluralist.
It would not be difficult to imagine an African family in which the
mother is Catholic, the father adheres to an African religion, one son
is a Jehovahs Witness, a daughter a Pentecostal, and another son a
The potential for conflict here is obvious. When misfortune strikes,
the father may choose to offer a propitiatory sacrifice, while the
Catholic mother insists on having a Mass said. Some may indeed see
no problem with the combination, as long as the practices work. Many
African Christians are in church in the morning and at the diviners
place in the afternoon. There are serious questions here about the
depth of peoples faith, and about the quality of their personal
relationship with Jesus Christ. Why do they still miss their traditional
rituals in spite of their Christian belonging?
The standard answer given to this question by African theologians
is that the evangelization of Africa was not sufficiently respectful of
African religions. It avoided proper interreligious dialogue and
therefore failed to reach the hearts of the evangelized. The solution to
the problem lies in an ever more vigorous inculturation. By bridging
18 Ludovic Lado

the gap between Catholicism and African religious values, this

inculturation will progressively unify peoples religious experiences. But
in my opinion, this explanation is problematic, for several reasons.
The Syncretist Reaction
In the first place, the history of religions shows that divided religious
loyalty, or a lived religious syncretism, is always a temptation in any
context of religious pluralism. If such divided loyalty is indeed a
problem, it is unfair to attribute it to the violent missionary policies of
the past. Lived syncretism has more to do with people trying out other
gods when they feel that Christianity has let them down. It tends to
occur in times of crisis. The Old Testament prophets often complained
about the unfaithfulness of Israel when the latter flirted with foreign
divinities or idols at such times:

Wine and new wine take away the understanding. My people

consult a piece of wood, and their divining rod gives them oracles.
For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have played
the whore, forsaking their God. They sacrifice on the tops of the
mountains, and make offerings upon the hills, under oak, poplar,
and terebinth, because their shade is good. (Hosea 4:11-13)

African Christians go through similar temptations in times of

misfortune. It is indeed important to remember that African religions
are predominantly pragmatic; they are problem-solving sets of beliefs
and rituals which promise immediate returns, whereas the mainstream
Christian Churches insist on faith and hope. It is therefore no surprise
that charismatic or neo-Pentecostal Churches are having some success
in Africa today. This is partly because of their focus on a pragmatic
Christianity that promises immediate benefits (healing, success,
prosperity, jobs) in a context of dire poverty.9
A second reason why more inculturation is not a sensible strategy for
African Christianity today is that it leaves unaddressed the central
reality of contemporary Africans cultural experience: the experience

See Paul Gifford, Ghanas New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalising African Economy (London:
Hurst, 2004).
The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions 19

A witch doctor at work in Ghana

of multiculturalism resulting from current processes of globalisation.10

This is a point on which African Catholicism should learn from the
experience of European Catholicism. The centuries of inculturation
in Europe have not prevented the advent of a culture that is post-
Christian and in many respects secularised. The marriage between a
mainstream culture and a religion is not indissoluble.
The deeper and more unsettling point, one with which advocates
of inculturation as a pastoral strategy need to come to terms, is the
shifting nature of any human culture. Whereas history has no end,

I have discussed this point further in Repenser linculturation en Afrique, tudes, 404 (2005), 452-
20 Ludovic Lado

and cultural change will always be with us,11 the gospel message does
not change. Inculturation is indeed a difficult attempt to marry
culture, which is always in motion, with the message of Christ (Love
God and love your neighbour), which will never change. Given
cultures susceptibility to change, the product of any attempt at
inculturation is bound to be an unstable mixture.
Evangelization and Conflict
There is nothing new about the fact that Christian mission occurs in a
context of religious pluralism. Jesus himself carried out his mission in a
context of pluralism and nothing suggests that he was particularly
concerned about the existence of other religions. He simply went
around preaching the gospel, and loving both Jews and non-Jews; we
occasionally find him admiring the faith of the so-called pagans (Luke
7:9; Matthew 15:28). Moreover, there is no indication that the fact of
his being culturally Jewish made his message any less difficult for his
Jewish audience:

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, How can this
man give us his flesh to eat? Many of his disciples turned back
and no longer went about with him. (John 6:52,66)

The fact that these people decided not to follow Jesus any more
obviously had nothing to do with some cultural gap between the
evangelizer and evangelized, for the message of Jesus could not have
been better inculturated. The breakdown in communication occurred
because Jesus Jewish audience found what he had to say senseless and
unacceptable. Jesus spent his public ministry witnessing to the Gods
love for humanity. This love reaches out to ones enemies and prays for
ones persecutors; it unsettles human selfishness and pride; it is
countercultural; it is love nailed on a cross:

Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim

Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to
Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians

Gerard J. Hughes, Matteo Ricci in Post-Christian Europe, The Way, 44/2 (April 2005), 71-82, here
82; the whole article is well worth consulting on issues regarding culture and evangelization.
The Roman Catholic Church and African Religions 21

The first Christians evangelized in a context of religious pluralism,

in an environment even more hostile than ours. From a humble and
vulnerable position they witnessed to the crucified Christ in word and
action. Some believed them and were baptized; others did not. Why
should the outcome of our mission be different today? Instead of
worrying about the existence of other religions, Christians should
worry about the strength and genuineness of their witness:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as
I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this
everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for
one another. (John 13:34-35)

Instead of worrying about the survival of African religions, African

Christians should instead be concerned about what Christian love
demands of them in Africa today. How prophetic is their witness on a
continent that is in many ways the victim of global politics and
economics, and plagued by wars, pandemics and famine? The future of
African Christianity has little to do with the search for values in
African religions that are compatible with Christianity. What matters
is the Christian mission to remind the world, both in words and
actions, that the unselfish love of God and of neighbour is the only
genuine solution to the problems of humanity, and that only love can
overcome evil.
This message transcends cultures. It is difficult, not because it
comes with the baggage of a particular culture, but because no human
being, no human culture, can claim to measure up to its demands.
There will always be some distance between the norms of any culture
and the demands of Christian love. Any fashionable talk of
inculturation, and still more any idea that there can be successful
inculturation, rather obscures a central reality of Christian witness: the
prophetic distance between Christs message and human cultures.

Ludovic Lado SJ comes from Cameroon. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1992
and was ordained priest in 2002. His training took him to several African
countries and to the USA. He is currently studying at Campion Hall, Oxford, for
a doctorate in social anthropology, with a focus on the anthropology of culture
and religion.
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A Reflection on the Tibhirine
Monks Experience

Christian Salenson

During the night of 27-28 March 1996, seven monks of the Cistercian
Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas, near the village of Tibhirine in
Algeria, were abducted by Islamic fundamentalists. A radical faction of
the GIA (Groupe Islamique Arm) claimed responsibility, and on 23
May sent a further message announcing that the monks had been
executed on 21 May. They were buried in the cemetery of their
monastery at Tibhirine on 4 June 1996.

O VER THE PAST DECADES, monastic life has become more and more
sensitive to the theology and spirituality arising from the
encounter between religions. It has made its own distinctive and
precious contribution to some significant progress. Some twentieth-
century monastics were pioneers in this regard: one thinks of Thomas
Merton or Henri le Saux. And plenty of others who are less well
known, both living and dead, have all played a part. It is against this
background that one needs to situate the Tibhirine experience, an
experience that is quite distinctive, not least because of its having
occurred in a Muslim country.
The Church needs monastic life in order to sustain its engagement
in interreligious dialogue and to develop gradually a Christian theology
of religions, something which is still in its infancy. In its turn, religious
life is already receiving great benefit, and might receive a great deal
more, from opening up to other believers and other religious traditions.

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 23-37

24 Christian Salenson

Damien Boilley
The Tibhirine Monastery

How, then, can interreligious dialogue enrich monastic life? And,

conversely, what is the role of monasticism in interreligious dialogue?
In saying something about these questions, I should like to begin
from the experience of the Tibhirine monks. Monastic life, indeed the
whole Church, can learn much from this. What we know remains
limited, but the monks writings are gradually becoming available,
giving us access to their distinctive experience.
It is certainly true that the Tibhirine experience was unique.
Nevertheless, it has wider significance. The experience of interreligious
dialogue tells us that we can learn a great deal from our predecessors,
whether from centuries past or from more recent times. We need to
resist the temptation to regard such people merely as pioneers and to
stress their originality and distinctiveness so much that we exempt
ourselves from receiving their message. It is surely much better to
think of the Tibhirine experience, among others, as a sign of the ever
new life of the Spirit, a precious gift to the Church. This gift, like any
other, becomes a gift in the true sense only after it has been received.
Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue 25

The Tibhirine Experience

Before, however, I address the general question of the links between
monastic life and interreligious dialogue, it would be good to highlight
some features of the Tibhirine experience, so that the reflection
remains rooted in reality.
The Tibhirine monks were foreigners in Algeria. Even after they had
taken their vows of stability, they had to renew their residence permits
regularly. Such was their situation of dependence that most of them,
who were not Algerian citizens, could have been expelled at a days
notice. Moreover, there had always been something precarious about
their situation once Algeria had gained independence. In 1963 the
Abbot General took the decision to close the monastery, for the good
reason that there were only four monks lefta decision which
incurred the wrath of the then Archbishop of Algiers. Both the Abbot
General and the Archbishop were at Vatican II at the time, but the
Abbot General died the following night, and the next year two abbeys
each sent four further monks. Its precariousness was part of what gave
the community its identity. But the fragility and the small numbers did
not prevent them from responding to a request from the Bishop of
Morocco to found a new community in Fs, and it was this community
that took in the two survivors of the dramatic events of 1996, Brother
Jean-Pierre and Brother Amade. The inspiration of Tibhirine
continues with them; and the Moroccan foundation, which is perhaps
not very sensible from a merely human point of view, continues the
Tibhirine experience. Precariousness has not prevented this
community from bearing fruitfruit that may well indeed last.
Though it is often unacknowledged, precariousness is the lot of
many monastic communities, and indeed of many dioceses. What is
strange is that such precariousness is rarely considered as a form of
evangelical poverty, something which offers a chance of greater gospel
authenticity. After all, in the book of Revelation, the only two of the
seven churches that are not criticized, Smyrna and Philadelphia, are
the precarious ones.
The monks of Tibhirine took the decision not to engage in social
and educational work, and in so doing they differed from many
apostolic orders in Algeria and Morocco. Immediately after
26 Christian Salenson

independence, they did

begin some enterprises of
this kind, such as a primary
school, but they soon gave
them up. In saying this I
am not forgetting that
Brother Luc was a doctor;
but the monks did not
justify their presence by
offering some kind of help
or service to the local
population. They were
simply living with the
people. Their agricultural
work was part of a co-
operative organization in
involving the local people
Christian de Cherg
around them. Moreover,
the community maintained a special link with the local Church; one
does not often find monasteries so closely linked to the life of the
diocese. In 1994 they wrote:

Our vocation holds us close to Algerian Christians who must make

their own the hidden life and the gospel, even as they remain
within the crowd.

One expression of this closeness was their relationship with their local
ordinaries: Cardinal Lon-Etienne Duval2 and later Archbishop Henri
Teissier. Both were very attached to the monastic life and showed a
great understanding of it.
What is being said here is all part of the same reality: the monks sit-
uation of dependenceon the country, on the political authorities, on
their neighbours, and on the local Church. They were living among
people who were poor and simple. Tibhirine and Fs were the only
Cistercian monasteries located in areas that were absolutely non-

Sept vies pour Dieu et lAlgrie, edited by Bruno Chenu (Paris: Bayard, 1996), 71.
Cardinal Duval died on 30 May 1996, a few days after the monks murder. His coffin was alongside
theirs at the funeral mass in the cathedral on Sunday 2 June.
Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue 27

Christian. Christian de Cherg, the prior of the community, once

pointed out that even the Indian foundations were in places where
there existed at least a nucleus of Christianity. For its own renewal, the
community was dependent on other monasteries. There was no
possibility of vocations from Algeria or from Morocco.
It is understandable that people in the Cistercian order questioned
whether the community had been established on a proper footing. One
Abbot General used even to say that the Order cannot afford the
luxury of a monastery in the Muslim world. Christian used to tell the
story, not without a smile, of a dream that Dom Bernardo Olivera, the
present Abbot General, had when he was passing through Tibhirine. A
Cistercian from somewhere else grabbed hold of a monk from Our
Lady of Atlas by the throat, and said:

Firstly, youre wasting your life in front of this Muslim world that is
asking nothing from you and is mocking you, while there is so
much to do elsewhere, so many peoples who are just waiting for
your witness so that they can approach the contemplative life and
come to expand your community . Secondly, you poor thing, our
Order really has no reason to make a foundation like yours. What a
dead weight!

In his dream, Dom Bernardo responded and defended the Tibhirine

foundation. Once he woke up, he made a point of writing down his
In short, the fact that they were foreigners in this quite distinctive
way forced them to let others take the initiatives. This was a good
situation for dialogue.
Dialogue with Islam
It would have been possible for the monks to have lived in a Muslim
milieu without this in any way affecting their monastic life. So it
probably was in the monastery at Staouli, founded in 1843, from
which the Tibhirine foundation was descendedalthough further
study is needed to establish this, and one must beware of anachronistic
judgments. There are plenty of examples of such an approach. Pierre
Claverie OP, Bishop of Oran, who was himself murdered along with his

Sept vies pour Dieu et lAlgrie, 83-84.
28 Christian Salenson

driver on 1 August 1996, once wrote of his colonial childhood in


I did not go near the Muslim world. When independence came, my

head was full of images of Arabs massacring the world in which I
was born.

Even within the Tibhirine community itself, not all the monks had the
same sensitivity or the same degree of openness. All the same, there
were some basic conditions which had to be there for this experience,
which was fundamentally a community one, to take on life.
One of these conditions was a willingness to be haunted, at least to
some extent, by the question of the place of other religions
specifically Islamin the design of God. One possible answer to this
question involves saying that in a given religious tradition there are
certainly some good things, but that it nevertheless remains inferior: it
is no more than a preparation for the gospel. In that case, we are saying
that whatever good there may be in that tradition is already present in
our own. If, by contrast, we hold open the question about the place of
a given religion in Gods design, then we are opening ourselves up to
the possibility of encounter, and accepting the possibility that we
ourselves may become displaced:

I am carrying within myself the existence of Islam as a nagging

question. I have an immense curiosity regarding the place it holds
in Gods mysterious design. Only death will provide me, I think,
with the response I am waiting for. I am sure that I will be able to
fathom it, dazzled, in the paschal light of Him who presents himself
to me as the only possible instance of Islamsubmissionbecause
he is nothing but yes to the Fathers will.

Any initiative in dialogue demands a profound fidelity to who one is in

oneself. If one is truly oneself, one can be transformed by the
encounter; it becomes a source of enrichment from the other. The
Abbot Generals message to the community was explicit:

Pierre Claverie, Lettres et messages dAlgrie (Paris: Karthala, 1997), 17.
Christian de Cherg, Lchelle mystique du dialogue: journes romaines de 1989, Islamochristiana,
17 (1997), 1-26, here 6.
Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue 29

Sancta Maria Abbey, Haddington

The Tibhirine Brothers in 1994

You have a mission to inculturate the Cistercian charism so that

the manifestations of this monastic commitment can be enriched
by what you will have gleaned from the local culture . This
inculturation may provoke a reaction of fear, fear that you will lose
your monastic identity. In order not to experience this fear or to
liberate yourself from it, the first thing you need to do is to deepen
your monastic culture.

One has to recognise the richness of Islam, the presence of the

Spirit within it. The Church has clearly affirmed in that it rejects
nothing that is true and holy in non-Christian religions, whether in
ways of conduct and of life or in precepts or teachings.7 In one of his
talks, Christian took the Churchs reflection further, recognising the
religions as rungs on the one mystical ladder:

The gift of oneself to the Absolute, regular prayer, fasting, the

sharing of alms, the conversion of the heart, the constant sense of
presence, trust in providence, the urgent need for boundless
hospitality, the call to spiritual combat, to interior pilgrimage . In
all this, how can one fail to recognise the Spirit of holiness, of

Sept vies pour Dieu et lAlgrie, 88.
Vatican II, Nostra aetate, n. 2.
30 Christian Salenson

which it is said that one does not know where it is coming from or
where it is going, where it is descending from or to where it is
ascending? Its role is always to bring about birth from on high.

The Tibhirine experience may have been profoundly marked by a

situation of dependence; but it was equally shaped by the monks
experience of dialogue with Islam. Monastic interreligious dialogue has
so far developed principally with Far Eastern religions, notably
Buddhism, starting from the monastic structure held in common. But
the fact that there is no communal structure with a monastic form in
Islam should not deceive us. The links between monastic life and Islam
are not just on the surface.9 One needs only to look at the role of
obedience in Islamwhich means submissionand in the Benedictine
Rule, or at the divine office and the salt, the regular Muslim five-
times-daily prayer, to say nothing of fasting, hospitality and the like.
Indeed, the links between monasticism and Islam are so strong that, as
Cardinal Duval of Algiers once put it, it is monasticism that is best
placed to help Islam understand what the Churchs deepest instinct is.
In this context, the Tibhirine experience cannot be ignored. It
represents an invitation to monastic life not to abandon the Christian-
Muslim dialogue. Monasticism has a contribution to make to this
dialogue and an enrichment to receive from it, in the name of the
whole Church.

How Interreligious Dialogue Enriches Monastic Life

The more one explores the foundations both of monastic life and of
interreligious dialogue, the closer the connections between them
appear. Both are fundamentally eschatological, fundamentally
concerned with what is ultimate.
Interreligious Dialogue and Eschatology
As soon as you take another religion seriously, as soon as you begin to
consider it as something positive and recognise that Christian faith
must see it as carrying seeds of the Word or rays of the Light, a
question arises. What is the place of this religion in the Fathers

Christian de Cherg, Lchelle mystique, 11.
Christian de Cherg, Dialogue intermonastique et islam, 1995, in Linvincible esprance, edited by
Bruno Chenu (Paris: Bayard, 1996), 205-212.
Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue 31

design? Christian expressed the question very strongly in various

writings, including his so-called Testament:

Finally, my most nagging curiosity will be allowed to roam. Look

how Ill be able, please God, to immerse my gaze in that which is
the Fathers, and thus contemplate with Him His Muslim children
just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ .

The question here is not a theoretical one but something we live.

It does not admit of any immediate answer. It is a matter of faith in the
Fathers love for all His children, in His saving design, in His desire to
be all in all. It links up with Gods final plan to gather at the table of
the Kingdom all humanity in its different affiliations, languages and
cultures. The Fathers ultimate design is one of unity, a unity which
invites believers faith.
It is this design for unity that grounds interreligious dialogue. The
unity may be apprehended in different ways: the unity of humanity in its
origin and destiny, the unity of salvation, the unity wrought by the
Spirit.11 From the standpoint of Christian revelation, the Fathers design
is the unity of all humanity. It is therefore the Father who establishes
interreligious dialogue; the Father also sets it within an eschatological
horizon. But eschatology here is not to be understood merely in terms
of the last things, as has too often happened in theology. For God is
not simply the God who was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
be; God is the God who is, who was, and who is in the process of coming.
Eschatology is a matter of Gods coming, a coming that is taking shape
here and how, even if in ways that are yet hidden. A theology of
interreligious encounter has to be grounded in the Fathers ultimate

Christian de Cherg, Testament, in Linvincible esprance, 223this version draws on the English
translation in Jean Olwen Maynard, Christian de Cherg and the Atlas Martyrs (London: Catholic
Truth Society, 2003).
Compare the 1991 document from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Dialogue and
Proclamation, n. 28: First comes the fact that the whole of humankind forms one family, due to the
common origin of all men and women, created by God in His own image. Correspondingly, all are
called to a common destiny, the fullness of life in God. Moreover, there is but one plan of salvation for
humankind, with its centre in Jesus Christ, who in his incarnation has united himself in a certain
manner to every person (Redemptor hominis n. 13; see Gaudium et spes, n. 22). Finally, there needs to
be mentioned the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the religious life of the members of the other
religious traditions. From all this the Pope concludes to a mystery of unity which was manifested
clearly at Assisi, in spite of the differences between religious professions.
32 Christian Salenson

design. There can be no Christian theology of religions which is not

fundamentally also a theology of hope.
Monastic Community and Eschatology
The monastic vocation too makes no sense apart from this
eschatological perspective, this sense of ultimacy. At the deepest level,
a monastic community is a community of hopenot just because it is
directed towards the final end of humanity, but because it is living out
of a sense that the ultimate end of things is already here, a sense of
realised eschatology. This sense of course characterizes Christianity as
such, but the mission of monastic life is to provide a radical sign
expressing this reality:

If a monk thinks he has anything to say here, its less in the role of
an efficient builder of the human city (even though he might do
much on this level ) than as a resolute adherent of a way of
being in the world that is senseless apart from what we call the
ultimate endsthe eschatologyof hope.

One will notice that Christian de Cherg is speaking here not just
of the ultimate ends, but the ultimate ends of hope: in other words,
the ultimate ends in so far as they are already latently present. It is the
ultimate ends of hope that shape a way of life in the worlda sign
which everyone can see, whether or not they believe in heaven.
Monastic life makes no sense apart from the hope which grounds it.
The monastic community is a sign of the Kingdom, a sacrament of
the ultimate, eschatological reality that it anticipates and of which it is
the seed. It bears witness to the heavenly Jerusalem. It signifies the
communion of saints. The monastic communitys vocation is not just
to be a sign of the visible Churchs unity; it also signifies a communion
of saints that transcends frontiers and religious affiliations. A
community of consecrated life is, by virtue of its vocation, a sign of
communion: the communion of the Church, the communion of all
Gods people, dedicated in Christ to show itself as a mystery that is still
coming to be, the mystery of the communion of saints, in which the
community will dissolve just as the stream loses itself in the ocean.

Christian de Cherg, Lchelle mystique, 3.
Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue 33

And the communion of saints is the redeemed people as such, not just
the gathered Church:

From this mystery of unity it follows that all men and women who
are saved share, though differently, in the same mystery of salvation
in Jesus Christ through his Spirit. Christians know this through
their faith, while others remain unaware that Jesus Christ is the
source of their salvation. The mystery of salvation reaches out to
them, in a way known to God, through the invisible action of the
Spirit of Christ. Concretely, it will be in the sincere practice of what
is good in their own religious traditions and by following the
dictates of their conscience that the members of other religions
respond positively to Gods invitation and receive salvation in Jesus
Christ, even while they do not recognise or acknowledge him as
their saviour.

There is therefore a convergence between a theology of

interreligious encounter centred on the oneness of the Fathers design
and its ultimate, eschatological realisation, on the one hand, and, on
the other, a monastic community that makes no sense apart from the
ultimate ends of hope. So it is that interreligious dialogue, which can
take a variety of forms, presents any monastery with an opportunity for
growth, by opening it up to other believers and through them opening
it up to the Fathers mysterious design. Opening up to other religious
traditions gives the community life, and reminds it constantly of how
its monastic calling is set against the eschatological background of the
communion of saints. Precisely because the monastic community
believes, in common with the Church as a whole, that Christs
mediation is unique, it renounces the illusion of thinking that Christ is
its possession. Instead it is constantly discovering a Christ ever greater.
The Church is still a child; and the Christ in whom it believes is
immeasurably greater than it can ever imagine. But at the same time,
the monastic community can be a sign of this reality. It can signify the
unity of the human race within the heart of God, within the salvation
in Jesus Christ that far surpasses what we can conceive of it. The
monastic community becomes a sacramental presence of this mystery
of unity.

Dialogue and Proclamation, n. 29, referring to Vatican IIs Ad gentes, nn. 3, 9, 11.
34 Christian Salenson

All this obviously becomes the more vivid when the diversity of
religions impinges on community life. So it was in Tibhirine, which was
in Muslim territory. The monks regularly heard the muezzins call to
prayer; they met regularly with the Alawis, a Sufi confraternity; they
lived on a daily basis with Muslim neighbours. But in monasteries at
large, the reality can also be lived out in many other ways, perhaps less
radical in form but none the less significant for that.
The Mystery of Unity
A monastic community lives out this mystery of unity in and through
its very existence. On 27 December 1994, four Missionaries of Africa
were murdered in the Algerian city of Tizi-Ouzou. What Christian said
to the community shortly after that occasion applies also to a monastic

Those whom God had united in one single consecration of life

have not been separated by death. The sign which they leave us
remains an expression of the ultimate meaning of any religious
community: that of anticipating the communion of saints. And the
sign is such all the more telling when we recognise the variety of
origins, temperaments, and also ages of our four brothers.

The moment one advocates unity in opposition to difference, the

mystery of unity being evoked here is immediately lost. What makes
the community sacramental is not its unity but its unity in difference.
The more this difference is accepted, deepened and loved, the more
the community is a sign of unity. Now, interreligious dialogue forces
one to address the fact of difference with radical seriousness. Religious
difference has something about it that is as radical and foundational as
the difference between man and woman:

What if difference takes its meaning from the revelation that God
makes us of what He Himself is? Nothing then could prevent us
from accepting difference in the way we accept faith, that is as a
gift from God.

Christian de Cherg, Dieu pour tout jour (published privately by the Notre Dame dAiguebelle
Monastery, 2004), 429. The source is a chapter talk given on 18 February 1995.
Christian de Cherg, Linvincible esprance, 112. Subsequent pages references to this book are given
in the main text.
Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue 35

In this perspective:

one would attribute a quasi-sacramental function to the

differences between Christians and Muslims, regarding these as
dependent on a reality that is vaster, more secret, this union for
which all people carry within themselves a nostalgia . (p.113)

Difference here is being thought of as a sacrament of unity, a unity

vaster than anything of which we can conceive today. If difference has
this quasi-sacramental role, then a believer must take it also as an
invitation not to become closed within ones difference. Difference
forces us to leave the familiar landscape of our certainties and of the
language in which we express them, so that we can converge together
towards the same resting place (p.117). Difference in this sense is not
an expression of different realities, nor of a difference regarding God; it
is rather the difference through which the self-expression of the One
and Only is accomplished. To see different things does not mean that
one is not seeing the same things. And the point applies not only to
the perceptions that different people have of the mystery, but also to
the reality of Gods self-revelation in itself:

When God expresses Himself in another way, he is not expressing

himself as something other, but as the Completely Other: in other
words, something other than all the others. (p.127)

Thus the mystery of divine oneness expresses itself through

difference. It weans different parties off,

the constant temptation of reducing the community assembled

for Himself by the Eternal One to the communities that our
temples made with human hands, whether Jewish, Christian or
Muslim, can somehow or other group round themselves. We will
always have to be entering into a vaster design that is constantly
making us leap over the poor boundaries of our hasty barriers and
our intransigencies, because God really does want all human beings to
be saved. (p.147)

Difference is a sign of unity, but a unity both deferred and

differentiated. A unity deferred, because it is not yet completely
manifest; a unity differentiated, because this single unity is expressed in
different ways by different people. It is faith in this unity precisely amid
believers differences that grounds hope:
36 Christian Salenson

When the elect are finally drawn together into communion, it is

our belief that those who were once Muslims or Christians will
be able to embrace each other in the same movement of the heart
as brothers and sisters, sharing in actual fact the one joy of God
this after having lived, until their deaths, an authentic fidelity to
different norms of faith. (p.164)

Interreligious dialogue eventually reconnects monastic life with

one of its foundations: that of being an eschatological community. A
monastic community stretches out towards the coming of the
Kingdom, towards the communion of saints which it is being called to
signify sacramentally. Thus it shows forth, even within the present, the
reality which is to come, and it lives out this mystery as something
already here. It lives out this mystery by being itself a community
assembled in Christ and united by God from out of an abundance of
differences. For the secret joy of the Spirit will always be to establish
communion and to re-establish likeness, playing with differences
(p.221). If a community undertakes interreligious dialogue actively and
with full conviction, this will take the community beyond its
boundaries, and will give it a powerful reminder of its ultimate horizon.

How Monastic Life Enriches Interreligious Dialogue

But what does monastic life bring to interreligious dialogue? What it
brings to the dialogue is nothing other than what it receives. Mission is
often like this: what one takes to other people is precisely what one
can receive from them.
Monastic life approaches dialogue as essentially a spiritual
enterprise. Dialogue cannot be rooted primarily in conferences or
social engagement, nor even in peacemaking; such approaches today
risk making interreligious dialogue a means to political ends. Too often
the dialogue between religions is presented as the means for
constructing peace. But peace is a fruit, not the goal. Peace is not an
acquisition we somehow arrogate, but rather a gift made to us, a gift
that can only be received in faith and hope. What we need today is a
genuine theology of interreligious encounter that is centred on an
authentic spirituality of interreligious encounter.
Obviously such encounter has its risks, in particular the risk of
relativism. Some of the more developed theologies and soteriologies
today are accused by some of being unacceptably pluralist, and of
Monastic Life and Interreligious Dialogue 37

relativising Christian revelation. The

risk is a real one, and we need to ask
why some theologies of religions are
indeed sliding towards relativism in
this way. But there is also another risk:
that of being content with simply
stating what Christian revelation
affirms without drawing the
consequences. To affirm that Christ is
the sole mediator between God and
humanity is essential to the Christian
faith. But this statement of faith is
calling us and committing us, even as
we make it, to recognise and accept
the face of Christ that is present in
other religious traditions.
In reality only a theology of
interreligious dialogue that is also a
theology of hope can preserve the Brother Jean-Pierre, one of the two
theology of religions from arriving at survivors from the Tibhirine
one of two dead ends: that of the community
relativism often denounced by the Churchs teaching authority, and
that of fixation on the statements of faith. The latter temptation is no
less frequent. If the theology of interreligious encounter is not to
succumb to the drifts of relativism or dogmatism, it must be situated
against the backdrop of hope. It is eschatology that is the centre of
gravity both for monastic life and for a theology of religions. Every
monk, then, is a sign of this hope, and a privileged agent of
interreligious dialogue. And this applies even if they never actually
meet any adherents of other religions. After all, Thrse of Lisieux had
a profound significance for missionary work even if she was never a
missionary herself.

Christian Salenson is a priest of the diocese of Nmes and a sacramental

theologian. He has been rector of the seminary at Avignon and Vicar General of
his diocese, and is currently the director of the Institut de Sciences et Thologie
des Religions at the Institut Catholique of Marseille.



The New Frontiers in
Interreligious Dialogue

Benot Vermander

I N 1541, FRANCIS XAVIER EMBARKED FOR ASIA. In 1552, he died on the

threshold of Canton. The adventure he began was not just one of
missionary expansion, but also something more difficult, more risqu:
dialogue between religions. Almost half a millennium later, the terms
of such a dialogue have developed profoundly. And yet a reading of the
letters left by Xavier can still evoke something only too familiar in us,
something which is a fundamental dynamic in the quest for God. For,
as Xavier undertook the risk of an encounter with the human other, he
also discovered a God who was revealing Himself as greater, more
different, further beyond our reach than Xavier could ever have
suspected at the beginning of his journey.1 Xaviers encounter with the
foreignness of Asian beliefs and experience resonates with our
experience today of how other people can challenge and subvert our
own image of God. No doubt the same happens for them too. Such
discoveries remain the basis on which interreligious dialogue becomes
the spiritual adventure that it is called to be.
The angle from which I want to sketch this encounter is perhaps a
little unusual. Rather than follow in Xaviers footsteps, rather than
speak directly about the experiences of interreligious dialogue in the
countries he once visited, I want to ask myself about some of the
conditions under which this adventure of dialogue is now being
pursued. My concern is not with the content of the actual beliefs one
encounters, but rather with the framework within which any dialogue
takes place. This framework is formed by the relationships
international, technological, economic, politicalconnecting cultures,
nations and religions. How is the encounter between cultures, beliefs

See my Le Dieu partag: sur la route de Franois Xavier, Supplment a Vie chrtienne, 478 (2002).

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 39-52

40 Benot Vermander

and religions actually occurring today? What are the means, the
channels enabling it to take place? These issues are not often
discussed, but they nevertheless affect profoundly what happens in any
encounter. To put the point slightly differently: this attempt to ask
about what is conditioning and influencing interreligious exchange
today is an exercise in investigating the material conditions enabling
spiritual awareness. It may be that this focus on material conditions is
something we need in order to begin to understand how God might be
making Himself known today.

From Exile to Exodus

Perhaps Gods self-revelation only ever happens when people are on
the move, in exile, beyond their own frontiers. Whenever individuals
or groups are drawn out of their ancestral lands, whenever they move
beyond their inherited identity and encounter another people, they
experience grief, dispossession, conflict, uprooting. And in and through
this dislocation, they lose one god and gain another: they are given a
space in which God is made known, or rediscovered. It is precisely in
their exile that something new happens for them in relation to God. In
the interweaving of displacements the tapestry of salvation history
comes to be, a tapestry of all the nations being brought together into
Can we really say that history as it continues today has nothing
new to tell us about the divine reality, the divine project? That would
contradict our experience of the One who is always making Himself
known as new, as unfinished. There are two features of the migrations
and displacements of the contemporary human adventure, it seems to
me, that have a specific theological and spiritual significance, one that
is influencing interreligious exchanges. The first concerns the space in
which this adventure takes place: it is not just a physical space, but
also a virtual space. The second feature is that these migrations,
whether physical or virtual, are connected with the ongoing process of
globalisation. Virtual reality and globalisation are casting a new light on
the divine revelation that takes place whenever people move, flee,
migrate or are displaced, and as a result of that movement experience a
new encounter.
Exile and Virtual Space 41

Migration and Mission

The displacements which continue to mark our world are of many
different kinds, and cannot easily be brought under one heading. There
are displacements in virtual reality and displacements that are all too
real, all too physical. Some people leave their native land, not because
they are responding to a call but because they have no alternative.
Some move out of their immediate environment in order to pursue a
life that they find attractive. Some want to try their luck elsewhere.
Some can no longer put up with the boredom of their routine. Human
beings chafe against the constraints of space and time, and in so doing
gradually discover a common destiny. The variety of the paths taken by
individuals should not blind us to their common feature: what is at
stake in these migrations, whether physical or merely in the mind, is
always the discovery of potential, of a new reality, of something filled
with promise. And as we take this potential on board, Gods presence
becomes real.
Despite its ambig-
uities, Abrams departure,
Abrams Exodus, is
already the virtual pres-
ence, the promise, of
something else: the
reconciliation of Israel
and the nations.2 Con-
versely, the same virtual
presence or promise of
reconciliation is at work
when Matthew places the
Gentile women Rahab
and Ruth in the genealogy
of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).
And in todays world,
something similar occurs

See Genesis 12: 10-20. Abrampresumably for fear of the Egyptians lust or jealousytells Sarai to
pretend she is his sister. When a plague afflicts Egypt, the truth is discovered. Nevertheless, the
episode ends with a kind of reconciliation pointing Abram forward on his way: Pharaoh gave his men
orders concerning him, and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.
42 Benot Vermander

in the figure of the missionary, a person who has chosen to be a

migrant. (Though let us remember that missionaries may often be far
more comfortable than those who are migrants because they have no
choice.) In all these cases, there is a presence of God which becomes
manifest only after a departure, an absence, a fleeing or a migration,
and which initially comes to us as something virtual, potential, open, a
means through which the whole body of creation may grow.
The converse of this is a claim about human history. The history of
human migration may be a tragic one, and the shorter history of virtual
displacement in internet communities may seem merely playful or
trivial. Nevertheless these displacements, whether tragic or trivial,
represent a potential for the reconfiguration, the reconstruction, the
reconciliation of the human. This potential may remain unfulfilled;
alternatively it may become the seed from which a great tree grows.
Displacement induces a sense of void. But only from such a void can
dialogue grow to fruition.
In this displacement, it may well seem that God is absenteven if
the journey has been undertaken precisely in order to proclaim Gods
message. One senses something like this in Francis Xavier. Francis was
full of a passion for unity, a passion to draw together the whole
universe under one Head, the Christ. But he was always bumping up
against differences, differences which could not be eradicated. He
doomed every adult who has not been baptized to eternal Hell; he
spread this doctrine among his converts; and he struggled interiorly
with the need to preach such a law. To begin with, he relied without
any interior difficulty on Portuguese colonial power. But then he wrote
to the king of Portugal reproaching the king severely for letting people
represent him whose only gods were gold, power and sex, and
announcing that he was therefore, as it were, fleeing to Japan.3 He
crossed the worlds seas and died at the gates of China, which he
proposed to evangelize in just a few years in order to prove to the
Japanese, in a way worthy of Don Quixote, that Christianity was the
superior religion. Though Francis enrolled under the standard of the
Cross, he testifies also to the spirit of the Crusades and to the vaulting
ambition of the European Renaissance.

Xavier to John III, King of Portugal, 26 January 1549, in The Letters and Instructions of Francis Xavier,
edited and translated by M. Joseph Costelloe (St Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1992), 237-239.
Exile and Virtual Space 43

St Francis Xavier

Even from the sixteenth century, the figure of Francis Xavier

speaks to us about globalisation and its ambiguities. The impulse to
gather the whole earth into one encounters resistance. It clashes with
the profound reality of difference, whether cultural, religious, ethnic or
economic. We are driven to ask what this oneness is into which God
wants to draw us all. Is it really just like a C major chord, excluding all
dissonance? Can any gathering that can truly be called human take
place except on the basis of equality, respect for individual histories,
and pluralism?
Viewed in this light, missionaries today undergo the same kind of
interior crucifixion that Francis Xavier did: they are being pulled apart
by the conflict between their passion for unity and their sensitivity to
dissonance. But todays missionaries can approach this conflict with
tools that Francis Xavier did not have, and their context is quite
different. Todays missionaries live in a globalised worldand we need
to think about what this means for mission today. In previous centuries
44 Benot Vermander

almost half of all missionaries died at sea; todays missionaries move

from one part of the world to another rubbing shoulders with tourists
and business people. The first missionaries put great efforts into
drawing maps, into the sheer discovery of the physical and religious
spaces which they were entering as pioneers; their successors can make
use of libraries, training courses, and interreligious conferences in air-
conditioned lecture-halls. There are similar differences between
language learning then and nowthough it remains the case that for
this there is no avoiding a lengthy and patient learning process.

Globalisation and Virtuality

I have just been saying that you cannot understand from a theological
point of view the experience of being a missionary today without
thinking about globalisation. And earlier I was saying that globalisation
and virtuality are connected; they need to be considered together.
It is quite legitimate to claim that, from its beginnings, humanity
has been entering into a process of globalisation. Every migration,
every contact between one territory and another, everything that has
tended to create a single, finite system out of the inhabited worldall
this is a form of globalisation. But you can think of globalisation in
terms of different time-scales. You can do what I have just done, and
stress that globalisation has been happening for many centuries. Or
you can see globalisation as organically linked to modernity and the
growth of capitalism. Or again, you can see it as emerging from the
changes of the last few decades. There is no contradiction between
these three ways of looking at the matter; they are simply stressing
different factors and reflecting different interests.4 The crucial point is
that the combination of changes occurring in the past decades has led
to a qualitative leap: the idea of one world is now something more
than a pious aspiration. Within globalisation, one can distinguish three
contributing factors: the exchange of goods, which has not progressed all
that notably over the last decades; the movement of peoples, which is
increasing significantly; and the exchange of information (involving also
the transfer of money), which has exploded, and which has become the
true driving force behind globalisation in the current sense. What

For a general presentation of globalisation by a sociologist, see Malcolm Waters, Globalisation (New
York: Routledge, 1995).
Exile and Virtual Space 45

makes the difference here is that this globalisation is grounded in the

exchange of virtual realities.
We have now reached a point where information is handled
through one integrated system, with satellite communications, the
internet and the like as its visible channels. Alongside this, a kind of
planetary consciousness has arisen, enabling us to see certain
problems (the environment, human rights) as properly global. This is
one reason why politics between nations has become not so much
international relations as transnational relations. The role of nation
states is diminishing, and both non-governmental organizations and
supra-national structures are becoming increasingly important. All this
has a feedback effect on the way we think. It is in the context of such
developments that we need to understand interreligious dialogue, both
as an activity in its own right, and as an impulse stimulating all the
main traditions of belief to re-articulate their foundational convictions.
In short, virtual reality is both the sustaining basis of globalisation
and the dynamic mechanism by which the effects of globalisation make
themselves felt. Virtual reality is the language of globalisation. Conversely,
globalisation provides the infrastructure which enables virtual reality
to develop according to its own distinctive logic.
46 Benot Vermander

A Virtual Religion?
Virtual reality, then, has become a significant and influential part of
our everyday lives. And now that we have started spending significant
proportions of our time in virtual environments structured by the
internet and by multimedia, these settings have their effects on our
social relations and our inner worlds.5 Of course, virtual reality does
not impinge to the same degree on every aspect of our lived existence.
But what is striking is the remarkable extent to which it has penetrated
into the world of religion, to the point that we can talk of a new
phenomenon, the birth of virtual religion on the internet, both for
believers and for those who are searching.
Virtual religion is now becoming well established as an expression,
but the realities it denotes are diverse and complex. Let us try to see
what it might mean. We can start simply by noting that religious
groups have been among the most active in making what they have to
offer available on the internet or in other interactive media. Many
major religious texts are freely available online. The Churches now
present their convictions and their offerings on a wide variety of
websites. Then other sites denounce religious groups that they find
dangerous, and it reaches the point that the internet becomes a
battlefield in wars of religion. In Taiwan there is a museum of world
religions that presents the different spiritual traditions through
interactive media. Obviously one can find similar phenomena in any
sphere of activity. Nevertheless, the desire to share convictions is one
of the forces motivating the construction of websites, perhaps even
more than economic gain. And this desire is especially powerful once
religious groups have entered the field. So it is that the internet has
become one of the chief media of religious expression, more effectively
and more rapidly than newspapers, the radio or television did when
they were in their infancy. Perhaps the only comparable transformation
came with the invention of the printing press, which helped to fuel the
Protestant Reformation. Might the rise of information technology be
the occasion of another Reformation?
Another dimension of this phenomenon is the development of
virtual religious communities. There are Churches with an online

Think, for example, of how the use of virtual reality can help us in learning to drive a vehicle or fly
an aeroplane.
Exile and Virtual Space 47

liturgy; retreats are being given online; there are even virtual shrines
being developed on screen. In China today, tombs take up too much
landbut Chinese people can now light a lamp for their deceased
loved ones on their computer screens, and this serves as a substitute
for the ritual on the day for cleansing the tombs in real space. Such a
development exemplifies a more general social tendency: communal
interaction goes hand in hand with a concern to stay behind ones own
screen. One can reveal oneself and at the same time protect oneself;
one can interact without endangering ones independence. A new way
of living religious affiliation is coming into being which is communal
but nevertheless also shaped by the quest for personal identity and for
its reinforcement.
Recognising a third aspect of virtual religion takes us across an
important threshold. The medium of communication is never
insignificant, never itself content-neutral. The channels of virtual
reality thus convey a diffused religious message in themselves, or at
least favour a certain type of content. The use of the internet is just
one instance of the virtual media promoting synthetic belief systems or
worlds; other instances include the growing popularity of New Age
doctrines, the success of science-fiction films such as Star Wars, and
the constantly increasing numbers of people playing interactive video
games. These last are particularly revealing. They take their
enthusiasts into a world beyond the mere game, and thus acquire an
almost sacred value. Individuals come to redefine their identities in
terms of a virtual reality that thus becomes a higher, transcendent
reality. For devotees, it all feels as if a virtual god is working through
the virtual reality.
It may not be too much to say that a virtual god is arising in this
new virtualised economy, transcending not only the frontiers between
the different religions, but also the opposition between theism and
atheism. There are plenty of indicators pointing in this direction. Some
people use the slogan, the internet is God; others speak in more
developed terms of the communications network as a God in the
course of emergence. If Spinoza spoke of nature as God, now we have
the screen as God. Old-style pantheism has been replaced by a religion
of artifice, of autonomous human production. God is no longer the
great watchmaker, but rather the watch itself, holding together in one
system the times and spaces of the universe.
48 Benot Vermander

Towards a Cybertheology
These ideas do not take us beyond the confines of religious sociology.
Can we bring these observations together, to see if there is any real
meaning in all of this?
Teilhard de Chardin spoke of a noosphere, surrounding the
biosphere as a kind of thinking envelope. This idea is enough to justify
our accepting what some say about his being a prophet of
globalisation.6 If we think of the noosphere as a virtual reality, this is
not to make it any less real; as Gilles Deleuze repeatedly puts it, the
virtual possesses a full reality as virtual. But it is to give Teilhards idea
a new relevance. We need to have the courage to say that
virtualisation is in itself a process of emancipation, a process of
becoming free from the constraints of space, time and matter. Of
course in one sense virtualisation is neutral; it is the content conveyed
by the medium which determines whether it is being used well or
badly. Nevertheless, the growth of virtual reality impressively fulfils
Teilhards prophetic vision of the earth enveloped in a kind of layer of
thought, a sphere of the felt union of souls.7 But we must modify
Teilhards vision in two ways. Firstly, we need to recognise that in the
layer of thought it is not so easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The gleam from the noosphere also reflects the darker products of
human thought, and our shared complicity in evil. Secondly, we need
to qualify Teilhards vision of unification in such a way as to do justice
to the reality of dissonance, difference, a harmony that is always
postponed. To express the point slightly differently: the music of the
thinking spheres is serial music, not the resounding series of major
chords often imagined in the past.
This analysis is in no sense intended as a condemnation or
lamentation. It is clear that the virtual media provide a valuable
resource for understanding religions and the communities that live
them. They help believers grow in mutual respect; they facilitate
interreligious discussions. Nor do we need to see the recreational side
of the internet and the religious knowledge it enables as distractions.
Play has always been an important aspect of religious activity; our
festivals, feasts and processions remind us of this. That Gods own self

See Bernard Ses, Teilhard, prophte de la mondialisation? tudes, 396 (2002), 483-494.
Claude Cunot, Nouveau lexique Teilhard de Chardin (Paris: Seuil, 1968), 137-138.
Exile and Virtual Space 49

is at play in the creation, and taking pleasure in it (Proverbs 8:30-31),

is an important theological truth. And the imaginative resources
deployed in virtual space create a language which can help us speak of
things lying beyond logical reasonings power to express.
At the same time, we need to maintain a firm distinction between
the imaginative and the imaginary. I am using the word imaginary
here to refer to a mental activity that supplants the reality of the
senses, replacing it with something illusory. But an imaginative
process is grounded in sensory reality, exploring and enriching its
potential. If virtual reality becomes religious reality, the situation is a
dangerous one. No religion worthy of the name can be simply a
collection of fantasy projections, or an opium dulling our sense of
everyday lifes harsh realities. Rather, religion is a means by which we
confront those realities. Religion helps us enter more deeply into the
mystery towards which everyday reality is always inviting us. When
people talked about religion as an opium in the past, they were making
a criticism; these days, it seems that people actually want religion to be
a drug. People seem to value religions according to the level of
euphoria they induce. With friends like this, religion needs no enemies.
There is no question, therefore, of believers accepting that their
beliefs should be confined to the virtual sphere. To say that would deny
the ways in which religious beliefs enable people to deal with the
challenges of the world in which they live. Believers claim that their
convictions are animated by a spirit of truth, not of lies. But this does
not mean that believers should reject the rise of virtual reality. The
crucial question is what this virtual reality is leading to. So far, the
construction of virtual reality is a technological achievement: now the
virtual needs to acquire the status of a work of artof an art constructed
interactively. Art is not an evasion of reality, bur rather a deepening of
reality, an interiorisation of reality. Virtual reality can become a
modern cathedral if only we can construct it consciously as an
expression of, rather than a substitute for, the aspirations arising from the
depths of our memory and imagination. If we can do that, the virtual
and the real will not be in competition; rather the virtual will be giving
access to a reality deeper than what is merely immediate.
If we reread the parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13) in the light
of these reflections, it is striking how the Kingdom that these parables
evoke is in fact speaking to us of something virtual. It is at once
already here and still to come. It is not that a project already envisaged
50 Benot Vermander

The almighty and ineffable God created every creature and

marvellously by his will set it in its place.
Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, 1.6

just comes true; rather there is a creation which is bringing to fullness

something already latently present. The Kingdom is already virtually
present to us; but it is through the decisions which that discovery
inspires in us that the Kingdom will grow in our world.
In the same way, the Eucharist betokens the virtual reality of the
divine presence in all our realities. It promises that all reality is
virtually divine, and enacts the transition through which the divine
presence is constantly being actualised. Perhaps a reflection on the
virtual can enrich our sacramental lives. Sacraments too are concerned
with the gap between what is most hidden and what is most visible,
between what is present and what is not yet. All this suggests that the
virtual is perhaps the specific way in which God is present to our world
and that this virtual presence expresses the continual Exodus of a God
who is never to be found where one thinks one has pinned Him down.
Rather, God situates Himself in the movement through which His
Exile and Virtual Space 51

Kingdom is being established. To put the matter in yet another way: it

is the fact that God is always making Himself present that prevents us from
ever halting God and laying hold of God.

Exodus, Presence, Dialogue

The course of our history is less erratic than it looks. We are led
forwards and backwards through the deserts into which our Exoduses
lead us, and eventually a design emerges. This article began by noting
that it is always in flight, in Exodus, in movement, in migration, that
God is making Himself known. It has also noted in these migratory
movements the historical process by which humanity is coming to an
awareness of itself as one reality, as a global entity. We have seen how
the figure of the missionary embodies the encounter between a God
known in exile and a humanity formed in Exodus. And we have tried
to follow how, in this new Exodusa technological Exodus one might
dare to sayGod is saying once more that the Kingdom is there to be
known and lived in our midst. Just as the human Exodus is now taking
a quite new form, so too the knowledge of God which comes from that
movement is now quite different.
The universe is always in a process of becoming, and therefore
identities and frontiers are always being displaced. It is in the ruptures
caused by these displacements that a God is being revealed whose
identity cannot be encapsulated. This God is revealing himself as a
virtual reality, present in the world while leaving open the range of
possibilities for the future. It is against this background that we have to
understand interreligious dialogue today. Dialogue that is interreligious
involves the virtual at various levels:
Interreligious dialogue today is occurring through virtual
contacts and being nourished by them, just as religious
communities themselves are becoming virtual through the
possibilities that the new technologies are allowing and
The content of interreligious encounter is being imperceptibly
modified through new spiritual and theological perspectives
offered by new ways of accessing reality.
Finally, and above all, these developments allow us to imagine
attaining ultimate reality through the mode of a virtual
52 Benot Vermander

presence, brought about through the new forms of encounter,

exchange and solidarity that are arising amid a humanity
constantly being reconstituted, constantly becoming.
Interreligious dialogue and the technological transformations
currently taking place are two of the major forces influencing cultural
and political exchange. What is at stake concerns not only believers
but whole nations, whole races. At the same time, however, the
process has a deep theological and spiritual significance. The issues
may be very different from what Francis Xavier was able to perceive as
he made his missionary journeys. But true fidelity to his heritage surely
consists in addressing the new realities facing us with the qualities to
which Xaviers writings have borne witness right up to our own day:
toughness, a taste for adventure, and a confidence in the God of exile
and Exodus.

Benot Vermander SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 1988, and has lived in
Taiwan since 1992. He was ordained priest in 1996, and since then has been
director of the Ricci Institute in Taipei. He is also the founding editor of Renlai,
the Chinese Jesuits cultural journal.
The Mother of Jesus in the Scriptures

Dieter Bhler

T HE CHURCHS THEOLOGY OF MARY, as it has developed in both East

and West, flows directly from its understanding of Jesus Christ. To
be more precise, it has its beginningsafter some hints in Irenaeusin
the christological disputes of the fourth and fifth centuries. The
discussions about Jesus Christ at that time dealt with questions that
were implicit in the New Testament, but not systematically dealt with
there. Jesus is a human being, but also and at the same time God. How
both these statements can be made is something that the New
Testament nowhere explains, and precisely for this reason there were
arguments. Once the Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople
(381) had established the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit as
realities attested in Scripture, further questions opened up about Mary.
Did she, perhaps, simply give birth to him as a human being, and did
divinity somehow lay hold of him later? It was in response to this that
the Council of Ephesus established that Mary was Theotokos, God-
bearer. The issue here was not really about Mary, but about Christ.
Both the Eastern and Western Churches came to call Mary Theotokos
because they wanted to assert Jesus full divinity, as well as his
humanity, at the very beginning of his existence.

Private Privileges?
The theology of Mary that developed from this ecclesiastical
christology starts from Marys divine motherhood, and revolves around
this idea. All the other mariological themes, such as perpetual virginity,
sinlessness, and the assumption into heaven, are interpreted on the
basis of her being the Mother of God. All of which is fine, but this way
of thinking has some intrinsic limits. All too often Marys privileges
appear in this sort of mariology as personal, and indeed private,
privileges for the Mother of God. The suggestion is that her
immaculate conception happened because of who she was as the

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 53-66

54 Dieter Bhler

potential mother of God, and that her assumption into heaven was just
a matter of her personal privilege. But a question arises. Why would
the Church teach these doctrines and make them binding if they were
just about Mary herself, and had nothing in particular to do with us,
with the Church?
What follows is an attempt to bring out another aspect of Marian
doctrine: its connections with the theology of the Church. For this is
how the New Testament thinks about Mary. The christology developed
later by the Church talks about Christs divinity and humanity, about
natures. But the New Testament just assumes that Jesus is God and
human; it does not explain the matter.1 The New Testaments
understanding of Christ is couched in quite different terms: not
natures, but functions. The key words are words such as Messiah,
Son of David, King, Son of Man.2 Now, one cannot have a king
without a kingdom; hence talk of the Messiah, of the anointed King,
generates talk of his kingdom, of his people: the kingdom of God, the
people of God, Israel, the Church. It is for these realities that Jesus is
the Christ, the King. For the New Testament, the central title for
Christ is the one that stands over the Cross: King of the Jews.
Now, if the New Testament understanding of Jesus as Messiah is
not set forth in terms of Christs natures, and is centred rather on his
kingship for Israel, then it should not surprise us that the New
Testament understanding of Mary is not so much concerned with her
being the mother of God. What matters, rather, is that she is an
Israelite, a daughter of Abraham. Hence the title of this piece: Mary,
Daughter of Sion.

The Woman: The Symbol of Israel

The writers of the New Testament come out of an Old Testament
world, and it is only when we read the Bible as a whole that we can
understand the New Testament at all. When, therefore, we ask about
the image of Mary given by the New Testament, we need to look at the

The word divinity turns up once (Colossians 2: 9); divine nature occurs only in 2 Peter 1: 4, and
then not in connection with Jesus.
Even the title Son of God once was just a royal epithet (2 Samuel 7: 14), though in Johns Gospel it
of course means more.
Mary, Daughter of Sion 55

texts of both Testaments, and take the whole Bible into account. Let
us begin with the end of the Bible, the book of Revelation:

A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the

sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of
twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in
the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in
heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and
seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars
of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood
before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might
devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a
son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.
But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his
throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a
place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one
thousand two hundred and sixty days.
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought
against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but
they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in
heaven. (12:1-8)

Who is this woman, whom John the seer beholds in his vision?
Some will reply, Marywho else could it be? And, of course, she is
presented just like this in many pictures and statues: the woman
clothed with the sun, with a crown of twelve stars and the moon at her
feet. But obviously no one seriously thinks that the mother of Jesus has
ever stood on the moon. What we have here is obviously not meant to
be a realistic picture, but a symbolic one. John sees a figure whothis
much is truebrings the child Messiah into the world, but who is not
simply the historical mother of Jesus.
If we read further in the book of Revelation, we find another
female figure, in chapter 17:

So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a

woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous
names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was
clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels
and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations
and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was
written a name, a mystery: Babylon the great, mother of whores
and of earths abominations. (17:3-5)
56 Dieter Bhler

Art Serve
The Woman Crowned with Stars
from the Bamberg Apocalypse

Here it is said quite clearly that the woman is not simply an individual
figure. She is the whore of Babylon, the great she-enemy of the people
of God. And now it becomes clear who the woman of the stars actually
is: the other city, Jerusalem, the Daughter of Sion. She stands for the
people in their twelve tribes. After all, Michael the Archangel has
fought on her behalf, and we know from Daniel 12:1 that he is the
guardian of Israel.
The visionary beholds the people of God, the twelve tribes of
Israel, in the form of the Daughter of Sion, who is crying out in birth
pangs. In Scripture, birth pangs are a symbol of severe need and
pressure.3 The ancient covenant people is in serious difficulty, and
under attack from the enemy. But in this situation of distress, it brings

See Jeremiah 4: 31, Micah 4: 9.
Mary, Daughter of Sion 57

forth the Messiah. He too is threatened by the dragon. But God carries
him away; the messianic people of God must flee from the dragon into
the desert. And the woman, who before the Messiahs birth was Israel,
has now become, as a result of the Messiah, the Church. Through the
Messiah, the old people of God has become the new people of God.
The woman crowned with stars that we find in the book of Revelation
is thus both Israel and the Church.
Has she, then, just nothing to do with Mary? Not quite. Obviously
it is Israel which brings forth the Messiah herebut the specific
Israelite woman who brought the historical Messiah into the world was
of course Mary. Israel may be in the pangs of mortal danger; but the
actual birth pangs as Jesus entered the world were Marys.
John the seer has here in just a few sentences sketched a whole
history of Israel, Jesus and the Church. The dense symbol of the
woman crowned with stars evokes the whole of the Old and New
Testaments. To understand who she is, we need to look at the two
Testaments as a whole. That will enable us finally to see the full
significance of this particular one-in-three: Israel, Mary and Church.

Special Election and Gods Universal Will to Save

A central theme in Scripture is the election of Israel. God is, after all,
the creator of all human beings, and also desires their salvation. What
sense, then, are we to make of the idea that one people is singled out
by God from all the others, and given privileges? Are the ideas of love
for all and special election compatible? Indeed they are compatible
and in fact it is necessary that God choose something particular if all
Gods dealings with humanity are to be truly dealings of love.
Of course all things are created by God. All that exists depends on
the creator for its existence, whether it is a stone, an animal or a
human being. Nothing created can escape from this relationship with
the creator. If it were ever to manage it, the result would be its
immediate annihilation. In this sense, all creatures are in Gods hand,
and Augustine can pray: you hold all things in your hand which is
But over and above this inescapable relationship between creator
and creature, God has willed to be in relationship with us in a further,

Confessions 7. 15 (21): quia tu es omnitenens manu veritate.
58 Dieter Bhler

higher way: a relationship rooted not in necessity, but in freedom,

friendship and love. Such a relationship was not something that God
could just create by imposition; it was something that had to grow
between creatures and God historically. In the nature of the case, God
had to bring this about in a specific way, one that was bound up with
freedom and history.
Perhaps a simple image can clarify what is at stake here. It would
be impossible for people to visit a friend if the whole world were this
friends giant living room. Were that so, then everyone would
inevitably be in this friends living room all the time. Visits as such
would be impossible. You can only have visitors if your living room is a
particular space on the earth: one part of the whole, not the whole
itself. When there is a specific space like this, people can come to it,
depart from it, and even avoid it completely. It is only because people
have definite and bounded spaces as their living rooms that others can
visit them, of their own free will.
If God wants a relationship with us that is free rather than
inescapable, God must approach us in such a way as to separate out
particular things from the rest of reality. That is why He gave sacred
times (the Sabbath in the rhythm of working days), sacred places (the
temple), consecrated persons (priests and prophets), sacred rituals, a
holy book (the Bible). There is no compulsion on anyone to seek out
these particular holy realities, and therefore those who do are taking
on a relationship to God that is freely willed.
If God wants to invite us to Himself, He must come to us in a
sacramental way. A sacramental reality is something particular that is
set apart from everything else and consecratedbut consecrated
precisely with a view to everything else, with a view to the whole. The
consecrated reality is intended as a source of blessing for all, or at least
for all who wish to seek out this sacrament.
Gods first act of election, Gods first act of separating off
something special from the general run, was the election of Abraham.
In Genesis 1-11, God acts as creator of the whole world, of the whole
of humanity, of all nations. But in Genesis 12, God lays hold of just one
human being or one family, out of the whole range, and says: you will
be a blessing in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed
(Genesis 12:2-3).
Mary, Daughter of Sion 59

Abraham is separ-
ated out. He is chosen
to enter into a special
relationship with God,
and consecrated.5 But
from the outset, the
intention is universal
in its scope. Right
from the election of
Abraham and his des-
cendants, in other
words right from the
election of the people
of Israel, Gods plan
includes the whole
human race. But it is
nevertheless in free-
dom that God wills to
draw humanity; and
his sacrament for this
purpose is Israel, the
The Woman is Given Wings
chosen people. In the
course of the book of Genesis, God several times repeats this to Isaac
and Jacob: all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for
themselves through your offspring (Genesis 26:4). At the foot of
Mount Sinai, God tells Moses and the Israelites: Indeed, the whole
earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy
nation (Exodus 19:5-6).
The Mosaic Torah thus makes it repeatedly clear that Israels
election has a universal purpose. Israel is to be for God a sacrament
through which God one day wishes to reveal Himself to all people. But
the Torah does not say how this is to happen. It does not tell us how
the heathen peoples, those who are outside Israel, are eventually to
enter into Abrahams blessing. It is the prophets who spell it out,
especially Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah. If one were to summarise the

God links all other peoples relationships with God with their relationship to Abraham and his
children: I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.
60 Dieter Bhler

prophetic books of the Old Testament in one simple statement, it

would go as follows: Israel has been justly punished for its sins and
infidelities by God, acting through the Assyrians, Babylonians and
other heathen peoples. But God will bring about a change. God will
restore Israel in the sight of all peoples, and then it will become clear
to those peoples that only the God of Israel is the true Godnot the
gods of the Egyptians, the Babylonians and the other peoples. Then
men and women of all races will come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in
order to be converted to the God of Israel who alone is the true God.6
With this the prophets are describing the fulfilment of Abrahams
promise. Indeed, through him and his descendants all the peoples of
the earth will find blessing. How? Through the pilgrimage of the
nations. Once Gods self-revelation has been accomplished for all
peoples through his dealings with Israel, then these peoples will turn to
Israel as a source from which to learn true religion.

The Gathering of Israel

Jesus stands completely within this prophetic tradition. He knows that
the Messiah is for the people of Israel, and that the Messiahs first task
is to gather Israel and restore its twelve tribes. But when this is
accomplished, then the other nations will begin their pilgrimage to
Sion. Even before Jesus birth, the angel had told Joseph: you are to
name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew
1:21). His people: in other words, Israel. Matthew makes it quite
clear at the outset of his Gospel that Jesus has been sent to Israel. Jesus
is to renew Israel; then the renewed Israel is to draw the other people.
Later, above Jesus cross, it will say Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the
Jews, for so he was. And to his own disciples he will say, Go nowhere
among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go
rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). And
he himself resists the pagan Syro-Phoenician woman whose child is
sick. She thinks she can gain something from the Israelite miracle-
worker. But Jesus once more emphasizes that he has been sent only to
the children of Israel; the pagans, those outside Israel, are not his
concern. So we read:

Isaiah 2: 1-5, 60; Micah 4: 1-3; Zechariah 8: 23, 14: 17; Malachi 1: 11.
Mary, Daughter of Sion 61

Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She

begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her,
Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the childrens
food and throw it to the dogs. (Mark 7:26-27)

Jesus is sent to the children of Israel, not to the pagans. Jesus mission
is to restore Israel, and gather it together from its scattered diaspora.
Then this renewed Israel will act as a magnet and attract the Gentile
peoples. But Jesus comes to realise that his mission is not being
accepted by Israel. Shortly before he dies, he weeps, and says in

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones
those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your
children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and
you were not willing! (Matthew 23:27)

Jesus did not succeed in restoring Israel. After his death, the disciples
on the road to Emmaus can complain, we had hoped that he was the
one to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21). It seems that Gods original plan,
the plan for which He had chosen Abraham, had failed. God cannot
provoke the pilgrimage of the nations to Sion if Sion herself does not
accept the Messiah.
How, then, can the nations enter into the blessing of Abraham if
Abrahams descendants have failed to act as a sacramental instrument?
It would seem that God must now dismiss Israel in order to create for
Himself another approach to the pagan peoples, revoke the oath sworn
to Abraham, and annul the covenant made with Israel, so as to reveal
Himself to the nations in a way that bypasses Abraham and Israel. In
theory, there is no reason why God cannot do this. In theory, God
could say: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, the prophets, Jesus
it was all a waste of time. I need to acquire the other peoples for Myself
without Israel. With this, a thousand years of salvation history would
just vanish. In theoryto repeatGod might have done this. But in
fact God does not revoke the covenant with Israel after Jesus is put to
death. God may flare up against Israel in passionate anger, but stops
short at rejecting Israel:

How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O
Israel? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm
and tender. (Hosea 11:8)
62 Dieter Bhler

Israel refused the offer of renewal through Jesus, and yet God cannot
reject Israel. What, then, can God do now? How can the pilgrimage of
the peoples to Jerusalem, the incorporation of the nations into the
chosen people of God, take place, if Jerusalem itself has not followed
Gods design?
If God does not want to reject His people for putting to death the
Messiah, He has to save His project by intervening in an act of new
creation, of a kind hitherto unknown. God has to arise and enthrone
the Messiah. God has to renew Jesus kingship and his kingdom. God
has to renew the election of Israelif not for Israels obedience, which
failed, so at least for its kings vicarious obedience. God did act. He
raised the king. But was he renewing the election of Israel or
repudiating it?

The Holy Remnant

We have arrived now at what for Paul is a central problem. Paul travels
throughout the then known world preaching to the Gentiles. Greeks,
Celts7 and Romans, whole hosts of pagans from among the Gentiles,
are converted to the God of Israel. The pilgrimage of the nations
prophesied by Isaiah is indeed well under way. But how? It cannot just
be bypassing Israel. In Christ Jesus it is the blessing of Abraham that
comes to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14). It is with this puzzle that Paul
struggles: is the reality for which I am working so hard really the
fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham, really the pilgrimage of
the Gentiles to Jerusalem?8 Only through the mediation of Abrahams
children can the nations come to the true God.
Paul is convinced that God cannot do without Israel if He wants to
convert the Gentiles. Pauls solution is to suggest that God has created
for Himself a holy remnant from out of Israel, a remnant that has
indeed accepted the Messiah:

I ask, then, has God rejected His people? By no means! I myself am

an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of

The Galatians are ethnically Celtic.
See Romans 11: 13: Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry; and
Romans 15: 16: the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the
priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified
by the Holy Spirit.
Mary, Daughter of Sion 63

Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Do

you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with
God against Israel? Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have
demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.
But what is the divine reply to him? I have kept for myself seven
thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So too at the
present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Romans 11: 1-5)

God cannot just do without Israel if He wants to reveal Himself to the

nations, unless He revokes the oath to Abraham. But what can He do
if Israel refuses to let itself be renewed by the Messiah? God needs
Israel. But this does not mean that God needs the whole of Israel; a
holy remnant of Israel will suffice. It is to this remnant that the nations
can make their pilgrimage; it is this remnant whom the Gentiles can
join in order to make up the people of God from both Jews and
Gentiles. All that there has to be is a small number of Abrahams
children available that can form a nucleus for this extended people of
God. Paul points to his own case. Obviously God is working the
salvation of the nations through Israelites, and through no one else.
Paul himself is, after all, also an Israelite. It is not the case that Sion is
playing no role at all. The nations pilgrimage does have a destination.
There is a remnant of Israel.

The Daughter of Sion

In the New Testament, there are two symbols of the Israelite core that
remains absolutely indispensable for the future Church that is to
encompass all nations. The first symbol is that of the twelve apostles.
In them the gathering of Israel begins to take place, and to this
beginning the nations can attach themselves. They represent the
twelve tribes at the centre of the Church. When we say that the
Church is apostolic, we are also saying that the Church is at its heart
abidingly Israelite. The believers from all the other races are gathered
round this Israelite nucleus.
The other symbol of this indispensable holy remnant of Israel, from
which the Church begins and around which the Church gathers, is the
Messiahs own mother. For the mission of the Messiah, God needs to
find an answer within Israel. God cannot send the Archangel Gabriel
to just any race in the world; God needs the co-operation of Gods own
chosen people. And the first yes from within Israel to the project of
64 Dieter Bhler

the Messiah, even before that of the twelve apostles, was the yes
given by Mary. In that this daughter of Abraham, Mary, was ready to
accept and receive the Messiah, God found in Sion the means that
would enable Him to draw the nations to Himself and to incorporate
them around the Israelite centre.
Among the New Testament writers, it is Luke and John above all
who present Mary in these terms. In the infancy narrative at the
beginning of his Gospel, Luke sketches Mary and Joseph as
representatives of the true Israel: poor, simple, but totally faithful to
strict observance.9 As Marys son, Jesus is a ben-Jisrael, a son of this
true Israel. After the Ascension, Luke also sets Mary at the centre of
the apostles (Acts 1:14). Along with the Twelve, Mary is the centre,
the heart of the Church, because together Mary and the Twelve form
the remnant of Israel, a remnant that has become messianic, Christian
in the root sense. In Acts, we see first diaspora Jews at Pentecost
coming on pilgrimage to Sion, to this holy remnant of Abrahams
children. Then Gentiles follow.
For his part, John presents Mary in his Gospel as a representative
of Sion, impatiently waiting for the hour when the Son of Man will be
revealed. At the marriage feast of Cana, which comes at the beginning
of the Gospel, Jesus retorts to this impatient female figure, Woman,
what concern is that to you ...? My hour has not yet come. (John 2:4)
But at the end of the Gospel, the hour has indeed come. Now Jesus
speaks to the woman again, and says, Woman, here is your son (John
19:26). All future disciples need to join themselves to this woman,
this daughter of Abraham, if they want to stand beneath Jesus cross.
Finally, the visionary who wrote the book of Revelation presents
Israel as the woman with the twelve stars. The mother of Jesus is not
the only embodiment of this symbol, but she is certainly the richest: it
was through her that Jesus became a ben-Jisrael. She represents the
twelve-tribe people, because she is the woman through whom Israel
receives, conceives, and brings forth the Messiah. Within the New
Testament itself, she embodies the holy remnant; she is the Daughter
of Sion, the central symbol for Israel. Already in the New Testament,

See the references to the law of the Lord in the story of the Presentation in the Temple: Luke 2: 22-
24, 39, 41.
Mary, Daughter of Sion 65

Mary and John at the Foot of the Cross,
from the Nrnberg Chronicle, 1493

she has become the beginning of the Church, and its abiding Jewish
Here it is that we find the central significance of Mary for the
Christian faith. For the scriptures, to be a Christian, to believe in Jesus
as Israels Messiah, is to enter into Abrahams blessing (see Galatians
3:14), and so it remains for all time. To be a Christian means to attach
oneself to the holy, messianic remnant of Abrahams children. To be a
Christian means to attach oneself to Mary, the Daughter of Sion.

The Israelite Heart of the Church

When Luke and John make Mary into a symbol expressing the holy
remnant, they are not just writing a historical narrative, but developing
a genuine theology of Mary. Both Eastern and Western Christianity
have found it not only defensible but also necessary to follow these two
evangelists lead, and to develop their understanding of the Church by
reflecting on Mary. The dogmas of Marys immaculate conception and
66 Dieter Bhler

of her bodily assumption into heaven are not so much about privileges
that are personal to her as Jesus mother, but rather about the fact that
Gods saving action for the Church has really succeeded in the
Church. The Church is immaculatenot in us, but in Mary, the
person at its heart. The Church cannot permanently succumb to
deathperhaps it can within its individual believers, but not at its
centre as represented by Mary.
Mary is for all time the abiding centre of the Church because she is
the first Israelite, the first child of Abraham, to have accepted the
Messiah. In her, Israels restoration has already begun, successfully.
Through her faith, the old covenant passes over into the new. She
belongs to the old covenant people; around her gathers the new
covenant people. Mary is the heart of the Church because she
represents within it Abraham and his descendants. And when Gentiles
attach themselves to Mary, Abrahams daughter, the Church becomes
the fulfilment of Gods promises to Abraham, as Mary herself sings in
the Magnificat:

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham
and to his descendants for ever. (Luke 1:54-55)

Mary, the daughter of Sion, is standing for these descendants of

Abraham. Thus she becomes the abiding Israelite heart of the Church
catholic, the Church embracing all peoples.

Dieter Bhler SJ was born in 1961 and joined the Society of Jesus in 1983. After
his ordination to the priesthood in 1991, he pursued higher studies in Scripture at
Rome and Fribourg, writing a doctoral thesis on the themes of the Holy City and
the restoration of Israel in Second Temple Judaism. He now teaches Old
Testament in the Jesuit faculty of theology in Frankfurt-am-Main.
From the Ignatian Tradition


Two Letters from 1552


he could send them on mission for the good of souls and for the
spreading of the faith, they mentioned some specific possibilities:
missions to the New World, and work among Lutherans. They were in
fact prepared to go to anyone anywhere, whether among believers or
heretics. But the first possibility they named was the Turks.
Jesuit history developed in other directions. The Turks most
significant contribution was in fact made before that history started:
the Turks made it impossible for Ignatius and his companions to go to
Palestine in 1537, and thus indirectly brought about the founding of
the Jesuits as we know them. But later the Turks seem to have receded
from the companions awareness.1 In the vast Ignatian correspondence,
they come up comparatively rarely: a few are converted and baptized;
shipping is always being threatened by Turkish pirates; two Jesuits are
captured by them.2 In later periods, the Society of Jesus would exercise
a quiet, low-key ministry in Constantinople, above all among victims of
the plague.3 But the first Jesuits never seem seriously to have engaged
in ministry to or with or among the Turks. It is as though they had

There is only one rather peripheral reference to them in the Constitutionsscholastics who are to work
among the Moors and the Turks are to learn suitable languages (Constitutions IV.12.2, B [447, 449]).
Ignatius writes a moving exhortation to Miguel de Nobrega, a Jesuit who has absconded from Goa
without permission and then been captured by Turks en route back to Portugal, encouraging him to
patience and fortitude (25 August 1554, MHSJ EI 7, 446-448). When Jean de la Goutte was captured
by the Turks, there were dealings about a ransom. At one point Ignatius wrote to say that if the Turk
who was to be exchanged for Jean de la Goutte wanted to become a Christian, then money must be
found for de la Gouttes ransom instead (18 July 1555, MHSJ EI 9, 336-338). Unfortunately, de la
Goutte died in captivity while all the negotiations were still in hand.
See the article by various hands, Turqua, in Diccionario histrico de la Compaa de Jess Biogrfico-
temtico, edited by Charles E. ONeill and Joaqun M. Domnguez (Rome: Jesuit Historical Institute,
2001), volume 4, 3849-3852.

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 67-78

68 From the Ignatian Tradition

forgotten what they had written when they presented themselves to

the Pope.
The exceptionsperhaps exceptions that prove the ruleare two
letters, both written on 6 August 1552, by Ignatius secretary, Juan de
Polanco.4 They were addressed to Jernimo Nadal, at that stage with
the Viceroy of Sicily, Juan de Vega, who was one of the early Jesuits
influential friends. Ignatius had an idea which he wanted to feed to the
Emperor; the hope was that, through de Vega, the second of these
letters would reach his desk. But the first text is more revealing of
Ignatius inner world.

+ JHS Pax Christi

Dearest Father in Jesus Christ
I will not fail to share with you, having a commission for this
from our Father Ignatius, an impression that he finds himself
having in these days, so that you can write what occurs to you
about italthough, if God our Lord were giving His Paternity
any interior sign more effective than has been the case up till
now, or if he could persuade himself that it would have credibility
with His Majesty, he would not be waiting for advice from
anyone. Its the business of seeing year after year these fleets from
the Turk coming into Christian lands, doing so much harm, and
carrying off so many souls, souls going to perdition for denying
their faith in Christ who, in order to save them, died. Its also
about how these fleets are getting to know these waters and doing
exercises in them, as well as burning down different places. Hes
seeing, too, the harm which the corsairs have so regularly got
used to doing in the port districts among Christians souls, bodies
and property. And so he has come to sense in our Lord very
firmly that the Emperor ought to make a very large fleet and
become lord of the sea, and thus avoid all these disadvantages;
and there would be other great benefits, of significance for the
universal good. And he feels moved to this not only by zeal for
souls and by charity, but also by the light of reason, which shows

An earlier translation can be found in Letters of St Ignatius of Loyola, selected and translated by
William J. Young (Chicago: Loyola UP, 1959), 260-265.
Ignatius and the Turks 69

this to be a very necessary thing, one that can be done with the
Emperor spending less than what he is currently spending. And
our Father is so much set on this that, as I said, if he thought it
would find credibility with His Majesty, or if he had a stronger
indication of the divine will, he would be glad to employ what is
left of his old age in this, not fearing the trouble involved in going
to the Emperor and the Prince,5 nor the danger of the road, nor
his illnesses, nor any other negative things that might arise. You
should commend this to God our Lord, and look into it, and let
us know soon what appears to you in His divine sight.

Taken on its own, this text is principally striking for what it says
about how precisely Ignatius reflected on his inner movements as he
was weighing up whether or not to make a political move. At one
level, the process is articulated in passive terms: he has been moved by
zeal for souls and received an impresin. Nevertheless, he has
measured the force, so to speak, of these movements from outside
himself, and he is quite clear that he should not act on them as he
would have done had God given him a more effective inner sign. At
the same time, he has also been moved by the light of reason. Here
the outcome is similar: he can see convincing arguments for his
position, but he also knows that he lacks credibility with the Emperor.
Were the signs from God our Lord clearer, or were he convinced
prudentially that he could move forward, he would not be waiting for
advice from anyone. But, as matters stand, he is seeking adviceor
rather asking what comes to Nadal on the topic in His divine sight.
The second letter, again written by Polanco under instruction, is
very different. It is long, thorough, public, self-confident in tone; and
its sheer length helps express its message. Ignatius must have hoped
that some version of it would find its way to the Emperors desk.

+ Jesus Pax Christi

Dearest Father in Jesus Christ

In the other letter, more general in its scope, I said briefly that our
Father was being moved not only with the zeal of charity, but also

Later Philip II.
70 From the Ignatian Tradition

with the light of reason, to sense that a large fleet ought to be

raised, and that it could be raised. In this one I shall take up more
space in showing, firstly, that it ought to be raised and that it is
very important for it to be raised; and secondly, that it will be
possible to raise it without much cost, indeed with less than what
is currently borne by His Majesty for things to do with the sea.
The reasons which impel the sense that it ought to be raised are
Firstly, that the divine honour and glory is suffering greatly as
Christians from all parts, of high rank and low, are being carried
off to live among infidels, and reneging on the faith of Christ, as
is seen from experiencea matter of great lament for those with
zeal for the conservation and advancement of our holy Catholic
The 2nd, that with a great weight on the conscience of whoever
has to provide or not, there is being lost such a great number of
peopleand that, from children upwards, people of all ages,
labouring under the servitude of such burdensomeness and the
ills without number that they suffer from the infidels, are
becoming Moors or Turks. And of these there are so many
thousands that on the day of judgment the princes will be looking
to see whether they really needed to undervalue so many souls
and bodiessouls and bodies that are worth more than all their
incomes and honours and lordships, because for each one of them
Christ our Lord paid the price of his blood and his life.
The 3rd is that it removes a great danger that all of Christendom
is running with these comings and goings of the Turks, who,
though they are not so far hostile on the sea, are beginning to do
naval exercises and to make preparations. They are beginning with
the little of Christendom that is left to use the strategy that they
used to gain the empire of Constantinople. They aid and abet
princes in resisting each other, getting into conflict and wearing
each other down; then, when the Turk is the one who remains, he
takes what belongs to both the one and the other. And given that
this way of dealing is now being used with France, there is a
danger that later theyll come without being invited, placing
Christendom in a great predicament both by land and by sea.
Ignatius and the Turks 71

This disadvantage, and those

mentioned above, would be
removed if His Majesty
controlled the sea with a
powerful fleet.
The 4th reason is that with
such a fleet the occasions
that there are in the kingdom
of Naples for disturbances
and uprisings would in large
part be removed. For, with-
out hope of the Turkish
fleet, there would be no way
that the rebels could think
they would emerge with their intent achieved. Moreover, a fleet
would prevent the rebels from hoping for help from France by
sea, and they would also be afraid that it could immediately be
deployed against themselves. Not only would Naples become
calmer, but all the rest of Italy and Sicily, and other islands in that
The 5th is that, when the fleet is such that the King of France
realises that the power of the Turks cannot come here, he will see
that it is in his interest to be quiet, since he lacks the help that
the Turks power gives him in diverting and wearing down His
Majestys forces. And even if he were not quiet within his own
kingdom and its borders, he would not have any chance of
causing trouble in Italy. Rather he would always be weaker, since
he would be inferior by sea, and would lack help coming to him
by sea. Therefore he would be fonder of peace.
The 6th is that the temporal harms continually being caused by
the Turks and corsairs along all the coasts of Spain and Italy and
other places would be avoided, along with all the costs of the
garrisons that are established in all the ports when it is not known
where the Turks fleet is to strike next. And the size of these costs
can be well seen in these last two years in the kingdom of Naples
and Sicily and in other places; and for the garrisons, since the
72 From the Ignatian Tradition

fleet would serve as a fortification for everyone, there would be

no need.
The 7th, that it would make passage from Spain to Italy safe and
easy. It is well known how important this is for the good of those
kingdoms in general, and also for many peoples private interests,
that suffer so much when this line of communication is removed.
The 8th, that it would be easy, having a very powerful fleet and
with mastery of the whole of this sea, to regain what has been
lost, and much more besides, along all the coasts of Africa and
those of Greece and the islands of the Mediterranean Sea; and
one could establish a foothold in many lands of the Moors and
other infidels, and open up a wide path towards conquering them
and thus making them Christians. Where there is no fleet, they
would be able to take for themselves other important places in
Christendom, just as Tripoli was taken.
The 9th is that much would be gained for the honour of His
Majesty and his reputation (which is something quite needful
whether among believers or unbelievers) by the possession of
such a fleet, that would go and seek the Turks out in their own
lands, and not be labouring hard to defend itself in its own lands,
with the loss of much of the credibility and authority that His
Majesty has in peoples spiritsresources with which, even
without use of arms, he could in a certain way defend his own
These are the motives which move our Father by the way of
reason to sense that this fleet should be raised.
Now, for the second part, regarding how it could be raised, there
occurs to him the following:
Presupposing that His Majesty should have no lack of people
through divine grace he has them better than any known prince
in the worldthe finances can be got from different places.
Firstly, one could give an order that many rich religious orders
there are many of these in His Majestys dominions, and much
less than what they have would be enough for themshould arm
a good number of galleys. So it might be: the order of St Jerome,
so many; the order of St Benedict, so many; that of the
Ignatius and the Turks 73

Carthusians, so many, etc. Here come in the abbeys of Sicily and

Naples where there are no religious.
The 2nd help would be from the bishoprics and their chapters and
endowments, that, in all his dominions, could contribute a great
sum of money to arm many galleys for the benefit of
The 3rd, from the four orders of knights, which ought by virtue of
their foundation to help this fleet against the infidels with their
wealth and their peoplethe others too, just like the order of St
John. And in order that that this be above board, the Pope should
give permission for the money to be taken from them, or for the
matter to be handled with their superiors there in Spain and His
Majestys other dominions, since it is for the universal good of
The 4th is from some of the secular grandees and knights in his
realms: that what is spent for the sake of show on hunting and
food and excessive trappings should more justly and honourably
be spent on arming galleys against infidels for the glory of God.
And if they wont serve personally, they should be proud to help
and serve with their fortunes. And from here one would get a
large number of galleys.
74 From the Ignatian Tradition

The 5th is from the merchants, who, coming to an agreement

among themselves, could make a contribution for a large number
of ships or galleys, since it would be to their advantage too, for
their trade, as well as for the good of Christendom.
The 6th help is from the cities and places as such in his kingdoms
and dominions, especially those on the sea. Since they suffer so
much damage from Turks and Moors and other corsairs, it is
much better that they use on galleys that of which they would be
robbed anyway, in order that there would be no one to rob them.
And what they normally spend on garrisons they should spend on
the fleetwith that there, there will be no need to be taking on
expenses and diverting themselves from their own business in
order to protect themselves. And in this, the regions to which
more will come as a result, like those of the Kingdom of Naples
and Sicily, will be able to contribute more.
The 7th help the King of Portugal might be able to provide, taking
a certain number of galleys and other ships from his kingdom in
the same or a similar way as was said regarding His Majestys.
The 8th, the dominions of Genoa, which could pay for some
galleys, and those of Lucca and Siena, which will always help now
that that of Venice cannot.
The 9th, from the Duke of Florence, for whom its of benefit for
his own dominion as well as for the common good; and he too
could get some help for himself, as was said of the King of
Portugal, from ecclesiastical and secular quarters like those
mentioned above.
The tenth help could and should be from the Pope and the
Churchs lands, if God gives him enough spirit for it; if not, at
least he will allow what has been said above, which will not be a
And so, dearest Father, you might see what is occurring to our
Father by the way of reason: that apart from the help that the
Emperor can get from his revenues, which is a lot, it seems that
from these ten quarters he would be able to draw what he needs
in order to maintain a large fleet. And with the help also of the
royal revenues, it appears that a fleet of more than two hundred
Ignatius and the Turks 75

sails could be maintained without much effort, and even, if

necessary, three hundredmostly or almost all galleys. And the
consequence would indeed be a great benefit to the small amount
that remains of Christendom. There would be great hope that it
would by this means increase greatly, whereas now we are right to
be fearing its diminution and notable harm.
You should look through all this and say what you sense. If
others, for whom it would be more appropriate, are not speaking
about this, it could be that one of the poor men from the Society
of Jesus should involve himself in this.
May God, the eternal wisdom, grant His Majesty and everyone
and in all thingsto sense His most holy will, and grace perfectly
to fulfil it.
Rome, 6 August 1552.

The fact that we have the two letters together suggests that
Ignatius more public and political documents are often informed by a
delicate spiritual process, about which he is always discreet and often
silent. One might smile at the grandiosity of Ignatius vision, and also
at the disingenuousness or cheek with which he puts rich religious
orders at the top of his list of potential contributors. But it is also
striking how the Turks appear only as an enemy to be overcome. The
sole reference to their conversion comes in the wake of a conquest; the
idea that they too are people for whom Christ died seems not to cross
Ignatius mind. Perhaps this very lack says something important about
the dynamics of Ignatian spirituality and ministry.

Different Frontiers
The first Jesuits were drawn by a vision of ministry at the Churchs
frontiers: the Turks, the New World and the Lutherans. Soon after
their foundation, they added to that list the world of humanist
education, with its potential for exploring a significant cultural frontier
even among Catholics. Within this vision, what do the Turks signify?
At the risk of being fanciful, we might draw an analogy from the
Cold War world in which most readers of this article will have grown
up. In those years, vigorous missionary commitments to Africa, Latin
America and Asia would have paralleled the first Jesuits willingness to
76 From the Ignatian Tradition

go to the New World. There was a commitment to withstand secularist

atheism, highlighted for the Jesuits by Paul VI in 1965; in an age when
Catholics had begun to read Luther as something other than a mere
heretic, this engagement with atheism, with contemporary worldviews
perceived as false, might correspond to how the early Jesuits
understood work in Protestant countries. But what of the Turks?
Perhaps we could say that, for Christians in the West at least, their
equivalent might be the Communists.
Western Christians in the Cold War period lived in a world
bordered by the iron curtain. Spy scandals undermined our sense of
security and safety. We felt haunted by an opposing power largely
unknown to us and isolated from us, but which nevertheless (or so we
were told) threatened the destruction of civilisation and Christianity as
we knew them. In the 1950s and 1960s we may have prayed
occasionally for the Church of silence; in the 1970s we coped by
forgetting about communist cultures, and behaved as though there was
only our affluent Western world. When Pope John Paul II was elected
in 1979, he was the man from a far country, and his Polishness rather
revolutionised Western senses of Catholic identity. His insistence on a
European Christianity breathing with both lungs, his naming in 1980
of Cyril and Methodius as patrons of Europe alongside Benedictall
this appeared initially as wistful political correctness. It was only after
1989 that it began to feel natural.
The analogy may limp, but it seems reasonable enough to suggest
that the Turks, for the early Jesuits, represented the enemy to be
conquered, the enemy menacing Christendom. Any full statement of
mission at the frontiers had to include them, but in immediate practice
they were simply an unknown and destabilising threat, one perhaps
that it was often impolite to name. They had frustrated the early
Jesuits initial plans to serve Jesus in Jerusalem, and as the early Jesuits
developed missions throughout Europe and beyond, the Turkish threat
still circumscribed the space, both physical and psychological, in which
much of that mission was exercised.
There was something fundamentally unmanageable about the
Turks. Zealous followers of Ignatius could go to the Indies and proclaim
the gospel, protected by a colonial power and with the illusion of
cultural superiority. The Turks represented an Otherness that was
physically nearersometimes all too nearbut emotionally far more
inaccessible. When Westerners moved into their space, they knew in
Ignatius and the Turks 77

advance that they were not the powerful party. The Indies betokened
the Other as exotic; the Lutherans, the Other as apostate; the Turks,
the Other as threat. As Ignatius and his followers developed a
distinctive spirituality of apostolic engagement with the Other, it took
on different forms corresponding to these different settings.
Ignatius more public letter about the Turks reminds us of the
temporal king in the Exercises, whose will it is to conquer all the land
of unbelievers (Exx 91, 93). But in his political spirituality, Ignatius
has not really moved beyond that image, and begun to think about the
eternal king, whose mission of conquest concerns the whole world, not
just enemy territory, and who will thus draw us into the glory of the
Father (Exx 95). The process will involve humiliations, setbacks, the
way of the cross (Exx 98).
The dynamic of this meditation is as old as Marks Gospel. What
begins as an expansive programme of conquest eventually becomes
something darker and more mysterious; in the end, the synoptics Jesus
inaugurates the Kingdom not by conquering the negative but by
entering its shadow. The Father into whose glory Christ the King
enters is one who has no favourites (Acts 10:34); he makes his sun
rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and
on the unrighteous. If we are to be His children, we are not to
retaliate against our persecutors, but rather to love our enemies
(Matthew 5:44-45).
The process of appropriating this vision, even in the Gospels, is
slow, complex, permanently unfinished. In the Examen, Ignatius
acknowledges that the grace we should pray for at the end of the
Kingdom meditation does not come easily. But what he says about how
to begin is significant. A candidate begins by,

being resolved and ready to let it happen, and to suffer it with

patience through divine grace, whenever such injuries, misrep-
resentations and insults as are included in this livery of Christ our
Lord are done to him, not returning anyone evil for evil, but
rather good for evil. (Examen 4 [102])

If we are to hear the call of the eternal king, we need to move beyond
violence, beyond defending our sense of the right, even when this
latter is correct and justified. The enemy is to be redeemed rather than
overcome. Aggression and conflict are to be purged away.
78 From the Ignatian Tradition

The process is not easy; nor is it simply a matter of individual

freedom. Salvation is corporate. It is not surprising that Ignatius, when
writing in the political sphere, was still at the beginning of the
dynamic. Shortly after his conversion, he encountered a Moor who
denied that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus. He
experienced impulses to go after the Moor and attack him with a
dagger. Dictating his account of this incident in old age, Ignatius
commented that his soul was still blind, not knowing what humility
was, or charity, or patience, or discernment in regulating and balancing
these virtues (Autobiography, n.14). No doubt in the interim, as his
more private letter shows, he had acquired those qualities in the more
individual and interpersonal spheres. But with regard to the Turks, to
the Other as political and cultural enemy, he never really moved
beyond competing for space.
The Turkish threat to Western civilisation was removed by the
Battle of Lepanto in 1571, just as the communist one vanished with
the fall of the Berlin Wall. Turkey no longer represents a military threat
to Christianity; for us today, it poses different questions and challenges.
A Christian visitor to modern Turkey must surely be chastened by a
sense of how radically the great Christian civilisation of Byzantium has
been supplanted by an Islamic, and now secularised, society. The
proposal that Turkey might enter the European Union poses
interesting questions about how widely we can define European
identity. But if we read the references to the Turks in the Ignatian
sources with any historical sensitivity, the challenge evoked is a
different one: that of acknowledging our deepest collective fears, of
engaging with what we find threatening and inimical. Repression and
denial are natural and inevitable reactions. The process will certainly
take time. But nevertheless, those realities too have an important role
in our journey towards God.
Theological Trends



Peter Knauer

T HE EIGHTH PARAGRAPH OF Vatican IIs Constitution on the

Church, Lumen gentium, speaks of the Church founded by Christ:

This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as

one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His
Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd (John 21:17), and
him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority (see
Matthew 28:18-19), which He erected for all ages as the pillar and
mainstay of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). This Church, constituted
and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic
Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the
Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of
sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure.
These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are
forces impelling toward catholic unity.

If you read this text as a whole, putting together the beginning of the
first sentence with the beginning of the second, it seems to be saying
something very odd indeed: the Catholic Church referred to in the
Creed subsists in the Catholic Church.1 It can only be making sense if
Catholic Church is being used in two different senses. What, then,
does Catholic Church mean in each case? And which version is
intended when Unitatis redintegratio, the Councils decree on
ecumenism, speaks about people other than Catholics, and says that it
is only through Christs Catholic Church, which is the all-embracing

It is worth noting that this formulation was taken over verbatim into the Code of Canon Law (204.2).

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 79-93

80 Peter Knauer

means of salvation, that they can benefit fully from the means of
salvation? (n.3)
In the original draft for Lumen gentium distributed to the Council
Fathers on 23 November 1962, what is now paragraph 8 had run as

The sacred synod thus teaches and solemnly proclaims that there is
only the one true Church of Jesus Christ: the one which we
celebrate in the Creed as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic
Church; the one which the Saviour won for himself on the Cross,
and bound to himself as body to head, bride to bridegroom, the one
which he entrusted after his resurrection to St Peter and his
Successors, who are the Roman Pontiffs, to be governed. And
therefore it is only the Roman Catholic Church that is rightly
called Church.

This preliminary draft seems to envisage a full identification of the

Roman Catholic Church with the Church of Christ that is named in
the Creed. And at the same time it is disputed that other Christian
communities can rightly call themselves Churches at all.
This draft was debated and revised. By the time the final text first
appeared on 3 July 1964, a number of changes had occurred. The most
significant and striking of these was the replacement of the word
is [est] with subsists in [subsistit in]. No longer does the text simply
identify the Church of the Creed with the Church of Rome; instead
the Church of the Creed subsists in the Church of Rome. The report
on the draft that was submitted to the Council Fathers included an
explanatory comment: the change had been introduced so that the
expression better correspond to the affirmation that ecclesial elements
are also present [adsunt] elsewhere. There was some opposition and
discussion, but the text was finally accepted.

Subsistit in
What exactly does subsistit in mean? We need to be clear from the
outset that there is no question of the Church we profess in the Creed
being simply an idea which is then subsequently made real, or
concretised. This Church is from the outset a reality which is

Acta synodalia sacrosancti concilii oecumenici Vaticani secundi, 1. 4. 15.
The Catholic Church' Subsists in the Catholic Church 81

constituted and ordered as a society in this world; and it is that

already constituted, ordered society which subsequently subsists in the
Roman Catholic Church. The final text ascribes this visibility, this
concreteness on earth to the Church before it goes on to say that this
Church of Christ subsists in the Church bound to the Pope.
In the text of Lumen gentium as a whole, there are two formulations
that seem roughly equivalent to subsistit in. In paragraph 26, we read

This Church of Christ is truly present in [vere adest in] all

legitimate local congregations of the faithful which, united with
their pastors, are themselves called Churches in the New

This suggests that subsists in may also simply mean is really present
in: the Church designated in the Creed as Catholic is really present in
the Roman Catholic Church.3
The other similar passage in Lumen gentium comes at the beginning
of paragraph 23:

The individual bishops are the visible principle and foundation

of unity in their particular Churches, fashioned after the model of
the universal Church. In these and of these exists the one and
unique Catholic Church.

Particular Churches (ecclesiae particulares) is a technical term which

needs to be understood carefully. It does not mean Churches which
are part of a (larger) Church. We might be tempted to think of the
universal Church as a composite reality, the sum of its many different
constituent parts. But this is not the way the matter is being
understood here. Particularis means individual or distinct. When a
ring is made out of gold, this does not mean that the gold is a part of
the ring. There exists the one Church of Jesus Christ, but only in the
sense that it consists of many individual Churches. But this is not the

The report which accompanied the draft rather confirms this interpretation: The Church is one single
reality, and here on earth she is present [adest in] the Catholic Church, even if ecclesial elements are also
to be found outside her (Acta synodalia sacrosancti concilii oecumenici Vaticani secundi, 3. 1. 176)
in quibus et ex quibus una et unica ecclesia catholica existittranslation borrowed from Decrees of the
Ecumenical Councils, edited by Norman Tanner (London: Sheed and Ward, 1990)the official
Vatican translation, comes into being, is misleading. German writers are equally misleading when
they render ecclesia particularis as Teilkirchepart-Church; they should say Einzelkircheindividual
82 Peter Knauer

A Church in Canada

same thing as saying that it is a composite, with many different

Churches as parts. To get the matter right, one must say that the
Church of Christ is made up of many individual Churches, in such a
way that it is fully present in all of them.
Subsistit in also occurs at two points in Unitatis redintegratio, Vatican
IIs ecumenism decree. In paragraph 4, we read:

when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have

been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common
celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only
Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on his Church from
the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic
Church as something she can never lose [quamque inamissibilem in
Ecclesia Catholica subsistere credimus], and we hope that it will
continue to increase until the end of time.

The other passage comes in paragraph 13, where the talk is of different
communions separated from the Roman See: Among those in which
Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist [in quibus
The Catholic Church' Subsists in the Catholic Church 83

traditiones et structurae Catholicae ex parte subsistere pergunt], the

Anglican Communion occupies a special place.
Putting these passages together, it appears that subsistit in can well
be translated by is present in, provided, perhaps, that we add an
additional nuance to the effect that the true presence in question is
something essential, constitutive.

However, when est was replaced by subsistit in, this change affected also
the words in the immediate context. The fact that many of the
Council Fathers may not have been fully aware of this does not affect
the point. A statement can imply more than what its author
consciously and explicitly intended.5 When the first draft said that the
Church designated as Catholic in the Creed was straightforwardly the
Roman Catholic Church, then the two realities were being equated,
and no distinction at all was being made between them. But once
people started to say that the Catholic Church subsisted in the Catholic
Church, then this could only make sense if Catholic Church now had
two different meanings. The final formula is logically possible only if
the two uses of Catholic Church no longer have quite the same sense.
The point stands, whatever the authors were thinking at the time, and
whatever they might have been explicitly intending.
Catholic Church is evidently being used here in two different
senses, a transcendental one and then a categorial one. We begin by
talking about the Church as such, the Church in some kind of absolute
sense, the universal Church. Then we go on to talk about a particular
Church. The universal Church which is designated as Catholic in the
Creed is fully present in the particular Church that is led by the Pope
and by the bishops who are in communion with him. But then this
Roman Catholic Church is no longer the universal Church. Given that
subsistit in has replaced est, the Roman Catholic Church can be

A German example: when the German Basic Law was formulated in 1949, the authors wrote that
everyone was to have a right to the free development of their personality (Article 2). At that point in
history, they were certainly not thinking of the right to freedom of movement. But free development
of the personality is such a wide-ranging concept that we can correctly today see it as incorporating
freedom of movement. The authors of the Law were seeking not to circumscribe the countrys future
within what they could consciously envisage, but really to pave a way to whatever the future might
promise. Anyone invoking this article in support of the right to freedom of movement is perfectly
justified in so doing.
84 Peter Knauer

understood only as one of the particular Churches in which the

universal Church is expressing itself.6 The Church designated in the
Creed as Catholic subsists in the particular Church which, among the
many Christian Churches, happens to be the one calling itself
Moreover, by calling itself Catholic, that particular Church is
setting itself under a norm, a challenge. Being Catholic is something it
has to live up to. Its proclamation has really to reach everyone, to be
something intelligible and convincing to everyone. This challenge of
universality might well appear uncongenial. Perhaps this is why people
normally prefer to stay with Catholic rather than the more normal
universalthe meaning of the Greek work remains unknown to
many people, and it can function simply as a name. We should also
note that the original meanings of the word Catholic (for the whole
earth) and ecumenical (for the whole inhabited world) were in effect
interchangeable. Perhaps the particular mission of the Roman Catholic
Church consists just in serving the unity of all Churches.
The so-called four marks of the Church set out in the Creed
unity, holiness, catholicity, apostolicityare characteristics linked in a
way that is quite indissoluble to the word of God that has come forth in
Jesus Christ himself. It is this word that constitutes the Church as
such, the ecclesia universalis. Faith in Jesus Christ is fundamentally one
single reality, a reality that sanctifies and makes holy, a reality which is
to be proclaimed to all human beings, a reality which proceeds from
the Church established by Jesus on the foundation of the apostles.
None of these four characteristics or marks can be separated from the
faith. Nor does it make sense to say that faith in Jesus Christ can be

The point stands even if there are also uniate Churches in communion with Rome that have their
own institutional structures. The Roman Catholic Church is itself a communion of Churches and
hence described in the Code of Canon Law as an ecclesia universa, a whole Church in the sense of
being a kind of composite. But this is to be distinguished from ecclesia universalis, the universal Church
of Christ, the Church as such. Even as a communion of Churches, an ecclesia universa, the Roman
Catholic Church is still an ecclesia particularis. It is not identical with the ecclesia universalis.
In 2002, Alexandra von Teuffenbach published a dissertation on the meaning of subsistit in Lumen
gentium 8 that has become quite influential in certain circles: Die Bedeutung des subsistit in (LG 8):
Zum Selbstverstndnis der katholischen Kirche (Munich: Utz, 2002). She claims that the phrase subsistit
in is equivalent to est, on the ground that otherwise the clause in the text, although many elements
of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure [extra eius compaginem], would
be meaningless. What she fails to realise is that this clause refers not to the Church of the Creed, but
only to the particular Church known as the Roman Catholic Church. It is rather doubtful that
elements of Christianity can be found outside the Church as meant in the Creed.
The Catholic Church' Subsists in the Catholic Church 85

more or less one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Rather these

characteristics belong to faith in a way that fundamentally admits of no
surpassing. Nor is faith something which can be graded and quantified.
When the disciples ask Jesus for an increase of faith, Jesus explains to
them that faith is not something that can be increased; it is merely a
matter of apprehending what one has in fact already received, however
little the faith may seem:

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, then you would say to
this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it
would obey you.

Deficiency of Faith?
The customary ground for denying that a person is in full ecclesial
communion is the supposition that the person has a deficiency of
faith. At least since Vatican II, Roman Catholics generally recognise
that other Christians too, who believe in Jesus Christ, have been
justified by faith in Baptism and are members of Christs body
(Unitatis redintegratio, 3). Nor is it just individual believers who partake
in Gods grace; the Holy Spirit in person has not refrained from using
their Churches and communities too, though we believe them to be
deficient as means of salvation.8
But then there is an oddity. Neither the fact that we recognise
other Christians as members of Christ, nor the fact that their Churches
have become instruments of the Holy Spirit, seem to suffice without
further ado for such things as eucharistic communion. The point needs
to be rethought in the light of Acts 10:47 (Can anyone withhold the
water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just
as we have?) and 11:17 (If then God gave them the same gift that he
gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I

Luke 17: 5-6. The standard translation begins, If you had faith, a phrase which implies that Jesus is
rebuking the disciples for not having faith at all, even though they have asked him to increase their
faith. But the Greek verb is in the indicative, not the subjunctive. Jesus is not questioning the
disciples implicit claim to have faith, but rather endorsing it, and drawing their attention to the fact
that it makes no sense to speak of increasing it. They only need to realise that they already have it.
Etsi defectus illas pati credimusbut can we really say that it is an object of faith in the full sense that
other Churches suffer from lacks? Credimus here can only be signifying an opinion, rather than faith in
the theological sense.
86 Peter Knauer

could hinder God?). According to these texts, no one can rightly be

excluded from communion who, like us, believes that in the Eucharist
his or her faith lives from Jesus himself as nourishment.
This kind of idea that other people can have taken on board the
Christian faith only to a partial extent depends on the opinion that
faith consists of elements that can be added on to each other, and that
ones collection has to be as complete as possible. Such a conception
arises when faith is made into a kind of catalogue of beliefs, and when
one loses sight of the mutual entailments between the beliefs we hold
in faith. And this way of thinking is perhaps the chief obstacle to
ecumenical understanding: it is like the log in our own eye that we
need to remove before we can set about helping to remove the speck in
anyone elses (Matthew 7:3). But could it not rather be that all the
statements which are truly faith-statements necessarily entail each
other, in such a way that they are always merely the unfolding of one
and the same fundamental mystery: our communion with God, a
communion which consists in our knowing ourselves to be taken up by
Jesus into his relationship with the Father? Thus it was that Irenaeus of
Lyon taught:

Since faith is one and the same, the person who can say much
about it does not have more of it; and the person who can say little
about it does not have less of it.

What holds faith in Jesus Christ together, what makes it numerically

one faith, depends on the fact that to believe in Jesus Christ means to
know oneself, on the basis of Jesus word, to be loved by God with that
same love through which God is related to Him as His own Son from
all eternity. But this is a love that does not find its measure in anything
created, and hence does not become greater or lesser depending on
particular peoples perspectives. One cannot just read off this love of
God from any created reality, because this love is not commensurate
with anything created. It can only come to our knowledge by its being
spoken of in a word; and it can only be apprehended in faith.
By word of God, I mean the word uttered between human beings
through which the faith is passed on that first emerged in Jesus of

Adversus haereses, 1. 10. 2.
The Catholic Church' Subsists in the Catholic Church 87

A Cathedral in Mexico

Nazareth, and that can only be transmitted from faith to faith

(Romans 1:17)faith which itself constitutes the Church.
The content of the Christian message can ultimately be nothing
other than a clarification of how it can claim in any sense at all to be
the word of God. For the claim that a message even could be Gods
word is anything but obvious. How can one possibly claim that the
God on whom all else depends, the God who dwells in
unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), makes the gift of communion
with and of Himself? The idea that Gods own self is given to the world
requires a Trinitarian understanding of God, within which the world is
not the confining measure of Gods love. Gods self-gift to the world
occurs within that love which from all eternity is the Holy Spirit: the
love of the Father for the Son.
The Christian message is the word of God: Gods loving address to
us revealed in human word. But to be able to speak with full
seriousness of the word of God, one needs to invoke Gods
88 Peter Knauer

Incarnation. Only in this context does it make does it make any sense
at all to talk of divine self-communication through the word.
To recognise this love of God which occurs and becomes manifest
in the word of God requires a faith which just is the reality of being
filled with the Holy Spirit. Given such a faith, it is not then just an
additional fact that one happens to be in agreement with all other
believers. A person who has faith in this sense is necessarily in
agreement with everyone else who does.
All realities of the world are such that our knowledge of them
depends on the perspective through which we see them. Other people
see those realities differently, and we can never fully coincide with
other peoples viewpoint. Christian faith, however, is in this respect the
very opposite: if, strictly speaking, agreement with others is possible at
all, then the agreement has to be complete. For what we believe is
something that overshoots earthly perspectives, and is not confined to
the measure of anything created. What we believe is one and the
same: the eternal love of the Father for the Son into which we are
being drawn.
Thus it was that the great theology of the Middle Ages could say
nothing false can be the object of faith [fidei non potest subesse
falsum].10 This sentence only makes sense if it is understood as
entailing the following: it is impossible to make statements of faith in
the sense of expressing Gods self-communication, which are
nevertheless false. For statements of faith in the full sense, statements
expressing Gods self-communication, must be statements in which
there is actually occurring the very reality of which they are speaking:
Gods loving self-gift to us in the interpersonal word through which
faith is passed on. And if the statements can really be understood in
this kind of way, then they are necessarily true of themselves [ex
sese].11 Moreover, to claim that other things are matters of faith in the
Christian sense of the word is not to make a meaningful claim which is

The phrase is quoted by the Council of Trent in its Decree on Justification, n. 9.
The formulation comes from Vatican I, Pastor aeternus, n. 4: if the Pope defines a doctrine in the
realm of faith and (its application to) morals (this is the absolutely necessary condition for infallibility)
as something to be held by the whole Church, his definitions are of themselves, and not by the
consent of the Church, irreformable. The application of faith to morals (see Lumen gentium, 25)
expresses the truth that only what is done in communion with God can be good before Hima
statement that is nothing other than the doctrine of justification. Moral norms as such (what tradition
calls natural law) are the object of reason, and cannot be taught with the infallibility of faith.
The Catholic Church' Subsists in the Catholic Church 89

just wrong, but rather a claim that is meaningless, and therefore

unintelligible, from the very outset. If a statement can be false, then,
however well-intentioned it may be, it cannot be understood as
expressing Gods self-gift. It is on the basis of this principle that faith is
maintained in its perfection and purity, not by Church officials
checking up on peoples orthodoxy and requiring oaths of fidelity.
In Lumen gentium 12, we read: The entire body of the faithful
[universitas fidelium], anointed as they are by the Holy One (see 1 John
2:20 and 2:27) cannot err in matters of belief. When, therefore, the
Council at the same time also ascribes true faith in Jesus Christ also to
other Christians (as we have seen in Unitatis redintegratio),
then they too must belong to this whole body of believers who, Faith just
as such, cannot err. Why is it impossible for those who have is being
faith to err? Because faith just is being filled with the Holy filled with
Spirit, and it depends on a word that can only be understood the Holy
as true on the basis of itself of itself [ex sese]. This word can Spirit
only be speaking of something which is actually happening
within itself: Gods loving self-gift to us. This word is not reporting on
something else happening outside itself, with the consequence that its
truth or falsehood depends on whether it is performing that task
correctly. It is speaking about what is happening in itself as it actually
spoken, and therefore can only be either true or unintelligible.
One, holy, Catholic and apostolicthese are qualities that belong
not only to a particular Church but to Christian faith as such, and in a
way that admits of no surpassing. And only on the basis of this more
fundamental reality can our own Roman Catholic Church attribute
these qualities also to itself.

The Church and the Ongoing Transmission of Gods Word

The one Church of Jesus Christ, which we profess in faith to be one,
holy, catholic and apostolic, consists in the ongoing event of this word
of God being handed on, this word in which God gives us Himself. For
the idea of a word of God only makes sense if we understand it as
something which cannot be surpassed and cannot be supplemented.
The word of God is the event of Gods self-imparting in the
interpersonal word which is the handing on of faith. From the outset,
this event is something communal, indeed ecclesial. No one possesses
the faith from his or her own resources; everyone has to receive it as
90 Peter Knauer

something proclaimed by those who believe already. And the fact that
even the faith held by all people together, and thus the faith of the
whole community, nevertheless comes from hearing finds its expression
in ecclesial ministry: in those who relate to the others as a whole (to
the body as such, not just to individuals) in the person of Christ as
Head [in persona Christi Capitis]. It follows that where there is real and
effective Christian faith, the structure of ministry willed by Christ is
necessarily being preserved unfailinglyto use the expression of
Lumen gentium, 27.
However, this continuing transmission of the word of God occurs
in different language-communities. It is not just that people speak
different native languages, but also that even within the same native
languages different theological languages are used. You can compare
this with the use of arabic and roman numeralsthey are different,
but you can count perfectly with either, even if arabic symbols are
easier to handle.
It is in terms of such an analogy that we need to think about the
different particular Churches. If they are Churches at all, they are
living out of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It follows that the
one Church of Jesus Christ subsists in them. Certainly this Church of
Jesus Christ subsists in the Church that calls itself Roman Catholic,
and this Church can rightly claim to represent the fullness of faith in
Jesus Christ. But that does not give the Roman Catholic Church any
right to question the real presence of the very same one Catholic
Church of Christ also in other Christian communities. For is it simply
impossible to believe in Jesus Christ in a deficient way. If faith means
belief in Gods self-gift, then you either really have it or else you do not
have it at all. No one can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 12:3)
But surely, it might be objected, there remain wide differences of
faith between the different Christian Churches. Are there not many
Churches which deny claims that the Roman Church makes, for
example regarding papal infallibility? Are they not lacking in what the
Roman Church sees as necessary for its very existence: the papacy and
other such things? And if you answer yes to these questions, it seems
The Catholic Church' Subsists in the Catholic Church 91

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow

that it is only in a diminished form that the one Church of Christ can
subsist in Churches separated from Rome.12
But there are answers to these objections. If it is really the case
that a Church believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God denies what
for another Church is a truth of the faith, one can only assume that
the same words are being understood by these two Churches in
different ways, and that both, when understood in their own terms, are
right. To take an example. In the Lutheran Church we find the
principle scripture alonesola scriptura; this sounds like a denial of
the Catholic principle that the fullness of revelation occurs only
through scripture, tradition and magisterium together. But even such
a simple word as scripture has a different meaning in the two

John Paul II in fact himself wrote of the elements of sanctification and truth present in the other
Christian Communities and says that to the extent that these elements are found in other Christian
Communities, the one Church of Christ is effectively present in them (Ut unum sint, 11). The only
remaining question here is whether there can therefore actually be such a thing as a differentially
graded, perhaps only defective, presence of the one Church of Christ in a particular Church? Can
there be a true bond in the Holy Spirit between the different Churches (as there is said to be in Lumen
gentium, 15) that is nevertheless in itself deficient?
92 Peter Knauer

expressions. Scripture in the Catholic version means scripture that

still needs to be interpreted properly. And the meaning of this
scripture will be the reality of Church, the event of faiths being
handed on, faith that even today has to be proclaimed by a
magisterium. In the Lutheran formula, scripture means scripture that
has already come to be understood in the sense in which it is the word
of God. To scripture understood in this sense, nothing can be added,
because the word of God is by definition the ultimate word about all
The only point that Protestant Christians deny regarding papal
infallibility is the possible distortion that, so far, has not been officially
removed, whereby papal infallibility is automatically already present if
the Pope just feels that he has got something right and on that basis
lays claim to infallibility. Up till now, the Roman Catholic Church has
failed to name the infallibility criteria to which the Pope himself must
conform if he is really to be speaking infallibly rather than
As regards the impression that Protestant Churches completely
lack a magisterium and other structures of the Catholic Church, it is
also worth employing a way of thinking that is ecumenically helpful. It
is certainly the case that many structures in the Catholic Church are,
of necessity, possible structures. But one cannot go on from this basis
to declare them absolutely necessary. They can thus also remain latent,
until some special need reactivates them. Conciliarity, for example,
belongs to the essence of the Church, and therefore it is of necessity
possible for the Church to hold Councils. But there have been
centuries when there was no Council, without this meaning that the
Church had ceased to exist.
The different particular Churches, in all of which the one Church
of Jesus Christ subsists, obscure the reality of this subsistence to the
extent that they fail to acknowledge this subsistence in the other
particular Churches. It seems to be precisely this which hinders even
the Roman Catholic Church itselfso Unitatis redintegratio 4from
expressing in actual life her full catholicity in all her bearings. It
follows that Peters pastoral primacy, once he himself has been
converted (see Luke 22:32), consists in working not for his own
recognition, but rather for the recognition of how the one Catholic
The Catholic Church' Subsists in the Catholic Church 93

Church subsists in all communions that believe in Jesus Christ. His own
honour comes to be only in the honouring of all Churches.13
The criterion for Christian unity can only be faith in Jesus Christ as
Son of God, as empowering our own communion with God though our
participation in his relationship to the Father. Whoever is not with me is
against me. (Matthew 12:30) However, in other matters, we have to say
of anyone who is not actively struggling against us, and not denying the
rightness of our faith, whoever is not against us is for us (Mark 9:40).
This passage is making the point that others who are driving out demons
in Jesus name are not to be prevented on the ground that they are not
one of us. Jesus himself denies his disciples the right to hinder them.
To see the matter in these terms is not to render the Roman
Catholic Church less important. For once you stop seeing its grace as
confined to itself, and start seeing that grace as making the Roman
Catholic Churchs reality as a particular Church something that goes
beyond itself, as making visible something which ultimately it has in
common with all Christian Churches, then its importance and value
becomes all the greater.
Something similar happens with the sacraments. In Holy
Communion, we are united with Christ in the deepest way possible. But
this union does not remain confined to the moment of receiving
Communion; rather, the momentary act of Communion expresses a
bond we have with Christ that simultaneously expresses how deep our
bond with Christ is at every moment. Our faith is always living from his
very self, just as our earthly life is being nourished by what we eat and
drink. The actual dignity of the Eucharist consists precisely in this
pointing beyond itself. And so it is also with our Roman Catholic

Peter Knauer SJ is a German Jesuit who from 1969 until 2003 taught
fundamental theology at Sankt Georgen, the Jesuit Faculty of Catholic Theology
in Frankfurt-am-Main. He is now a collaborator in OCIPE (the Jesuit European
Office) and in the European Catholic Centre (a pastoral centre for employees of
the EU) in Brussels.

Compare Vatican I, Pastor aeternus, n. 3, which quotes a letter of Gregory the Great: My honour is
the honour of the universalis ecclesiae. My honour is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I
receive true honour, when it is denied to none of those to whom honour is due.

Ian M. Randall

What a Friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear:
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

This hymn, written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven, who had studied at

Trinity College, Dublin, and later emigrated to Canada, evokes the
heart of evangelical spirituality. Evangelicals are Trinitarian, but their
central concern is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The
American evangelist and singer Ira D. Sankey added a tune to
Scrivens words, and the hymn became so well known that it was
parodied by soldiers as When this bloody war is over/Oh, how happy I
will be.1
The evangelical movement, of which Joseph Scriven was a part,
has its origins in the Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century.2
Although the evangelicalism that emerged in the eighteenth century
was led in England principally by two Church of England clergymen,
John Wesley and George Whitefield, it had strong links with the
Protestant Reformation and with the English Puritan movement of the
seventeenth century. Evangelicals followed Martin Luther in preaching
the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, and in calling for

Gordon Giles, The Music of Praise: Through the Church Year with the Great Hymns (Oxford: Bible
Reading Fellowship, 2002), 81-85. For more see Ian M. Randall, What a Friend We Have in Jesus
(London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005).
David W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s
(London: Routledge, 1995), 20.

The Way, 45/3 (July 2006), 95-112

96 Ian M. Randall

adherence to Scripture.3 Like John Calvin and the English Puritans

they stressed the practical outworking of faith in the sanctified life.
However, the Puritans tended to see a settled, well-grounded
assurance of personal salvation as something relatively rare.4 By
contrast, the evangelical leaders considered that believers could
normally expect to have an assured sense of personal salvation through
a relationship with God in Christ.
The most prominent theologian of the early evangelical movement
was Jonathan Edwards, a scholarly Congregational pastor in
Northampton, Massachusetts, who was known as much for the
powerful awakenings that took place through his ministry as for his
profound theological thought. Edwards brought reason and
Holy affections experience together. In so doing he was a primary shaper of
are not heat evangelical spirituality. In Edwards phrase, holy affections
without light constituted a great part of true religion. The Holy
Scriptures, he asserted, do everywhere place religion very
much in the affections; such as fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy,
sorrow, gratitude, compassion, zeal.5 Yet for Edwards evangelical
spirituality was not simply a matter of feelings, however pious. As he
put it: Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise
from the information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction
that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge.6 Through
powerful preachers and writers, desire for these holy affections spread
As I see it, evangelicalism is essentially a strand of spirituality.8
Recent studies of evangelicalism have generally been based on David

For the thinking of the Reformation see Alister E. McGrath, Reformation Thought (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1993).
James I. Packer, Among Gods Giants: Aspects of Puritan Christianity (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1991),
Jonathan Edwards, Concerning the Nature of the Religious Affections and Their Importance in
Religion, in The Select Works of Jonathan Edwards, volume 3 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1961), 31.
Edwards, Religious Affections, 192.
Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys (Leicester:
Inter-Varsity Press, 2003).
For further detail, see my study of evangelical spirituality in England between the two world wars:
Evangelical Experiences: A Study in the Spirituality of English Evangelicalism, 1918-1939 (Carlisle:
Paternoster, 1999). My analysis followed Philip Sheldrakes suggestion (see Spirituality and History
[London: SPCK, 1991], 52) that spirituality is concerned with the conjunction of theology,
communion with God, and practical Christianity.
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 97

Bebbingtons account of the movement as comprising all those who

stress conversion, the Bible, the cross, and activism,9 and this article
will use Bebbingtons framework, paying particular attention to
connections with the Church Catholic. It must be noted, however,
that in the twentieth century the Pentecostal and charismatic
movements, with their emphasis on gifts of the Holy Spirit such as
prophecy, speaking in tongues and healing, have significantly reshaped
evangelical experience.10

John Wesley, who shaped much early evangelical thinking, recorded in
his diary for 24 May 1738 the following words, which were to become
among the most famous in the story of Christian experience:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate

Street, where one was reading Luthers Preface to the Epistle to the
Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the
change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt
my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone,
for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken
away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and
death . I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in
my heart.

This account, describing as it does how John Wesley came to a

point of personal reliance on Christs work on the cross for salvation,
later came to be seen as describing a typical evangelical conversion,
although in one sense it is less a conversion than an experience of
assurance as regards salvation.12 In 1735, three years before this event
in Aldersgate Street, George Whitefield, who with Wesley was central
to the rise of evangelicalism, had had a similar experience of

Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 2-17.
See Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in
the Twenty-First Century (London: Cassell, 1996) and Walter J. Hollenweger, Pentecostalism: Origins
and Development Worldwide (Peabody, Ma: Hendrickson, 1997).
The Works of John Wesley, volume 18, Journal and Diaries I (1735-38), edited by William R. Ward
and Reginald P. Heitzenrater (Nashville: Abingdon, 1988), 249-250.
For a full discussion of the meaning of John Wesleys experience see Henry D. Rack, Reasonable
Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism (London: Epworth, 1989), 144-157.
98 Ian M. Randall

evangelical conversion.13 John

Wesley, his brother Charles, and
Whitefield, had been members of
a small group in Oxford in the
early 1730s called Methodists, or
the Holy Club, composed of
people who wanted to take their
religion seriously. In order to
understand their later evangelical
experienceCharles Wesley had
such an experience a few days
before Johnit is important to
trace a number of broader spir-
itual influences which led to their
conversions and shaped their
John and Charles Wesley had
been shaped by three differing
John Wesley traditions, partly through their
family. One was the Puritan trad-
ition, which spawned English Dissenting Christianity. Although John
and Charles Wesleys parents were staunchly high Church of England,
they came from Puritan stock.14 The second stream of influence on the
Wesleys and other early evangelicals was Catholic and high church
devotion, which set out rigorous demands for the spiritual life. In 1725
John Wesley read Jeremy Taylors Holy Living and Dying (1651), which
made a profound impact on him, as a result of which he resolved to
dedicate his life to God. A year later he read The Imitation of Christ,
which directed him to the religion of the heart. He was also affected
by the writings of the high churchman William Law, such as A Serious
Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728), which helped to create within
him moral longings. A final element in the evangelical mix was a more

For George Whitefield, see Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of
Modern Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans, 1991).
Dissenters who were influential in the early eighteenth century included preachers such as the
Congregationalist Philip Doddridge, who wrote about his conversion in the famous hymn O happy
day, and the even more influential hymn-writer Isaac Watts. See Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Puritan
Spirit: Essays and Addresses (London: Epworth, 1967).
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 99

mystical spirituality, such as that expressed in the book The Life of God
in the Soul of Man, by Henry Scougal of Aberdeen, a Scottish
Episcopalian.15 The evangelical stress on a changed life thus drew from
existing streams of spirituality.
The next generation of evangelicals continued to make wider
connections. John Newton, who had experienced a dramatic
conversion when he was a slave-ship captain, and who later became a
Church of England clergyman, had a significant bridge-building role.16
His own conversion was expressed in the very personal words of
assurance that we find in the most popular of the hymns he wrote:
Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now Im found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relievd;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believd.
Both slave-traders, such as Newton, and slaves, such as Olaudah
Equiano, experienced the same evangelical conversion. In 1789
Equiano, who was by then free, wrote about his remarkable story in his
widely read Interesting Narrative. After his freedom he had tried to find
spiritual truth in many places, and as part of his search began to attend
evangelical services. The result was that he had an instantaneous
conversion, in which, as he put it, he saw clearly, with the eye of faith,
the crucified Saviour bleeding on the cross on Mount Calvary. This
vision convinced him that he was a great debtor to sovereign free
grace.18 Such testimonies express the classic evangelical understanding
of conversion as a personal encounter with Christ.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who became known as the Prince of
Preachers of the Victorian era, described his own conversion in

Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 37-38. See also Arthur S. Wood, The Burning Heart:
John Wesley, Evangelist (Exeter: Paternoster, 1967), chapter 3.
Douglas B. Hindmarsh, John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition: Between the Conversions of
Wesley and Wilberforce (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996), chapter 4.
Hindmarsh, John Newton, chapter 7, especially 276-277.
Noll, Rise of Evangelicalism, 272.
100 Ian M. Randall

similarly classic terms. He went to a Primitive Methodist chapel one

Sunday as a fifteen-year-old. Spurgeon later wrote:

In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people.

[A] very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of
that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. The text was:
THE EARTH. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my
heart, he said, Young man, you look very miserable . But if you
obey now, this moment, you will be saved. Young man, look to
Jesus Christ. I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what
else he saidI did not take notice of itI was so possessed with
that one thought. [W]hen I heard that word Look!, what a
charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost
have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the
darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun

Spurgeon was subsequently baptized by immersion and became the

most famous Baptist minister of the nineteenth century. In his ministry
at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant and Castle, London, where
he preached to 5,000 people every Sunday morning and evening until
his death in 1892, the strongly evangelistic Spurgeon always stressed
conversion.20 But although Spurgeon was a committed evangelical and
Baptist, he opposed the kind of conversionism which aimed to boost
only one denomination. In 1886, speaking about unity, he argued that
unity was not achieved by one church calling itself the Church of
Christwhether Roman Catholic, Anglican or Plymouth Brethren
and he condemned party spirit and bitter exclusiveness.21
In the twentieth century, Billy Graham emerged as the leading
evangelist within the world-wide evangelical community. Graham had
to make a choice whether he would cooperate only with evangelicals,
or whether he would identify himself with other Christian leaders. In
1946, when he was a little-known figure in Britain, Graham accepted
an invitation from Ernest Barnes, who was then the Bishop of
Birmingham and viewed by some as an extreme liberal, to talk to a

C. H. Spurgeon, Spurgeons Autobiography, volume 1, 1834-1854 (London: Passmore and Alabaster,
1897), 88-89.
See Mike Nicholls, C. H. Spurgeon: The Pastor Evangelist (Didcot: Baptist Historical Society, 1992).
The Sword and the Trowel (October 1886), 514-516.
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 101

Billy Graham with Pope John Paul II

diocesan gathering on evangelism.22 In 1948, Youth for Christ leaders,

including Graham, decided that young people should not be
discouraged from adhering to churches that were not evangelical since
the presence of those recently converted fostered renewal.
It was during his huge London meetings of 1954 that Grahams
support broadened significantly. There seems little doubt that the
approval of Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Leslie
Weatherhead, Minister of the City Temple, London, affected Grahams
thinking. Weatherhead was widely quoted for his argument that what
really mattered was not a particular theological tradition but Grahams
ability in gathering in the people we have all missed and getting them
to the point of decision.23 Grahams acceptance in 1955 of an
invitation from the Protestant Council in New York to speak under its
auspices enraged fundamentalist evangelicals, but encouraged those

John C. Pollock, Billy Graham: The Authorised Biography (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966),
64. For Barnes, see Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 207-208.
William Martin, The Billy Graham Story: A Prophet with Honour (London: Hutchinson, 1992), 181.
102 Ian M. Randall

evangelicalsthe majoritywho were committed to a more inclusive

evangelical spirituality.24

The Bible and Prayer

The second major feature of evangelical spirituality is serious personal
engagement with the Bible, often combined with personal prayer. John
Wesley often referred to himself as a homo unius libri, a man of one
book. In the preface to his sermons he spoke of the way of salvation as
being written down in a book, and he continued: O give me that
book! At any price give me the Book of God! I have it. Here is
knowledge enough for me. 25 Yet this exalted estimation of the Bible
was not one that Wesley came to hold only as a result of his evangelical
conversion in 1738. As early as 1729 he and others in Oxford had
wanted to be, as it was put, downright Bible-Christians.26 For Wesley,
the Christian life was nourished by the Bible and by prayer. Prayer
included the use of words to express adoration, but also silence and the
sense of Gods presence.27 Wesley preferred spontaneous prayer to set
forms. In giving instructions about visiting the sick, he advised that
every visit should conclude with prayer, and continued:

If you cannot yet pray without a form you may use some of those
composed by Mr Spinckes [A Complete Manual of Private
Devotions], or any other pious writer. But the sooner you break
through this backwardness the better. Ask of God, and he will soon
open your mouth.

Hymns have regularly expressed central themes in evangelical

spirituality. An outstanding example is Charles Wesleys And can it
be?, with its expression of heart-felt praise and wonder at what Christ
has done:

George M. Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand
Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans, 1987), 162-165.
The Works of John Wesley, volume 1, Sermons I, 1-33, edited by Albert C. Outler (Nashville:
Abingdon, 1984), 105; see also Wood, The Burning Heart, 211.
The Works of John Wesley, volume 8, Addresses, Essays, Letters, edited by Thomas Jackson (Kansas:
Beacon Hill, 1978), 348.
Gordon Mursell, English Spirituality: From 1700 to the Present Day (London: SPCK, 2001), 96.
On Visiting the Sick, in The Works of John Wesley, volume 3, Sermons III, 71-114, edited by Albert
C. Outler (Nashville: Abingdon, 1984), 392.
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 103

Tis mystery all! Th Immortal dies:

Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
Tis mercy all! Let earth adore!
Let angel minds inquire no more.

This is followed by a typical evangelical expression of assurance:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Charles Wesley is estimated to have written over 8,000 hymns, an

average of more than one for each week of his car eer. In introducing A
Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People of God Called Methodists
(1780), John Wesley spoke of the book as expressing experimental and
practical divinity. John Wesley, who liked bold songs of assurance,
encouraged his brother (although he once described some of his
brothers hymns as namby-pambical), and in fact it was through the
hymns written by Charles, marked as they were by vibrant classical
theology and splendid poetry, as much as through Methodist
preaching, that the evangelical message spread. The hymns were also a
means of prayer, with a section of the Collection of Hymns devoted to
intercession for the world.29
Although the Bible has been central to evangelical life, it is not the
case that evangelicals have always held to a rigid theological position
regarding the inspiration of the Bible. The primary concern has been
with a living relationship with God through Scripture. In the
nineteenth century Charles Simeon, who influenced many Cambridge
undergraduates and others throughout his 53 years of ministry at Holy
Trinity, Cambridge, wrote that in the Bible,

James M. Gordon, Evangelical Spirituality (London: SPCK, 1991), 33-35; Noll, Rise of Evangelicalism,
260-269; Mursell, English Spirituality, 97.
104 Ian M. Randall

no error in doctrine or other important matter is allowed; yet

there are inexactnesses in reference to philosophical and scientific
matters, because of its popular style.

He also argued that biblical writings reflected the characters of their

writers. Some were poetic; others were prosaic and plain.30 One of
Simeons concerns was that Christians should begin each day with
prayer and bible study.
For C. H. Spurgeon, the reading of scripture required a quite
particular attitude. Like George Whitefield, his hero, Spurgeon
encouraged those reading the Bible to take time over it. I am afraid
that this is a magazine-reading age, a newspaper-reading age, a
periodical-reading age, but not so much a Bible-reading age as it ought
to be, he once commented. Serious reading of this kind involved
meditation and prayer. Above all, Spurgeon believed that scripture
should be read in the presence of Christ. This is how he put it, in
rather mystical language:

He [Christ] leans over me, he puts his finger along the lines, I can
see his pierced hand: I will read it as in his presence. I will read it,
knowing that he is the substance of itthat he is the proof of this
book as well as the writer of it; the sum of this Scripture as well as
the author of it . You will get at the soul of Scripture when you
can keep Jesus with you while you are reading.

Yet this did not mean that scholarly approaches to the Bible were
rejected by Spurgeon. Speaking in 1874 to fellow ministers, Spurgeon
insisted that our main business is to study the Scriptures, and
suggested that evangelical pastors had to be greater Biblical scholars.31

Abner W. Brown, Recollections of the Conversation Parties of the Revd Charles Simeon (London:
Hamilton, Adams and Co., 1863), cited in David K. Gillett, Trust and Obey: Explorations in Evangelical
Spirituality (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1993), 134-135. One of Simeons concerns was that
Christians should begin each day with prayer and Bible study. Despite his best intentions, however, he
himself overslept on several occasions, especially in winter. He once decided he would pay a fine of
half a crown to his college servant when he overslept. A few days later, lying comfortably in bed, he
reconsidered this plan. His next decision was that when he overslept he would throw a guinea into the
river. This, apparently, he did, but only oncebefore deciding that he could not afford to pave the
river-bed with gold. See Handley C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1948
[1892]), 66.
C. H. Spurgeon, How to Read the Bible, sermon on Matthew 12: 3-7, The Metropolitan Tabernacle
Pulpit, volume 25 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1879) no. 1503, 634; The Sword and the Trowel
(May 1874), 221. This latter address was later published in C. H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry:
Addresses to Ministers and Students (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1900), 40-66.
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 105

In the twentieth century P. T. Forsyth, the leading Congregational

theologian of the time, also drew together prayer and Bible reading. He
spoke of the need for serious, thinking, private prayer prayer with
the historic sense, church-nurtured and Bible-fed.32 Spontaneity in
prayer could, said Forsyth, be gruesome, as when a young man began
his prayer (in Forsyths hearing) with the words O God, we have come
to have a chat with thee. Prayer and theology, Forsyth argued, must
interpenetrate, so that each would keep the other great, and wide, and
mighty.33 For him prayer was an art to be learned. Associate much,
Forsyth advised, referring to the classic traditions of prayer, with the
great masters especially with the Bible; and chiefly with Christ.
Cultivate his Holy Spirit. He is the grand master of Gods art and
mystery in communing with man. 34
Samuel Chadwick, a powerful figure within the Methodist holiness
constituency in the early twentieth century, used Catholic devotional
manuals in his private prayers, especially during Lent, and had a
particular interest in the spirituality of the mystics. In the second half
of the twentieth century, John Stott, Rector of All Souls Church,
Langham Place, London, evangelicalisms most influential thinker,
advocated daily devotion as an extremely valuable discipline that had
brought untold benefit to many generations of Christians.35

The Cross
Evangelicals, despite what their language sometimes implies, are surely
not alone among Christians in having a devotion to the cross. What is
distinctive about evangelical devotion? Perhaps one distinctively
evangelical feature is the link which evangelicals make between the
cross and personal conversion. This is brought out well in the hymn by
Charles Wesley, O for a thousand tongues to sing, which was the first
hymn in the later Wesley hymnbooks and was intended, significantly,
for the anniversary day of ones conversion. The opening expresses
general praise and prayer:

P. T. Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer (London: Kelly, 1916), 77.
Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer, 118.
Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer, 105.
John R. W. Stott, Understanding the Bible (London: Scripture Union, 1972), 244.
106 Ian M. Randall

O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemers praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!
But then the focus moves to Christs redemption, and in particular to
how it availed for me.
He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.
For Evangelicals there is also an important connection between the
unique event of the cross and our continuing to receive the love of
God in Christ. This is powerfully expressed in the hymn Just as I am,
written in 1835 by Charlotte Elliott, which became one of the most-
used hymns in the English language.37 The sentiments were drawn from
the words of a Swiss evangelist, Cesar Malan, who had been
instrumental in Elliotts evangelical conversion. Although this hymn
has often been used in evangelistic settings, for example by Billy
Graham, Elliott wrote it when she wasas a Christiansuffering from
depression and doubt. She decided to write a hymn which focused on
divine acceptance through the cross. These are the first two verses:
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

David Gillett suggests that there are parallels here with Roman
Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.39

Frederick C. Gill, Charles Wesley: The First Methodist (London: Lutterworth, 1964), 72.
Gillett, Trust and Obey, 78, citing Julians Dictionary of Hymnology.
Frank W. Boreham, A Late Lark Singing (London: Epworth, 1945).
Gillett, Trust and Obey, 79.
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 107

A number of evangelical opinion-

formers have been willing to draw explicitly
from Catholic devotion in thinking about
the cross, who by the late nineteenth cen-
tury was the leading international speaker
connected with the annual evangelical
Keswick Convention, spoke in mystical
terms of the cross as fresh today, with the
nails not rusted or blunted, and he could
deduce from the mystery of the indwelling
Christ that every Christian was a mystic.40 In
a talk to an Evangelical Alliance audience
in 1901, Meyer acknowledged his indebted-
ness to saintly mystics.41 These included Francis of Assisi, Brother
Lawrence and Madame Guyon.42 Another Keswick speaker of the same
era, Handley Moule, who became Bishop of Durham, commended
meditation on the cross at communion and, more controversially,
commended disciplines often associated with Roman Catholic
spirituality, such as fasting and confession. I shall not be suspected of
any lack of loyalty to my most dear Mother Church, Catholic and
Reformed, said Moule, referring to the Anglican Church, if I say here
that the Roman Catholic Church has some important lessons to teach
us.43 We might in this context recall what B. L . Manning, Senior Tutor
of Jesus College, Cambridge, and a Congregational medieval historian,
wrote in 1942: So in piety, do extremes agree: Catholic and
Evangelical meet, and kiss one another at the Cross.44
For C.H.Spurgeon the celebration of Holy Communion was an
essential means of encounter with the crucified Christ. Spurgeon often
preached on the Lords Supper, which he celebrated at least weekly. A
volume of his communion addresses has a preface which notes that a

F. B. Meyer, At the Gates of the Dawn (London: James Clarke, 1910), 74; Frederick B. Meyer, The
Souls Pure Intention (London: Bagster, 1906), 45.
F. B. Meyer, Moses: The Servant of God (London: Morgan and Scott, 1893), 99; an address given to
the Annual Evangelical Alliance Conference in November 1901, The Evangelical Alliance Quarterly,
11 (January 1902), 206.
F. B. Meyer, introduction to George W. Robinson, The Philosophy of the Atonement and other Sermons
(London: Dent, 1912); Keswick Week (1924), 156.
H. C. G. Moule, The Call of Lent to Penitence, Discipline and Christ (London: SPCK, 1917), 65, 68, 71-72.
B. L. Manning, The Hymns of Wesley and Watts: Five Informal Papers (London: Epworth, 1942), 133.
108 Ian M. Randall

number were delivered to the little companies of Christians who

gathered around the communion table in Spurgeons sitting room at
Menton, in the south of France, where he went regularly to build up
his health or recuperate from illness.45 For Spurgeon there was a real
presence of Christ at the Supper, and fellowship with Christ was
central. Speaking at Menton on the subject I will give you rest,
Spurgeon affirmed:

by faith, I see our Lord standing in our midst, and I hear Him
say, with voice of sweetest music, first to all of us together, and then
to each one individually, I will give you rest. May the Holy Spirit
bring to each of us the fulness of the rest and peace of God!

Evangelical activism flowed from evangelical belief in the need for
conversion, specifically through personal appropriation of Christs work
on the cross. Thus Charles Wesley, for example, made a point of
speaking about Christ to fellow-passengers when travelling by coach,
encouraging them to make a personal response. Once a lady was so
offended that she threatened to beat him; but on another occasion
Charles so impressed another passenger that the coach stopped for a
time of prayer. Charles recorded: We sang and shouted all the way to
Oxford.47 Here we have the stress on active personal witness with the
aim of personal conversion. Another expression of this activism was a
commitment to world mission. This was not newthe Jesuits were, of
course, involved in world mission in the sixteenth century, and indeed
Henry Venn, the full-time Secretary from 1846 of the (evangelical
Anglican) Church Missionary Society, wrote a life of Francis Xavier.48
Mission also included action for social change. Evangelical lay people
such as Hannah More and William Wilberforce, both of whom had
been influenced by John Newton, became known for their practical
expressions of evangelical faith.

C. H. Spurgeon, Till He Come: Communion Meditations and Addresses (London: Passmore and
Alabaster, 1894), preface
C. H. Spurgeon, I Will Give You Rest, in Till He Come, 197.
Gill, Charles Wesley, 75.
Henry Venn, The Missionary Life and Labours of Francis Xavier, Taken from His Own Correspondence
(London: Longman, Green, 1862).
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 109

What is striking is how often evangelical activism was nourished by

a rich spirituality. Hannah More, whose main work was in education,
believed that the hour of prayer or meditation at the beginning of the
day would consecrate the day as a whole.49 Wilberforce, who became
an MP in 1780 at the age of 21, read Philip Doddridges Rise
and Progress of Religion in the Soul in 1784-1785 and A rich
experienced an evangelical conversion.50 In 1797 he published spirituality
his very influential A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious often
System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in nourished
This Country Contrasted with Real Christianity. This book, evangelical
which advocated a greater sense of moral responsibility, saw activism
the basis of such reform in a turn from nominal Christianity to
real Christianity.51 Wilberforces campaign against slavery, on which his
reputation primarily rests, was nourished by his relationship with John
Wesley. Wesley published his Thoughts on Slavery in 1774, and his last
letter was to Wilberforce urging action against the execrable villainy
of the slave trade. For Wesley the campaign was a spiritual one, in
which Wilberforce needed divine help; otherwise he would be worn
out by the opposition of men and devils.52
Socio-political action by evangelicals increased as they grew in
strength in the nineteenth century. Josephine Butler, who campaigned
successfully in the 1880s for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases
Acts, under which prostitutes were given health inspections while no
action was taken regarding their clients, spoke of those who supported
her by prayer during debates in the House of Commons. Butler pressed
for the age of consent for lawful sexual intercourse to be raised from
twelve to sixteen (her research in Liverpool showed that of 9,000
prostitutes, 1,500 were under fifteen), and this goal was achieved in
1885. She believed her campaigns advanced when they were openly
baptized, so to speak, in the name of Christ, and she thought she had

Gordon, Evangelical Spirituality, 5, citing Jeremy and Margaret Collingwood, Hannah More (Oxford:
Lion, 1990), 133.
For William Wilberforce, see John C. Pollock, Wilberforce: Gods Statesman (Eastbourne: Kingsway,
William Wilberforce, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the
Higher and Middle Classes in this Country Contrasted with Real Christianity, edited by Vincent Edmunds
(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989).
The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley, edited by John Telford, volume 8 (London: Epworth, 1960
[1931]), 265.
110 Ian M. Randall

observed in the worldly atmosphere of Parliament something new

signs of a consciousness of a spiritual strife going on.53 Ministers such
as C.H.Spurgeon called for evangelicals to be politically active. Prior
to one general election, Spurgeon wrote and distributed leaflets in
Lambeth and Southwark urging voters not to re-elect their
Conservative MPs, but to support the Liberal candidates. He wrote:

Are we to have another six years of Tory rule? This is just now the
question. Are we to go on invading and slaughtering ? How
many wars may we reckon upon between now and 1886? What
quantity of killing will be done in that time, and how many of our
weaker neighbours will have their houses burned and their fields
ravaged by this Christian (?) nation? Let those who rejoice in War
vote for the Tories; but we hope they will not find a majority in

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the social vision that
had characterized nineteenth-century evangelicals gave way to a fear
that social involvement diluted the pure gospel. Thus in 1949 Basil
Atkinson, a leading statesman behind the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate
Christian Union, stated that the only work given to the Church was
evangelization. Social ministry, as an end in itself, was rejected.55 But in
the second half of the century evangelicals again became active in
social transformation as well as evangelization. As they did so they
recognised the common ground shared with Catholics. In 1994 a core
group of seven Roman Catholics and eight evangelical Protestants in
the USA issued a historic 8,000-word declaration entitled
Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the
Third Millennium (ECT). Recognising that evangelicals and Catholics
constitute the growing edge of the missionary expansion at present
and, most likely, in the century ahead, it sought, without downplaying

Millicent G. Fawcett and Ethel M. Turner, Josephine Butler: Her Work and Principles and their
Meaning for the Twentieth Century (London: Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, 1927), 99-100;
compare Lisa S. Nolland, A Victorian Christian Feminist: Josephine Butler, the Prostitutes and God
(Carlisle: Paternoster, 2004).
Reproduced in Nicholls, C. H. Spurgeon, 65.
David W. Bebbington, Decline and Resurgence of Social Concern, in Evangelical Faith and Public
Zeal: Evangelicals and Society in Britain 1780-1980, edited by John Wolffe (London: SPCK, 1995), 175-
Evangelical Spirituality and the Church Catholic 111

the differences, to set out areas of common affirmation, hope, action

and witness.56

The evangelical story has been one in which conversion, the Bible, the
cross and active service have been central. Evangelicals have regularly
preached on these themes; they inform, too, the hymns and songs both
of classical figures such as Charles Wesley and John Newton, and of
more contemporary song-writers such as Graham Kendrick and Matt
Redman. For Redman, when we come to God in worship, we focus in a
particular way on Christ, the crucified saviour. We see,

For the full text see First Things, 43 (May 1994), 15-22:
112 Ian M. Randall

the lion and the lamb, the sinless friend of sinners, who terrifies
and befriends, thunders and whispers, reveals and conceals his
footstool is the earth but he bent down and washed the earth off
the feet of his disciples.

Nevertheless, as evangelicals have explored other traditions of

spirituality, they have also discovered common ground. In 1996 the
evangelical theologian James Packer wrote a book entitled Evangelicals
and Catholics Together: Working Towards a Common Mission. In it,
Packer expressed his thankfulness for qualities he had frequently seen
in Catholics: the wisdom, maturity of mind and conscience, backbone
and sheer guts, reverence before God, and above all love for my Lord
Jesus Christ.58 At the same time, there has been a concern to renew
the evangelical tradition precisely by recovering traditions of
spirituality. As Stanley Grenz put it in his influential book Revisioning
Evangelical Theology, contemporary evangelicals seeking to respond to
a postmodern setting need to recapture an evangelical theological
tradition which is rooted in spirituality.59

Ian M. Randall was born in Scotland. He worked for some years as a personnel
manager before training for the Baptist ministry and then pursuing doctoral
research on evangelical spirituality between the two world wars. Since 1992, he
has been on the staff of Spurgeons College in South London, and more recently
has also been teaching at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in
Prague. Among his books are What a Friend We Have in Jesus (London: Darton,
Longman and Todd, 2005).

Matt Redman, interviewed by John Buckeridge, in Heart of Worship, Christianity (July 2004), 13.
James I. Packer, Crosscurrents among Evangelicals, in Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Working
Towards a Common Mission, edited by Charles Colson and Richard J. Neuhaus (London: Hodder and
Stoughton, 1996), 159, 164, 171.
Stanley J. Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology: A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century (Downers
Grove, Il: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993), 57-59.

Remembering Iigo: Glimpses of the Life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola:

The Memoriale of Luis Gonalves da Cmara, translated by
Alexander Eaglestone and Joseph A. Munitiz (Leominster:
Gracewing, 2005). 0 85244 512 1, pp. xxi + 252, 12.99.

This is an exasperating, yet wonderful, contribution to the understanding

of everyday life in the early Society of Jesus and of Ignatius Loyola as the
Societys founder. It gives us a day-to-day itemisation of Ignatius likes and
dislikes both in matters of substance, such as the formation of novices
within the new order, and in matters that appear downright trivial, such as
the kinds of games that Jesuits ought to play in their free time. The text
thus challenges the impression of discretion and freedom one finds in the
Constitutions of the Society. There is often a considerable distance in this
narrative between how Ignatius actually lived with his fellow Jesuits and
how he legislated that they ought to live their vocation. As the editors
remark in their helpful introduction: in the Memoriale there are times
when it is difficult to recognise this person as the same Ignatius. On a first
reading, one might consequently find the Memoriale uneven and even
disturbing, presenting an Ignatius one might wish not to know. However,
the challenge of this everyday account is that the humanity of the early
Jesuits, and especially of their founder, predominates.
Clearly, Ignatius is presented as a figure of incisive spiritual wisdom, for
example in his insistence on indifference as the ability to be touched by
God in new circumstances and to respond generously to new apostolic
demands. But he is also portrayed as a leader frequently too ready to
reprimand seemingly slight defects. Gradually the reader appreciates, or
guesses at, the reasons why Ignatius allowed da Cmara to observe and
document him so closely. The magnanimity of Ignatius spiritual ambition
and religious intensity was a grace, not just a human attainment. If the
Society of Jesus was to develop, then those who would constitute its
future had to look through Ignatius to the God of Ignatius. We have to
interpret the Memoriale in the light of two fundamental and insistent
Ignatian convictions: ones experience is ones own and cannot be
normative for all, but the God of experience is faithful in the way of
proceeding that leads to peace and light, to that consolation which helps
people find happiness in their work.
114 Recent Books

Remembering Iigo is a valuable complement to the Constitutions of the

Society of Jesus and to the Ignatian letters, and the editors have done a
superb job in making the Memoriale available in English. It sometimes
presents Ignatius as embarrassingly small-minded, but often as wise,
kindly, and radically trustful of the variety of ways in which God works
within the human community. The value of the book is obvious in its
presentation of the humanity of the early Jesuits and of their founder. A
major caveat should be entered, however, for those who are just beginning
to study the Ignatian tradition: for all its value, this could be a misleading
and even off-putting introduction.
Howard J. Gray SJ

Remembering Iigo is available from The Way Ignatian Book Service. Visit our
website,, and click on Book Service.

The New SCM Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, edited by Philip

Sheldrake (London: SCM Press, 2005). 0 334 02984 8, pp. xx + 680,

In 1988 I received as an ordination gift a copy of A Dictionary of Christian

Spirituality, edited by Gordon Wakefield, which the SCM Press had
published five years earlier. Philip Sheldrake has now put together a
successor to that work. Dictionaries are notoriously difficult to review.
Where do you start? The reviewer might consider an article chosen at
random, or look up a favourite topic, or even complain about areas the
editor has chosen to omit. When, as here, a book is intended to replace a
standard reference work, an initial comparison of the two is perhaps
To begin with, the new dictionary is considerably longer than its
predecessor680 pages compared with 400. The old one moved almost
immediately to its alphabetic entries; this one prefaces them with a dozen
thematic essays on topics such as spirituality and scripture, spirituality and
culture, and mysticism. Entries dealing with individual people (Ignatius
Loyola, St) or texts (Spiritual Exercises) have been replaced by more
generic articles (Ignatian spirituality). And the content is more
professedly Christian: whereas in 1983 there were entries entitled
Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, each of these headings has now had
and Christianity added to it.
Recent Books 115

Comparing the two volumes, Sheldrake himself writes: The most

significant development in the intervening years has been the growth of
spirituality as a major academic discipline with its own methodology
(p.vii). Sheldrake has allowed this belief to dominate his revision of the
dictionary, which certainly has a more scholarly feel to it than the earlier
one. There is a new 22-page index of names and titles, and the initial
essays each have a detailed bibliography appended. Sheldrake also seems
more aware than Wakefield was of the difficulty of doing justice to the
global nature of spirituality today. He no longer attempts to cover a topic
such as Rastafarianism. Instead a decision to focus on the English-
speaking world ensures that English, Scottish and Welsh spiritualities all
maintain their separate entries.
Lest this seem a wholly new work, however, one or two continuities
can be noted. The overall scope, to judge from the first and last entries,
has not changed radically. What was in 1983 abandon to Zen has
become by 2005 abandonment to Zen and Christianity. In their
introductions, both editors reflect on the growing popularity of the topic
of spirituality, with the concomitant difficulty of arriving at a generally
agreed definition. A few articles appear to have made the transition from
one dictionary to the next virtually unchanged, for example Kenneth
Leechs article on relationships between drug use and religious experience.
A general reader may well find the introductory essays particularly
useful. They set the dictionarys alphabetical entries in context, and also
give clear and succinct overviews of what the academic world regards as
the key issues in the contemporary study of spirituality. Sheldrakes own
essay on interpretation offers encouragement to those who might normally
avoid any sentence containing the word hermeneutics. Philip Endean
tries to move forward the debate about how the new approaches to
spirituality relate to systematic theology. Susan White outlines a liturgical
approach to spirituality which cuts across the divisions between high and
low church.
A reviewer might perhaps be allowed a couple of quibbles. The relative
space given to articles on certain topics was at times, to this reader at
least, surprising. For instance, there is more on Womanist Spirituality
(womanist refers to women of African descent who are audacious,
outrageous, in charge, responsible, serious, courageous and wilful
[p.644]) than on Dominican Spirituality; similarly Clothing is longer
than Prayer. More importantly, Sheldrakes concentration on the growth
of spirituality as an academic discipline implicitly neglects other changes
in what spirituality has come to signify over the last two decades. Indeed,
a case could be made for holding that it is the practice of spirituality,
116 Recent Books

rather thanas Sheldrake claimsthe theory, that has changed most

dramatically in this period. Ordinary Christians are much more likely to
think of spirituality as something that has relevance to their own religious
practice than they were in the past. At the same time, they are likely to be
more eclectic in this practice than previously. It is no coincidence that in
the last twenty years the Mind/Body/Spirit sections of bookshops have
outstripped the space give to traditional religion. By highlighting the
academic, Sheldrake has produced a volume that will doubtless be of more
use in the university than its predecessor. At the same time, those working
in other settings will be hoping that future books will focus also on
changes in spiritual practice.
Quibbles aside, I would certainly recommend this book as an
invaluable reference work for anyone who has an interest in spirituality
Paul Nicholson SJ

God in Exile: Towards a Shared Spirituality with Refugees, pp.159;

Horizons of Learning: 25 Years of JRS Education, pp.144;
The Wounding of the Border: 25 Years with the Refugees, pp. 299;
all three published in Rome by the Jesuit Refugee Service, in 2005,
free of charge.

In 1974 a General Congregation, the highest legislative body of the

Jesuits, decreed that the mission of the Society of Jesus today is the
service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute
requirement. A few years later Pedro Arrupe SJ, the general superior who
had presided over the Congregation, established the Jesuit Refugee
Service as a practical expression of that commitment. JRS grew and
flourished, and is now celebrating its silver jubilee. The three books
reviewed here have been produced to mark this milestone.
In part the success of the organization is due to its flexibility. Refugees
have different needs. The traumatized survivors of the Rwandan genocide
of 1994 were not in the same kind of need as the thousands of Vietnamese
people who landed on the shores of the Philippines in leaky sailing boats
during the 1980s. And asylum seekers today who encounter a suspicious
British government agency for the first time have needs that are different
again. Moreover, the range of appropriate responses is as wide as the
needs. The Wounding of the Border gives more than seventy of those who
have worked with JRS, Jesuits and others, space to describe how they
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reacted to the situations with which they found themselves confronted.

Many opt to focus on being alongside one or two individual refugees, with
the result that the book gives a vivid picture of the pains, frustrations,
challenges and joys to which refugees are subject. It ends with a full
chronology of JRS first 25 years, and a series of maps that show the world-
wide extent of the refugee crisis today.
Whereas The Wounding of the Border illustrates the breadth of the work
of JRS, Horizons of Learning focuses on one aspect of that work, namely
education. How education ought to be conducted, and where the
resources it needs are to be found, remain contentious issues even in
affluent societies such as those of Western Europe. They are obviously
much more problematic for those who have had to leave their own
countries and cultures behind, and struggle with foreign languages and
customs, often with little in the way of finance or accommodation. At the
same time there are few ways in which refugees can be better helped than
by the offer of a thorough, affordable and appropriate education. From its
survey of a wide range of educational projects, the book draws out strands
of JRS characteristic way of proceeding, highlighting its commitment to
working in partnership with the refugees themselves, and the priority
which it gives to the most vulnerable or disadvantaged.
The third work considered here, God in Exile, takes a different
approach again. One of the features marking out JRS from the many other
agencies that seek to meet the needs of displaced peoples is that it is an
explicitly faith-based organization. But what difference does this in fact
make? What is the spirituality shared by those who associate with this
particular refugee service? Using exile as a key theme, the book draws on
reflections by JRS workers, by refugees themselves, and by people engaged
in the ministry of Ignatian spirituality, to offer a rounded picture of this
particular pathway to God. Pedro Arrupes successor, Peter-Hans
Kolvenbach, sets the scene with a reflection on a pilgrim Church that
seeks a promised land. In line with that, the book does not attempt to
articulate a fully rounded and complete spirituality. Nevertheless what
emerges will be challenging spiritual reading for anyone living in the
comfort of a consumer society.
All three of the books are richly illustrated with black-and-white
photographs, from every continent except Antarctica. Though these
images convey much suffering, the dominant impression they give is of a
smiling determination. Refugees are likely to have shown great
resourcefulness in leaving behind all that is familiar; this represents an
asset that they can offer to any society willing to take them. Pedro Arrupe
believed that a
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seed planted in refugee work would bring forth a hundredfold in results.

These three different books together bear eloquent witness to the
rightness of his intuition.
Paul Nicholson SJ

All three volumes were published in Rome in 2005 by the Jesuit Refugee Service; they are
available without charge (though a donation is requested) via or else

Bonnie B. Thurston and Judith M. Ryan, Philippians and Philemon

(Collegeville, Mn: Liturgical Press, 2005). 0 8146 5820 2, pp. xiv +
290, $39.95.

The life of an apostle was tough. And at one point in his letters, the
apostle Paul breaks his usual silence on this score and admits it. He lists
the hunger and thirst, the many beatings and the one stoning, the night
he spent adrift at sea, and the many nights of sleeplessness he endured.
The climax of this long catalogue of hardship was his anxiety for the
churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Among the churches which fed this anxiety were the church of
Philippi, a Romanised city in the north of Greece, and a church of
unknown location that met in the house of a wealthy individual called
Philemon. In Philippi, gospel ideals were under threat. There was division,
self-centredness and status-seeking. The content of the gospel was at risk
from false teachers. Good people were failing to make right choices.
Women whose names we know, Euodia and Syntyche, were feuding.
These new Christians were confused about their Christian identity as
citizens of a city that enjoyed a privileged place in the empire of Rome
and as heirs to the culture that was the legacy of Greece.
In the church of Philemon, crisis threatened because of the slave
Onesimus. This man was now with Paul, but legally he was the property of
Philemon and to Philemon he had to return. A runaway slave could
expect a nasty and unpleasant reception according to the legal standards
of the time. Paul, who knew that in Christ there is no longer slave or free
(Galatians 3:28), had to convince Philemon that he could no longer treat
his slave as his neighbours in the next street treated theirs. But at the
same time the economic and social life of that era was so dependent on
slavery that Paul could hardly imagine a world without it.
Paul was not writing to these churches from a study in some episcopal
palace. He was in prison. He could expect either release or execution and
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he had to be ready for either. He did not hide his perilous situation. The
letter to Philemon begins Paul the prisoner. He was in prison because of
the gospel (Philippians 1:16). And he made no claim to worldly glory. He
began his letter to the Philippians Paul the slave, but his slave master was
Christ Jesus. Modern translations tend to replace the word slave with the
less threatening word servant.
Pauls missionary method, obvious from his letters, was to meet
practical pastoral questions with theological answers. He had learnt his
theology during his early years as a Pharisee when his life was blameless as
to righteousness under the law (Philippians 3:5). But his understanding
of God and salvation had been transformed because of the surpassing
value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord which came to him through what
we call his conversion experience (Philippians 3:8). And in writing his
letters, he made good use of the lessons in the art of persuasion he had
learnt as a Jew educated in the Greek world.
In responding to the Philippians troubles, Paul praises them and does
not nag. He compliments them on the spirit of fellowship (koinonia) which
they shared among themselves and with him. He skilfully exploits the
positive words that share the same Greek root, chara, namely the joy and
the grace that belong to the gospel. He challenges them by putting
examples before them. The first model is of course Christ himself. His
career of self-emptying and being raised up by God must be the way of life
to which the Philippians aspire (Philippians 2:5-11). This was no
impossible ideal. It had already been imitated by people known to them.
Let them look at the lives of Timothy, Pauls colleague, and of
Epaphroditus, their own agent in their relations with Paul
(Philippians 2:19-30). It was also the life story of Paul himself (Philippians
3:4-14). All three had reproduced this Christlike pattern in full view of
the Philippians. And among other points, we can note Pauls exhortation
to them to be as proud of their status as citizens of heaven (Philippians
3:20) as they were of their citizenship of such a privileged city as Philippi.
Likewise in the opening lines of the letter to Philemon, which is only
25 verses in length, Paul sets out theological reasons why Philemon should
accept Onesimus back not as a slave but as a brother, and even as though
he were Paul himself. He commends Philemon for the quality of his faith
and love. But Philemon must allow these to blossom further. He and
Onesimus had had a new birth through their baptism. This is how Paul
had become father to them both, and they now belonged to the same
Christian family. The only slave relationship in this new family was that of
being a slave of Christ.
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All these topics are thoroughly and lovingly dealt with in this volume
which belongs to the admirable Sacra Pagina series of commentaries.
These approach New Testament books in four parts. An introduction deals
with general questions and with the world behind the text. In treating the
text section by section, a translation is offered which may lack elegance but
which reproduces the structure and sense of the original. Notes deal with
key words and concepts in the paragraph discussed, and because many of
these occur elsewhere in the Pauline literature, we find here a little
encyclopedia of Pauline theology. Finally an interpretation of the paragraph
is provided. These four elements together form a formidable programme
for continuous reading, but a sensible and judicious selection from the
material offered will enrich any reader anxious to grow in the knowledge
and love of Scripture, and of the world in which it arose. A particular
emphasis in the Philippians commentary by Bonnie Thurston, herself a
recent contributor to The Way, is Christian spirituality and the life of
prayer (pp.4-5). And this should make this volume of special interest to
the readers of The Way.
Peter Edmonds SJ

Charlene Spretnak, Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and her Re-
emergence in the Modern Church (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
2004). 1 4039 6398 3, pp. x + 282, 21.99.

Some of the most heated debates during the Second Vatican Council
focused on the question of Mary, with so-called Marian maximalists
arguing for a separate document on Mary, and minimalists saying that
issues relating to her should be included in the document on the Church.
In the end, the latter won by a narrow majority, and the Councils
discussion of Mary was incorporated into the document Lumen gentium.
Although the uniqueness and greatness of Marys role in the story of
salvation are acknowledged, the document is careful to emphasize her
subordination to her Son, and it cautions against excesses in Marian
devotion. In a way perhaps confirming the fears of those who defended a
more central place for Mary, her significance in Catholic devotional life
declined dramatically in the years following the Council. Pope Paul VI
made some attempt to halt the decline with his encyclical Marialis cultus,
but it was only under John Paul II that Marian devotion achieved a partial
rehabilitation, albeit one largely confined to more conservative Catholics.
Among progressive Catholics, including liberationist and feminist
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theologians, Mary was either ignored altogether, or else she was portrayed
as a model disciple, a sisterly figure and woman of faith who stands
alongside the poor in their struggle for justice.
Charlene Spretnaks readable and engaging study, Missing Mary, makes
an eloquent appeal for a rediscovery of the cosmic mystery and glory of
the Queen of Heaven. From a perspective informed by feminist theology,
quantum physics and goddess spirituality, Spretnak pits herself against
both conservatives and progressives, arguing for the restoration of Mary to
her former magnificence at the heart of the Churchs devotional life.
Spretnak points to the example of her own parents to argue that
generations of Catholics have combined political liberalism with devotion
to Mary, and she does not see that a revival of traditional Marian devotion
would pose any threat to the positive achievements of Vatican II.
She challenges the neglect of Mary by many feminist Catholics, and
makes no concessions to those who would associate a Marian revival with
returning to more stereotypical gender roles within the Church. Some of
her most trenchant criticisms are directed at progressives and feminists
who have replaced the glorious Mary of the Catholic tradition with a
pious housewife (p.56), and who have resisted exploring a more exalted
dimension to Marys role in creation and redemption. Spretnak refers to
this as the biblical only Mary, in whom the Marian tradition has been
pared down to its alleged scriptural essentials in the interests of a
misguided ecumenism. She also associates this Mary with a process of
rationalisation that led the Council to abandon the mystical femininity of
the Marian tradition in favour of a rational, masculinising modernity
paradoxically at a time when much of the Western world was rejecting
modernity and shifting towards the postmodern.
Spretnak appeals for a biblical plus Mary, an understanding allowing
the woman who appears in the Bible to reveal the fullness of her glory,
reflected in titles such as Queen of the Universe, Throne of Wisdom,
and Virgin in Majesty. She suggests that this mystical Marian tradition
resonates with recent discoveries in quantum physics about the dynamic
nature of the material world. Modern science is reawakening the Thomist
vision of the activity of grace throughout creation, a vision reflected in
Marian cults of the kind found in Chartres Cathedral. This cosmological
awakening includes a rediscovery of Marys association with the goddess
figures of pre-Christian and non-Christian religions. For Spretnak, the
development of the cult of Mary in the early Church was a form of
syncretism. The ancient goddess religions were accommodated within the
expanding Church in order to meet a deep human need for maternal
122 Recent Books

Spretnak uses broad brushstrokes and the book is sometimes repetitive;

it might have benefited from more rigorous editing. Nevertheless it
remains a highly readable and provocative study engaging with some of
the most important issues facing the Church today, and it deserves a wide
readership. Spretnak presumes no particular knowledge of Catholicism on
the part of her readers, saying that her book is intended for a large, non-
ideological middle range of readers (p.9). She also draws on her own
spiritual experiences to write about the changing role of Mary in her life,
and the last chapter offers a particularly moving personal reflection on
Mary in the context of the authors experience of maternal suffering.
Spretnak notes that the widespread resistance which followed the
Council is now yielding to a greater openness about Mary. Yet she makes
the point that many modern Catholics have been deprived of the kind of
upbringing which she herself had, in which a childs earliest experiences
are shaped by Marys maternal presence in their homes and in their
mothers devotional lives. Some might see this book as returning to a
reactionary or romanticised faith which cannot easily be reconciled with
the modernisation of the Church since Vatican II; and some might
question how far it is possible to preserve the reforms of the Council while
inflating Marys role to something of its preconciliar grandeur. However,
Spretnak has joined the small but growing number of people who are
discovering that the Queen of Heaven may yet be the icon and inspiration
that feminists of faith need. This book reflects a new confidence among
Catholic women theologians: the confidence not only to be feminist in a
Church dominated by masculine values and authority figures, but also to
be Catholic in a feminist world dominated by the liberal values of secular
Tina Beattie

Dean Brackley, The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New

Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola
(New York: Crossroad, 2004). 0 8245 2268 0, pp. xx + 300, 14.99.

For two semesters I have used Dean Brackleys The Call to Discernment in
Troubled Times in teaching North American students who are studying
and immersing themselves in the Dominican Republic. I cannot imagine a
better text to provide an Ignatian framework for reflection and growth for
those who wish to integrate their spirituality with a commitment to social
justice. Readable, clear, and replete with examples from Brackleys
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encounters with the poor in El Salvador, this text is an accessible, well-

written and timely contribution to the literature on the Spiritual Exercises.
The book is set up in six clear sections and has three central
presuppositons: that the reader is from the relatively wealthy North
American context; that Ignatian spirituality can be a tool for deepening
personal integration of spirituality and commitment to others; and that
the intended readership will be afflicted by quite specific conflicts and
temptations as the call to commitment challenges the assumptions
shaping their upbringing. I have often heard students exclaim upon
reading this text, this is exactly what I was asking! or he seems to be
speaking directly to me and my struggles. There is something for everyone
The first section, Getting Free, situates the reader in a context of
service to others, and discusses the barriers, both cultural and self-
imposed, to our loving others. It introduces some central spiritual themes:
a spirituality for others grounded in solidarity; being free to love; the
reality of evil; forgiveness; reform of life; and some rules for discernment.
In this section Brackley uses stories from his encounters with the poor in
El Salvador to press home what poverty is, what evil is, what reality is. It is
not just that the middle-class tribe will benefit from an encounter with
the poor; they actually need the poor to remind them of lifes priorities and
to bring them back to the centre of all things. This section eloquently
expresses the middle-class angst of those who wish to serve others, and
sense the obligation to do so, but cannot understand why it is so difficult.
Always critical of consumerist culture and its values, Brackley offers both
an accurate diagnosis and a deep analysis of the pressures besetting his
intended readership. It is from this platform that he introduces the
Ignatian way as an alternative.
Something Worth Living For, the second section, begins by
delineating the nature of vocation: how a vocation is different from a
career, and how we are called by God through those around us. Brackley
takes the reader through selected aspects of the First and Second Weeks
of the Exercises, emphasizing ideas such as calling, responses and
commitments, and bringing out how these Ignatian notions run counter
to the expectations of contemporary North American culture. The rest of
the section explores them in more depth, using concrete examples to
illustrate both their importance and their difficulty. Particularly good is
the chapter The Two Standards, which offers an interesting
contemporary reflection on Ignatius contrast between riches, honour and
pride on the one hand, and poverty, rejection and humility on the other.
This is followed by a chapter, Downward Mobility, about imitating the
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movement of the Incarnation; here Brackley asks his readers to think

seriously about what success means for them. Humility and Solidarity
gives the reader modern examples of those who have responded to a call
showing how they have lived it out.
Discerning and Deciding builds on the previous section by taking the
reader through various methods of discernment. Responding to the call
latent in our gifts and abilities is neither easy nor quick, and Brackley is
careful to approach this section realistically. He begins by discussing the
interplay of what comes from the Spirit and what does not. This moves
into a discussion of consolation and desolation, which are neither an
infallible basis for discernment nor the only basis. He then introduces the
particular discernment method of the Exercises as well as multiple
touchstones for discernment allowing the reader to make use of both
personal and social resources.
The fourth section, Passion and Compassion, makes a direct
connection between the body of Christ, crucified on Good Friday, and the
crucified people of today. As Brackley emphasizes, the focus is not on
pain but on being with the one who suffers (p.178). For this reason,
contemplating the passion draws us closer to Christ and deeper into the
procession of suffering humanity (p.185). With this movement towards
crucified people, wherever they may be, comes a sharing in their suffering
(though the sharing is almost never total), and a deeper appreciation of
the Passion of Christ. There is a price for living in service to the outcast,
but the consolation of God can be experienced even amidst the various
forms of persecution that may result from our choices.
The fifth section, Resurrection, discusses the effects of the Spirit,
which include the liberation of the poor, the healing of the environment,
and a utopian vision. Brackley corrects many North American readings of
Kingdom and Resurrection by emphasizing their connection in the
Gospels between these concepts and the plight of the poor and forsaken.
Of particular importance to this section is the gratitude that is absolutely
necessary if we are to live with and through the Spirit.
The final section of the book covers both prayer in general and the
so-called Ignatian methods of prayer. Whether silent or vocal, sung or
spoken, whispered or shouted, prayer can be either formulaic or deeply
personal. What is emphasized in this section is the importance of listening
to the prayers that move you in the depths of your being. What resonates
within you, and why? Brackley then turns to two further themes in
Ignatius teaching: the need for prayer to be grounded in the reality of life,
and the image of prayer as conversation.
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In closing, Brackley offers a balanced and creative version of Ignatian

spirituality that young people today, especially those coming into contact
with poor and suffering people for the first time, need and can apply. His
material on the importance of community and on what solidarity means
concretely is particularly helpful. He also questions the fundamental
underpinnings of much of North American society: a lack of commitment,
a culture of entertainment, and consumerism at the price of humanity.
Unlike so much spiritual writing that is abstract and unrelated to the
suffering our world undergoes, The Call to Discernment not only engages
with the world, but also calls the reader to co-operate in its
transformation by God.
Thomas M. Kelly

The Call to Discernment is available from The Way Ignatian Book Service. Visit our
website,, and click on Book Service.

Theology in the Making: Biography, Contexts, Method, edited by Gesa

E. Thiessen and Declan Marmion (Dublin: Veritas Publications,
2005). 1 85390 945 9, pp. 170, 8.99.
Rupert Shortt, Gods Advocates: Christian Thinkers in Conversation
(London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005). 0 232 52545 5,
pp. xii + 284, 12.95.

Does theology matter? What impact does faith seeking understanding

have in a secular world? Each of these volumes directly addresses these
Theology in the Making assembles essays by fourteen Roman Catholic
theologians who have either Irish roots or else extensive experience of the
Irish theological scene. The contributors hail from Ireland, Australia,
Germany and Nigeria, and bring significant educational experience from
all over the world. The editors state in their introduction that,
theologians are sometimes caricatured as rather quaint creatures who study
God and matters religious in an abstract and speculative manner, often at a
remove from the concerns of everyday life (p. 14).

The interweaving of autobiography and theological reflection in these

essays goes some way to dispelling such perceptions. Experience is a
central category in many of the essays: contributors reflect on their own
formative experiences of family, Church and society, and call for a
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renewed attention to experience in the search for theological

development that is, as Vincent McNamara puts it, realistic, sympathetic,
streetwise, but nonetheless knows the depth and breadth of the human
spirit (p.143).
Most of the contributors grew up in the decades before the Second
Vatican Council, and memories of Irish Catholicism before Vatican II are
marked by critical appreciation and by gratitude. Michael Paul Gallagher
characterizes this milieu as passive and sheltered, perhaps, but not
painfully oppressive (p.84); Enda McDonagh reminds us of the vitality of
Irish theology being done in the first two -thirds of the twentieth century;
and several contributors cite their Irish experience as integral to their
vocation to ecumenism. The excitement and optimism of the 1960s is
captured as contributors describe encounters with Yves Congar, Edward
Schillebeeckx, and especially with Karl Rahner, whose influence is felt in
several of the essays. Mary Condren and Mary Malone offer accounts of
feminist theologies and the struggle to find their role in the Church. Sadly,
such optimism appears more recently to have given way to frustration at
the measures halting Church reform, and to grief at the Churchs self-
inflicted crisis of credibility.
The contributors reflections on the present state of the Church and
theology are unswervingly thoughtful and honest, avoiding the polemical
rhetoric that often colours such discussions. By the witness of their lives as
much as by their words, they make a strong case for the continuing
relevanceand responsibilityof theology to wider ecclesial and public
Rupert Shortt, religion editor of The Times Literary Supplement,
similarly brings together interviews with eighteen contemporary
theologians in Gods Advocates. Shortt makes it clear that he is not
attempting a comprehensive survey, but is interested in how theology has
recovered its nerve (p.ix), particularly in Britain and North America.
Rowan Williams sets the tone in the first chapter by emphasizing that
theology is about the doctrine of God, not about our doctrine of us (p.5).
A recurring motif is the critique of secular liberalism, and several of the
contributors assert that liberal humanism has exhausted itself. This stance
finds particularly impassioned advocacy in John Milbanks representation
of Radical Orthodoxy. The generalised portrayal of secular liberalism as a
conspiracy and as the reigning ideology (p.269), however, is reductive,
and only Christopher Insole is given the opportunity to contest this
assessment of the liberal tradition.
Readers expecting relatively conventional representations of
theological approaches may be surprised. Sarah Coakley and Tina Beattie
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recover seams of female subversion within the largely patriarchal

Christian tradition; their comments on gender symbolism, priesthood and
eucharist are particularly thought-provoking. J. Kameron Carters
discussion of black theology draws on the experience of the American
civil rights movement, but appeals also to Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von
Balthasar and Radical Orthodoxy. David Burrells close historical reading
of Aquinas provides lessons for contemporary interreligious dialogue.
Shortt shows himself to be an adept and well-informed interviewer,
offering perceptive summaries and ably mediating different points of view.
Some contributions, however, become highly technical, such as Alvin
Plantingas on philosophy of religion and David Martins on sociology of
religion. In the end, Gods Advocates serves less as an introduction for the
non-specialist than as an attempt to catch the theological conversation
midstream. But it is a valuable, if challenging, exercise to listen in as these
theologians think aloud.
Mark L. Yenson

Richard Lennan, Risking the Church: The Challenges of Catholic Faith

(Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004). 0 19 927146 1, pp. 269, 53.00.

In this book Richard Lennan presents the case for risking faith in the
Roman Catholic Church as a component of Gods self-revelation. He
understands faith as a self-surrender entailing risk, but also as something
that leads to human well-being. He seeks,
to identify what might support and sustain the ongoing acts of self-surrender
inseparable from the risk that is membership of the Church, but also what
might justify the claim that such an act of self-surrender is a reasonable exercise
of human freedom (p. 170).

He begins by describing the present state of the Church, using a

document from the Catholic Common Ground Project, founded by
Cardinal Joseph Bernadin. It cites a crisis among Catholics characterized
by the loss of a clear sense of identity and purpose; insufficient knowledge
of the faith; an attenuated sense of sacramentality; and a highly
individualistic view of the Church. The Church itself, it suggests, seems to
be at risk of disintegration. In perhaps his strongest chapter, Lennan seeks
to understand Vatican II and the difficulties afterwards by examining how
the Council was responding to shortcomings in the Roman Catholicism of
the period before: its lack of historical consciousness, and the limitations
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in the style of its relationships, both internally and with the world at large.
In such a situation, with Catholics lacking a strong sense of shared
ecclesial identity, the exercise of authority after Vatican II in the context
of the Church as communion simply created confusion. Throughout the
book, Lennan emphasizes ecclesial faith over individualistic and privatised
faith, and the Church as communion over the Church as institution.
For Lennan, the Church is an undreamed of possibility for love (a
phrase from Juan Luis Segundo) and the place where the Spirit flourishes
(Hippolytus). Echoing Rahner and Schillebeeckx, Lennan identifies the
Church as a symbol of the God made present in human history through
Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and as a sacrament of the Spirit. He
seems to privilege a Christology from below: Jesus was Lord because he
alone had lived and died with faith, he alone had handed his life over to
God (p.80). Although Lennan writes extensively about a theology of
Christ and the Spirit, his ultimate emphasis is on the Churchs
relationship to the Spirit, and he thus differs from the interpretation more
conventional in the West that would root the Church in Christ. The
Church is the symbol of the Spiritthe Spirit who leads people, in Christ,
to communion with the Father. The Spirit is the means of our sacramental
encounter with Christ in history.
Faith is both personal and communal. Believers require the mediation
of the Church and of symbolic or sacramental forms if they are to
encounter Jesus as the Christ or experience the Spirit. But then a
difficulty arises. The Church is authentic only if it is transparent to the
Spirit, yet the people within it are all too fallible and flawed. There is
always a gap between the Church as symbol and what it symbolizes.
Ecclesial faith is a surrender to something which cannot be controlled.
An emphasis on the primacy of communion challenges both
individualistic views of the Church and the notion that authority is
restrictive of freedom. The Churchs communion requires that legitimate
diversity be acknowledged, and that creative responses to particular
historical circumstances be encouraged. This communion is obstructed
both by the quest for certainty reflected in fundamentalism and by the
refusal of commitment embodied in New Age spirituality. Ultimately the
messiness which is the Church is a corollary of the Incarnation: Gods
commitment to the realities of flawed human existence.
Fundamentalismwhich is as much a manifestation as an antagonist of
postmodernismwants to control this messiness; New Age spirituality
wants to escape it.
Lennan has read widely and deeply in preparing this reflection on the
Church. Its principal merits are that it follows the current emphasis on
Recent Books 129

communion ecclesiology in way that is clearly Spirit-centred, and

therefore its approach is relational; it combats individualism; and it
presents a developed account of ecclesial faith. Perhaps its principal
shortcoming is that it tends to hover at too general a level of analysis,
rarely engaging with specific issues in any depth, and tending towards the
prescriptive rather than the descriptive. We frequently find verbs such as
can, must, should and ought. Lennan makes many assertions about
the Spirit, but perhaps we need to hear more about how to test these
Susan K. Wood SCL

Thomas M. King SJ, Teilhards Mass: Approaches to The Mass on the

World (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2005). 0 8091 4328 3, pp. xiv + 172,

In the 1950s, when Teilhards writings circulated privately in smuggled,

typescript editions, they were exciting. Teilhards stress on movement and
dynamism, as opposed to what he calls fixisme, aroused many peoples
enthusiasm. What was also striking was his costly loyalty to the
institutional Church, of which the Society of Jesus was a highly
institutionalised part. There was nothing flashy or exhibitionistic or self-
seeking about Teilhards insights: they came out of rigorous scientific
research nourished by an exemplary Jesuit life.
And yet, for all their originality, Teilhards writings do not generally
wear well. Quite apart from their French spiritual idiom, which does not
travel well into English, his best insights became common currency with
Vatican II, and were expressed there in more appealing ways that make his
originals look somewhat dated. His recently published retreat notes, for
example, were hampered by the fixisme that had hardened the Ignatian
tradition. The revival represented by Christus, founded in 1954, came too
late to help him. Year after year he loyally made his eight-day retreat,
compressing the thirty-day process into eight; year after year he
complained about the Exercises dryness and irrelevance. It was only when
he finally reached what he called the Ad Amorem at the very end that he
heaved a sigh of relief and usually found the hint of the great dynamic
that has become the key to our contemporary understanding of the
Ignatian Exercises.
Teilhards Mass centres on one of Teilhards texts, The Mass on the
World, the final form of which dates from 1923. The text is a passionate
130 Recent Books

prayer arising from the occasions when Teilhard had neither bread nor
wine nor altar, and so sought to make the whole earth my altar, offering
to God all the labours and sufferings of the world. Perhaps Kings most
valuable contribution comes in the three appendices. The first reproduces
Teilhards original text in translation, while the second is a prayer service
based on The Mass on the World that can also be incorporated into a
liturgical celebration of the Eucharist. The last all too briefly explores how
Teilhards own personal prayer life reflects the structure of the Mass and
the pattern of the Ignatian Examen.
Having read the appendices, the reader will be in a better position to
savour the seven chapters commenting on various implications of The
Mass on the World. Chapter 1, Teilhard and the Priesthood, reflects on
Teilhards wider sense of his role as a priest,
one consecrated to be the first to become aware of what the world loves,
pursues and suffers the first to sympathize, to toil . I would be more widely
human in my sympathies than any of the worlds servants.

Hearing of a Eucharistic Congress being held in Chicago, he wrote:

I follow with a profound interest these grand collective manifestations. But was
there among those thousands of adorers one sole preacher to try and explain
the true extensions of the Eucharistic and its animating place in human work?
To transform Catholics it would be enough to show then what to communicate
and sympathize mean in their fullness.

Chapter 2 is about the transformation of the world, as a process

informing both science and the Mass. In Teilhards Mass, King
we begin by gathering into our souls all that constitutes our world. And all of
us live in a world that is coming alive and a world that is dying . Can the
Christian hypothesis bring coherence to the data of our life? Or to the dust of
our death? Teilhard claimed they could. Geometricians, theologians and others
whose faith is guarded in closed cassettes will not understand this, but physicists
and mystics will. For their hand is on the plough.

Chapter 3 fascinatingly describes the scientific work with which

Teilhard was involved while he was writing The Mass on the World,
while Chapter 4, The Mass and the Salvation of the World, is one of the
best attempts I have come across to render Teilhards difficult language
accessible. In Chapter 5, King takes 28 quotations from The Mass on the
World, and offers lucid, thoughtful, prayerful and relevant comments on
them. Chapter 6, The Mass and Adoration, shows how Teilhards
Recent Books 131

speculations led him to develop the notion of adoration far beyond the
devout conventions of Benediction. Two weeks before his death he wrote
of how science could move people to a kind of worship towards the world.
It was as though God, out of the future, was calling scientists and others
to a cosmic form of adoration.
Chapter 7 turns to the theme of mission and ministry in Teilhards
writing. The only thing that counts for me is not to propagate God but to
discover Him: from this, conversion follows . Teilhard complained of
the missionaries working to convert the Chinese people: they were
pushing an artificial religion without a natural trunk, whereas
Christianity should be presented as the completion and fulfilment of the
world in which they were already living. When Teilhards friends were
struggling with faith questions, he used to tell them that they must first
discover the God of their life. He would ask them about what their real
me had been finding in the world. What had been engaging them? Where
was this engagement going? For Teilhard, conversion began with a fuller
consciousness of the universe; then one could hope that the persons own
engagement would open their vision to the universes crowing glory. Only
when natural expectations were sensitised could Christian revelation
make sense.
Thomas King is a lifelong devotee of Teilhard, and very well informed
on his life and work. As such he is uniquely well placed to revive
enthusiasm for Teilhards legacy, and he presents Teilhards ideas both
simply and attractively. It is a sign of Teilhards genius that the insights
which cost him so much are now taken for granted, and that the man
himself has been forgotten. But the world in which we live is still evolving,
and we remain conscious both of its positive nurture and its looming
threats. Teilhard witnesses to how both promise a Christic way ahead,
come what may.
Billy Hewett SJ

Gillian Crow, This Holy Man: Impressions of Metropolitan Anthony

(London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005). 0 232 52568 4,
pp. xvi + 251, 17.95.

Archbishop (or Metropolitan, as he became in 1966) Anthony Bloom was

a familiar name to those who attained theological consciousness in the
1960s as I did. In an atmosphere of theological anxiety bordering on
despair, symbolized in Britain by John Robinsons Honest to God,
132 Recent Books

Metropolitan Anthony stood for theological confidence, transcending

academic doubt and evidently rooted in a life of prayer. His short books on
prayer were much read. Some of us learned how his faith, rather than
being a matter of his Russian inheritance, was based on his experience of
reading the Gospel of St Mark. He found himself convinced of the
presence of Christ, having undertaken to read Mark (the shortest Gospel,
chosen because it would take least time!) in order to familiarise himself
with a faith that he had rejected. He was left with a lifelong belief in
Christ, experienced as an absolute conviction: in a famous television
dialogue about the existence of God with the atheist Marghanita Laski (a
programme which came to play an emblematic role comparable with that
of the 1948 radio debate between Fr Copleston and Bertrand Russell),
Bloom claimed, I believe because I know that God exists, and Im puzzled
how you manage not to know.
From 1956, Metropolitan Anthony was the priest of the Russian
Orthodox cathedral in Ennismore Gardens in London, affiliated to the
Moscow Patriarchate. Visitors to the cathedral have found there an
extraordinary sense of the presence of God, mediated not so much by the
splendour of the liturgy as by a kind of all-pervading silence, interpreted
rather than broken by the singing of the choir. One entered into it (or it
entered into one) so that prayer became something almost tangible and
one felt, with Prince Vladimirs envoys in the church of Hagia Sophia,
that we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For some this
experience led to their embracing the Russian Orthodox faith;
Metropolitan Anthony believed that Orthodoxy was not merely an ethnic
faith, but the truth of the gospel appealing to everyone, whatever their
national background. The presence of Orthodoxy in Britain as more than
merely an ethnic faith is in no small measure due to him (though others
share in this claim, notably Bishop Kallistos Ware). He died of cancer in
2003, in his ninetieth year.
The author of this book, Gillian Crow, was one of those drawn to
Orthodoxy by Metropolitan Anthony during the mid-1960s. She was to
become the secretary of the diocese of Sourozh, over which Metropolitan
Anthony presided, and thus she worked closely with him for many years.
Her book is subtitled Impressions of Metropolitan Anthony, and this
indeed it is. Less than a full biography, it records Metropolitan Anthonys
own impressions and those of others involved with him, especially through
the cathedral in London. It is an honest account: affectionate, though
with a growing sense of exasperation.
It was Archbishop Methodios who called Metropolitan Anthony this
holy man. Methodios, briefly Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox
Recent Books 133

archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain until he was deposed for

coveting thrones, was probably being sardonic. Moreover, even if he was
being sincere, his own reputation would render the phrase ambivalent.
Consequently Crows title already poses a question of interpretation, and
ambivalence comes to the surface as the book progresses.
She tells of Anthonys early life: his birth in Lausanne; his early years
in Persia, where his father was consul until the revolution; and the
familys flight via India to the Westfirst to Vienna, where he began
school, and then to Paris, where he completed his education and became
a doctor. After his conversion he felt called to the monastic life and
during World War II became a monk, taking the name Anthony. The
young doctor-monk also joined the French Resistance.
His familys experience of exile was harsh; economic pressure forced
the family to live apart, and eventually Anthonys father, Boris, withdrew
into the life of a recluse, divorced from his wife, who thus brought up their
son without him. Boris life of solitude became a life of prayer, and he
found himself sought out as a spiritual guide, a staretz. His influence on his
son is evident throughout Crows impressions. There is also a vivid
account of Anthonys spiritual father, Fr Afanasy, a former monk of
Valaam (or Valamonot Valaamo, as Crow consistently has it) who was,
strange as it may seem, converted to Orthodoxy by the Salvation Army.
Brought up by his mother, Xenia, and his grandmother, Olga, Anthony
in turn came to support them. The life of a priest-monk was not what
Xenia intended for her son, and when she eventually accepted it,
Anthony agreed to remain beardlessat least until her death! Soon he
found himself sent to England, though he did not speak English, first as
chaplain to the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, and then as priest
to the growing Russian Orthodox community in London. Back in Paris,
Anthony had associated himself with the minority of Russian migrs who
continued to acknowledge the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate,
despite its compromise with the Soviet authorities. He maintained this
allegiance in England, and initially aroused the suspicion that he was
some kind of communist spy.
For all the importance of Metropolitan Anthony for the growth of
Orthodoxy in England, however, his role in relation to the persecuted
Church in Russia was probably even greater. Through sermons and talks
broadcast in Russian on the BBC World Service, and later through visits
to Russia, Metropolitan Anthony helped to keep the flame of the gospel
alive during the darkest days of communism. Despite his allegiance to the
Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Anthony used his independent
position in England to criticize the communist regime and the church
134 Recent Books

hierarchys compliance. Eventually he was relieved of his office as exarch

of the patriarchate in Western Europe because of his support for
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, exiled in 1974. His standing among Russian
Christians is now higher than ever, and there is considerable pressure for
his canonisationa pressure that Crow is keen to resist.
For, despite her affection for Metropolitan Anthony, she brings out the
abrasive, even destructive, side of his personality: his struggle with his
demons, especially depression, which could lead to unpredictable and
even selfish behaviour. As the book proceeds this tone of exasperation
becomes more assertive, and Metropolitan Anthonys own impressions,
earlier recorded without comment, are called into question by the
authors retrospective ones. But this honesty only enhances the value of
her account of a great, though flawed, human being, through whom the
grace of God worked so powerfully. Is that not what it means to be a saint?
Andrew Louth
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