SYMPHONIES NOS. 2 AND 5
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, David Lloyd-Jones Naxos 8.570289, £4.99
Stanford in B flat, Stanford in G, Justorum Animae, Beatae Quorum Via… the pieces which Stanford contributed to the liturgy of the Anglican Church are distinguished and justly celebrated. But Stanford the orchestral composer? This is largely unfamiliar territory for most of us. By the end of his life, his concert works were declining in popularity, though his reputation as a teacher was unassailable. Indeed, he is still reckoned to be one of the most distinguished teachers of composition which England has seen, and the list of his pupils is breathtaking. Vaughan Williams, Arthur Bliss, Gustav Hoist, Herbert Howells, John Ireland, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Frank Bridge are only some of the famous names who studied with him. They discovered that he was a stern taskmaster, but they came to revere the quick-tempered, kind-hearted, sharp-tongued, generous, thin-skinned Irishman. Their early efforts in composition were usually met with a dismissive, All rot, me boy’, but if they had the courage to stand up to him they learned lessons about the craft of composition which remained with them ever after. Above all, they imbibed his own high standards where music was concerned.
John Ireland recalled that one of his first offerings to Stanford drew the response, All Brahms and water, me boy, and more water than Brahms’ This is ironic, because it is the reproach which might be levelled at Stanford himself, at least where his works for the concert hall are concerned. He had studied in Germany, and his admiration for the German masters was too great for his own good. Somehow the individual voice which he found when writing for the Church evaded him too often outside it. His great contemporary, Sir Hubert Parry, was also strongly influenced by the music coming from Germany, but he managed to absorb the influence into a recognizably English and personal idiom in a way which Stanford often did not. It is when Stanford, in his orchestral works, looks away from Europe and turns for inspiration to the music of his native Ireland that the results are almost invariably happy. I once heard the fine clarinettist, Jack Brymer, describe Stanford’s Clarinet Sonata as ‘easy Brahms’, which it is except for the slow movement, a haunting Irish lament. His orchestral Irish Rhapsodies are fine music which deserves to be far better known.
What, then, are we to make of the two symphonies recorded here? They are part of a plan to record all the symphonies by Stanford, of which we have already had numbers 4 and 7. Naxos deserves praise indeed for undertaking this task. The only other complete cycle of the symphonies, recorded by Chandos, is excellent (under the baton of Vernon Han-dley it could hardly be otherwise) but full price. This Naxos recording is at budget price, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra demonstrating again that it is one of our best, and David Lloyd-Jones displaying his mastery as a conductor of the music. With excellent recording and crisp playing, these symphonies are shown in the most favourable light. True, the figures of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms hover a little too obviously over Symphony 2, but in the Fifth, composed in 1894 and apparently inspired by Milton’s poems LAUegro and II Penseroso, Stanford forges something far more personal, imaginative and forward-looking. This symphony is truly impressive and uplifting music which will reward repeated listening, and the players, especially the brass, clearly relish the opportunities to shine which Stanford’s skilful orchestration gives them in plenty. To have music and performance of this quality at this price is almost a gift.
Those interested in exploring the wider ranges of Stanford’s music may like to listen to the performances recently reissued from Lyrita, particularly the recordings conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite and Sir Adrian Boult on Lyrita SRCD.219. This disk contains the attractive Piano Concerto No. 2, the fine Irish Rhapsody No. 4, and the solemn Funeral March which Stanford composed for Tennyson’s play Becket, and which was played at his own funeral in Westminster Abbey in 1924.
Barry A. Orford
THE HOLINESS OF BEAUTY
G.E. Bodley (1827-1907) and His Circle
Victoria and Albert Museum
1 November 2007 to 17 February 2008
George Frederick Bodley was one of the foremost of Victorian architects whose name often comes first in any litany of those great men: and that is not merely the accord of alphabetical primacy. The centenary of his death is marked at the V & A with a small but representative and excellently presented exhibition, which can be found on level 4 in room 128a. It has been supported by Watts & Co of Westminster: a company co-founded by Bodley and still employing his techniques and his aesthetic and liturgical principles in their current work to the adornment of many churches and to the glory of God. That they survive and prosper is a testimony to enduring values and tradition, and a rebuke to the vulgarity of the age and culture.
Bodley was born in 1827 in Hull and he became a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott. He worked with Scott until 1850 and then for some fifty years he pursued a successful and highly influential career engaged on over one hundred buildings. He was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal in 1899 and was made a Royal Academician, the honour he valued most highly. Throughout his life he was a devout Anglo-Catholic, schooled in the principles of the Oxford Movement and the Tractarians. He was thoroughly articulate in the English Gothic style and designed with a degree of refinement and artistry that sought to put architecture and art of the highest quality to the service of the life and the liturgical expression of the Church. His unswerving principle was the integration of the liturgy and life of the Church with its architectural and artistic setting. The Psalmist sings of the ‘beauty of holiness’ in the worship of God and Bod-leys career and achievement speak of the holiness of beauty.
In 1872 he entered into a highly fruitful partnership with Thomas Garner and they collaborated with and employed the best of designers, craftsmen and artists of the day. The exhibition highlights work by William Morris, Charles Edward Kempe, Burne-Jones and Ninian Comper. Comper was Bodley’s pupil and is represented by a couple of exquisite pattern drawings and an architectural drawing of Holy Angels, Hoare Cross, executed when he was nineteen years old and in the second day of his pupilage. It is of such deft touches that this exhibition endears itself.
Against the background of a Bodley wallpaper are arrayed drawings, paintings and illustrations of some of his great works: St Augustine, Pendlebury; Hoare Cross; Clumber Park Chapel (from which he was sacked by the Duke of Newcastle when the work exceeded the estimate by some way); St Wilfred, Cantley; St Agatha, Sparkbrook. Illustrations of stained glass by William Morris, John Burlison and Thomas Grylls are shown to good effect, although they are trumped by a magnificent cartoon, dramatic, striking, vivid, of St Michael slaying the dragon which was drawn for a window in the church of St Michael and All Angels, Brighton.
The exhibition is supplemented by a cope from St Pauls, Knightsbridge, a book of Bodleys poems (perhaps not quite up to the standard of his architecture but showing a deep devotion), a chalice and a stunning banner, shining gold against a rich red background, created for the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.
On Saturday, 3 November there was a commemoration of Bodleys life in Holy Trinity Church, Prince Consort Road, which attracted a large congregation. It was an apt setting. Behind the unassuming facade of this his last work, incomplete at the time of his death, is an interior of generous space and an ‘amplitude of light’ which owes much to the elegant slender pillars and the double north aisle which help to create the delicate airiness. The service of Solemn Evensong with the clergy in Bodley copes was restrained and seemly, stately and measured as any of his buildings.
A sympathetic and eloquent tribute was delivered by Mr Michael Hall, the editor of Apollo magazine, who also curated the exhibition. A wreath was laid at his faux-Jacobean memorial, incongruous in its setting and oddly dissonant with his architectural style and philosophy, but explained in that he claimed kinship with the seventeenth-century Bodley who founded the eponymous library in Oxford. Although the commemorative service is over, the exhibition goes on into the new year and is worth a visit.
THE FIRST EMPEROR
Until 6 April 2008 Admission £12
If one cannot visit the real thing then this exhibition offers an informative glimpse at a young man’s extraordinary achievement, a well-presented programme starting with the warring states and ending with the mystery of the tomb.
Born in 259bc, Ying Zheng became King of Qin (pronounced Chin) at the age of 13 and was at war with the six other main states, conquering them between 230 and 221bc and becoming the First Emperor of China in 221, when the Qin Dynasty begins. He unified territory and centralized bureaucracy in a culture in which writing and merit played an important part. His legacy was enormous but he wanted to live forever and rule eternally, and in his attempt to avoid death he took pills and potions.
The dead as much as the living were part of a single community joined by major rituals of banquets with ceremonial foods offered to the dead, who were deemed present as the offerings were made. Immortality in China meant non-death and this was what Qin sought. In the tradition of the day, spirits and people who became immortal lived in the mountains and so the mound of his tomb was a mountain dwelling – his eternal palace. However, he had to be protected against an invasion of spirits, of the armies he had massacred, hence the Terracotta Army, the construction of which commenced when he came to the throne. There were four pits constructed to protect his tomb, but only three were filled with figures covering a total area of some 19,000 square metres, comprising infantry soldiers, charioteers, cavalry, archers, spearmen and guards of honour. The figures stood between 6′-6’5 in height. For entertainment in the afterlife, there were acrobats and strongmen; bronze swans, geese and cranes also featured.
Over a thousand men were involved in the process, many of whom died whilst working and were buried in mass graves. Construction took forty years and was not complete when Qin died in 210bc.There is a model of a Qin palace (he had many) and examples of tools, bronze vessels, coins and building materials.
The pit of terracotta warriors was first discovered in 1974 when a farmer digging nearby unearthed a terracotta head, which had lain undiscovered for 2,000 years. The burial chamber has not been excavated. It is thought that there are between seven and eight thousand figures and horses, and it is the enormity of scale and quality of the Terracotta Army that impresses.
I viewed the exhibition with no prior knowledge or awareness of the Chinese tradition of tombs as eternal dwellings; but knowing only of the Terracotta Army as a vast and remarkable accumulation of life-sized clay figures. Seeing the figures face to face and within touching distance enables one to appreciate the quality, not only to ponder on the sheer scale of the construction, but also to contemplate the delusions and arrogance of the First Emperor, and to compare his vision of eternity and the afterlife with that of our own. In our own age it is hard to imagine how someone could think they would retain their earthly powers so enjoyed in this life and carry them into the next, but those, it seems, were indeed his hopes.
Judith Hall is a lay member of FiF
THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
Continuum, 264pp, pbk 0 8264 9241 X, £17.99
After his translation of St Thomas Aquinas’ On Evil and with the writing of this book, it might be thought Professor Davies specializes in evil. If he does, it is to some purpose -what he has written deserves to become today’s standard introduction to the ‘problem of evil.’
His book has three main strengths. First, it is easy to read. The way the argument is presented helps the reader to pick up on a point and then to work backwards or forwards to see the presuppositions behind an idea or where the idea leads. Many of the stock questions which people ask in confirmation classes (Why does God allow evil? Is evil Gods fault?) are dealt with in a way which someone leading a confirmation class could easily bring to the group.
That leads us to the second strength of this book. Davies succinctly summarizes a wide range of arguments about God and evil, ranging from Hume to Hick, via Kant and Mary Baker Eddy. Indeed, we have here a compendium of how the fact of evil in the world has shaped what people say about God.
This in turn brings us to the third strength of the book, the insistence that how we understand God comes before how we understand evil. Davies follows Aquinas to say that God must not be understood as just a very big, powerful person, though one who is guided by moral laws in the same way we are. Rather, because he is the creator, all goodness comes from God – God is essentially good. And because he is essentially good, morality which teaches mankind to choose good rather than evil doesn’t apply to God.
This radical otherness of God, which separates him from his creation while at the same time providing creation with life and meaning, becomes the basis of how to understand God and evil. It throws into doubt much standard theodicy. But don’t worry, because in the final chapter this strange, other God is shown to be the familiar God of the Bible, and the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
EMERGING AND FRESH EXPRESSIONS OF CHURCH
How are they authentically church and Anglican?
Ian J. Mobsby
Moot Community Publishing, 122pp, pbk
This is a rather Anglican book, full of what many would see as the right sort of questions, shy of over simple answers and giving critical loyalty towards the main sweep of Christian tradition. Ian Mobsby, priest missioner of a London Anglo-Catholic church, gives a defence of emerging and fresh expressions of church that will connect with those who look to the catholic vision of Christianity where God is seen ‘equally in the Eucharist and in drinking beer together in the local bar’. Four groups are studied including MOOT, the author’s own alternative worship community at St Matthew, Westminster. Their Anglicanism is discerned in a flexible structure, a focus on bringing relational presence into particular places and networks and the light hand of ecclesiastical authority. Fresh expressions axe presented as a leading prong of the contemporary strategy ‘to proclaim afresh in each generation [the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds]’ (Declaration of Assent).
This ‘proclaiming afresh’ is at the heart of the contemporary debate between inherited and emerging approaches to church growth. Is this proclamation a translation of the faith of the Church through the ages (inherited view) or is it a synthesis in which the local culture reshapes the Church (emergent view)? The writer, a man and a missioner of his age steeped in post-modernism, favours the latter. Ian is frustrated by the Christendom mindset that survives in the Church of England. In that frustration he is one with the Anglo-Catholic pioneers, even if his interpretation of Anglican worship would be worlds apart from theirs.
Since many of those early pioneers were Catholic-Evangelicals they would miss in this book passionate reference to Jesus and to the priest as Jesus’ man (sic). The main theological bearing of the book is an inclusive Trinitarianism that fits a less linear, missionary approach to church than that of Jesus e.g. in John 20.21 As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’
It is a book that speaks powerfully into the current ecclesiological and missiological divide with a brilliance both traditionalists and synthesizers can profit from it. The perception that the miracles of information technology are breeding forms of mysticism is quite fascinating. High theological flight is sandwiched by sharp reality checks such as the prediction that in 2040 average church attendance age will be 64 years.
Ian Mobsby is passionate that the good news of Christ should get out into the 60% of the population who now have no contact with the church and are suspicious of any who hold over-arching world views. Whatever your ecclesiology, if you share this concern there will be something for you in this book.
LOVELY LIKE JERUSALEM
Aidan Nichols op Ignatius, 279pp, pbk 978 158617 168 1, £12.50
When did you last listen to a good sermon on the Old Testament? Come to that, when did you last listen to any sermon on the Old Testament? Armed with Aidan Nichols’ excellent guide you might, Fathers, feel more inclined to have a go – and you will certainly find your congregations, if they have read it, better equipped to hear what you have to say.
Fr Nichols writes with characteristic lucidity and panache, and is, as ever, unafraid to challenge liberal orthodoxies. He begins with an entirely helpful survey of the contents of the Old Testament under the headings of Torah, Prophets and Writings, with notes on each book or collection of books. While accepting the value of the
work of the source critics in advancing the classical theory – J, E, D, P and all that -of the composition of the Pentateuch, he is agnostic about the conclusions, and opts for a conservative position on dating, as on the historicity of Moses and other figures central to the Old Testament narrative. The Book of Joshua ‘inspires confidence and gives internal evidence of its closeness in time to the events it describes.’ Likewise, Nichols argues, it is more fruitful to find what unifies the prophecy brought together under the one name than to carve it up into First, Second and Third Isaiah. The deuterocanonical books are, of course, included in the overview: the Wisdom of Solomon is ‘a marvellous book, which Protestantism is unfortunate not to have in its Bible.’
A combative but wholly welcome chapter on ‘The pattern of revelation: a contentious issue’ surveys the ‘reception’ of the Hebrew Scriptures in recent years, and finds Neo-Marcionism alive and well via the unwholesome influence of Schleiermacher, Harnack and Bultmann. Nichols notes that ordinands in Cambridge – and surely not only there -‘have great difficulty…getting any idea of how it [the Old Testament] might be used in preaching or in the catechetical activity of the Church.’
The remedy lies in seeing how ‘the structure of the two Testaments is essentially one of promise and fulfilment.’ What is promised in the pages of the Old Testament, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, is – broadly – the messianic hope. What the Old Testament says about the Son of David (in the Royal psalms), about the Gift of a New Spirit (in Ezekiel and Joel), about the Bride of the Lord (in Isaiah and Hosea), about the Suffering Servant (in Isaiah) and about the universal mission of Israel (Isaiah again, Micah and Zechariah) is all fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and in his command to the apostles to preach to all the nations. Nichols is careful not to read into the pages of the Old Testament a consistency of outlook which is not always there; he agrees that the Old Testament cannot bring about its own fulfilment and that (quoting von Balthasar) ‘only the entire biblical revelation mediates in a total form what God wanted to communicate to us of his glory’
Aspects of ‘the glory of God’ revealed in the Old Testament are the focus of the third part of the book. It is here that we learn of God’s divinity, of his holiness, his absolute otherness. We understand him to be the God of creation and of history, effecting his saving purposes through a series of covenants with man. Creator and Redeemer are one and the same God.
In part 4, Nichols turns specifically to the question of typology, illustrating this privileged methodology by which means Christians can best discover that ‘two part’ structure to the whole Bible with reference (following Danielou) to the Sleep of Adam, the Flood, the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Exodus and the entry into the Promised Land. Nichols’ exposition of St Zeno of Verona’s exploration of the Adam-Christ, Eve-Church typology is particularly thrilling; as the author comments, ‘here we are listening to the authentic sacramental catechesis of the teaching church.’ Ambrose, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa and Origen (whose typological exegesis proved just a little too speculative for Holy Mother Church) are all quarried for commentary on the Exodus and entry into the Land; and this section provides a fitting preamble to the last part of the book which offers a more detailed analysis of a quartet of Fathers – Augustine, Gregory the Great, Origen (interestingly) and finally Thomas – on specific books; respectively, Genesis, Job, the Song of Songs and the Pentateuch.
In a (modest) conclusion, Fr Nichols expresses the hope that his ‘modest book’ will assist with an appreciation of the Scriptures of Israel which are indeed, as the Song of Songs has it, ‘lovely like Jerusalem.’ He more than fulfils that aspiration.
WATCHING & WAITING
A guide to the celebration Advent
Canterbury, 126pp, pbk 978 I 853II 834 0, £12.99
The great advantage of one who has served on the liturgical commission, as has the Bishop of Portsmouth, is that he has a sensitivity to and knowledge of the complex traditions that lie behind our observance of Advent; the disadvantage is that when he acknowledges one of the limitations of the Common Worship provision, one cannot help muttering to oneself, ‘So why didn’t you change it?’
This book is a collection of thoughts covering a whole range of approaches to
this often difficult season, based on the O Antiphons. Taken that we are not going to reach a consensus that would make Advent as clear a season as Lent, and taken that it must answer a whole range of expectations, Bishop Stevenson’s approach maybe better than it first appears. I warmed to him as I read further.
IN GOD WE DOUBT
Confessions of a failed atheist
Hodder & Stoughton, 322pp, hbk
978 0 340 95126 2, £18.99
Grown politicians have quaked at the thought of being interviewed by John Humphrys. But strong views need to be challenged and having faced a great variety of questioners over a period of nearly fifty years I can say that I have relished none so much as Humphrys. Whatever one’s answer he knows the real, sometimes uncomfortable, question to ask next and he will always get right to the heart of matter and to the weaknesses of any position presented.
But this book is more of a challenge to himself. An agnostic is often someone who cannot take the trouble to examine either atheism or its converse, but for Humphrys it is no easy escape route but a genuine attempt to find the truths of one or the other, so long as there is the possibility of open and frank debate. He has little time for the closed minds and often unpleasantly dismissive attitudes of either the religious fundamentalist or the militant atheist. Of these, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins come in for the greatest criticism, though one must at least question whether Dawkins is not like St Paul on the Damascus road, ‘kicking against the goads’.
One of the most interesting parts of the book are the interviews he has with Rowan Williams, Jonathan Sachs and Tariq Ramadan – scholars of the three monotheistic faiths – and none of them provide an answer, satisfactory to Humphrys, to the question ‘Why suffering?’ But then, is there an entirely satisfactory answer?
There are weaknesses. Humphrys seems unaware that fundamentalism in the Church is not confined to evangelicalism, and any orthodox Catholic Anglican knows that fundamentalist liberals and feminists can more than outplay Hitchins and Dawkins in the viciousness of their attacks.
And I would have liked him to have dealt more with the reality of evil, not as the absence of good but as a positive force – Evil against Good – which for me is the only explanation of the power (in their time) of Soviet Communism, Nazism, Islamic terrorism, to mention but a few.
That said, this is a challenging book that every thinking Christian should read. And with John Humphrys as its author it is of course full of humour. This too might be a persuasive argument for God, for we are the only creatures in nature with a sense of humour, and we are the only creatures said to be made in the image of God.
SPILLING THE BEANS
Clarissa Dickson Wright
Hodder and Stoughton, 336pp, hbk
978 0 340 93388 6, £18.99
When it was suggested that I might abandon the arid world of reviewing ecclesiastical history and recommend a book for Christmas, I was enthusiastic. I looked to enjoy a light read, be amused, be entertained, not to be overly taxed by the prose or the content. When it was further suggested that I should review the autobiography of Clarissa Dickson Wright, my heart leapt, my spirits soared, my enthusiasm was kindled. Her splendid double act with the late, and much lamented, Jennifer Paterson as Two Fat Ladies was compulsory and compulsive viewing in Middle Cottage (my simple dwelling in the countryside). It was rare that I was tempted to cook the killer meals (rather like the habit of the late Fr Brindley, double cream was added to make the dish less rich) but, like many another, revelled in the tales and the banter. I settled down to enjoy the task.
It is a harrowing read. Do not misunderstand me: it is a good book. It is full of insights, packed with lively anecdote, stuffed with dazzling and dizzying coincidences, graced with slighting references that hint tantalizingly at even better gossip just below the surface, replete with pen-portraits affectionate or severe. It is written in sharp, incisive, unsentimental prose without self-pity or self-justification. But it is a harrowing read.
Born into a life of immense privilege and material comfort, she suffered, along with her deeply loved mother, a life of horrendous abuse from her father. He was an eminent surgeon but clearly and hor-rifically unhinged by drink. Miss Dickson Wrights revenge was to become a barrister, the youngest woman to be called, because her father loathed and detested lawyers. Her chronicle is unsparing both of him and of herself.
Despite this background, she also writes movingly and lovingly of much of her childhood and she is set on a potentially successful career when it all falls apart. She too is brought low by drink. She drank a vast amount of alcohol every day. She fell deeply in love with another alcoholic. The grief at his death and that of her mother sent her spiralling out of control. Her father s death left her unmoved and she remains unblinkingly glacial about him, while understanding him better, having gone through her own dark night of the soul.
Her career screeched to a halt. The substantial inheritance was squandered on the highest of living. She was embroiled in lawsuits with relations. She lost her home. She found temporary lodgings with friends or in increasingly unsatisfactory accommodation. She picked up men in the Kilburn area, as the index has it. She slept rough on a few occasions. She damaged her adrenal gland irreparably through a surfeit of quinine from the tonic water with which she slightly diluted her gin. I read this litany of tragedy open-mouthed in horror. As each page was turned, it just became worse and worse. You will need to be as unflinching as she is to negotiate these pages.
She finds the right therapist and the right course for her recovery and chronicles that rocky and far from straightforward course with the same brutal honesty and clarity as she charted her decline. She possesses a sense of detachment when looking at herself as if she is a specimen under minute scrutiny and examination. I am told that celebrity memoirs which invariably tell of rehabilitation from drug and drink dependency are soaked in ill-digested therapy-speak. That is not true here.
A significant part of her rehabilitation and the reconstruction of her life was the shop Books for Cooks, which gave her a haven and useful employment, and a place and reputation in the realm of food and cooking. Yet even as she was stable and employed, she was dealt another blow with the death of a loved brother, also an alcoholic. She carved a ham she had cooked for the wake while his obsequies were said. Miss Dickson Wright was born a Catholic, and remains attracted to its order, rites and ceremonies. She is more a Vatican II Catholic, as she puts it, than was Jennifer Paterson.
Oddly, her account of her time of greatest fame with Jennifer Paterson is told with a curious lack of warmth, although they were clearly enjoyable times. Jennifer Paterson had her own close relationship with the bottle and she does not always appear here in the most attractive light. Yet they worked well together and brought a distinctive presence to the screen. It has given Miss Dickson Wright a continued and valued presence in the media, even if the ghastly apparatchiks at the Lubianka of the BBC criminally undervalue her.
This vivid account of a life that is at once rackety and noble, amusing and agonizing, public and private, is compulsively readable and sobering in its graphic self-revelation. I cannot, in honesty, say that it is light reading for Christmas but it speaks of important things; of redemption, of the power of love and transformation, of courage, of triumph through suffering.
THE MEDIEVAL FLOWER BOOK
British Library, 128pp, hbk 978 0 7123 4945 1, [£20]
This well-produced, full-colour book is an obvious Christmas book for the garden lover who already has all the manuals. From illuminated manuscripts, it illustrates and describes a comprehensive range of flowers, herbs, fruits and garden plants of the medieval period.
Its interest to the Christian is the manner in which it shows, without any intention so to do, just how careful and scientific was the medieval observation of the natural world. Much of the science maybe wrong, or misconceived, but the observation is careful, painstaking and often enfused with a real sympathy and warmth.
In a world of cold secularism, I found this a charming affirmation of the sensibilities of a religious culture, with a humble and engaging power of observation and analysis. I was also rather heartened by the sheer quality of the some of the fruit in particular – it would command a premium in most of our supermarket organic sections.
The essay in the book Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth on the priest and psychotherapy (reviewed last month) was wrongly attributed. It was written by Fr Andrew Jones, to whom the reviewer apologies for his error.