SURPRISED BY HOPE
SPCK, 338pp, pbk
978 0 281 056170, £12.99
How many million words has Tom Wright written about the New Testament? Many more (and many more million, probably) than any bishop of the Church of England, perhaps in the Church of God. We should be grateful that a senior prelate in our own generation should be so prolific: it gives the lie to the oft-repeated canard that there are no scholar-bishops any more. In the field of biblical studies, Bishop Tom is now an unavoidable part of the landscape: agree or disagree with his conclusions, he cannot be ignored. Again, that is a remarkable achievement for a serving bishop. In a nicely self-deprecating introduction to this book, Wright admits that, unlike most clergy, he has not been distracted from his mission of giving the definitive account of the theology of the New Testament to a waiting world by the mundane realities of parochial life, such as taking funerals. He has been saved for a greater task.
This is a powerful and often brilliant book, written with gusto, passion and immense energy. It reads as if one is in a lecture, at which the lecturer has only an hour in which to deliver two hours of material, and every bit is hugely important. You can almost hear the sound of a hundred pencils scratching, or a thousand fingers flying over keyboards, as students struggle to take notes and keep up. Let me be quite clear: the thesis at the heart of this book – which might be summed up as: the reality of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the reality of the future bodily resurrection of those who are in Christ, and the reality of the coming Kingdom of God on earth – is superbly argued and conclusively proved. The chapters on the Easter-event itself should be given to any agnostic enquirer, any sceptical friend.
Wright takes apart every alternative to the empty tomb and the bodily resurrection of Jesus – a collective psychological experience on the part of the disciples, a stolen body, a purely spiritual appearance – and exposes them for the historical nonsenses they are.
He scores some palpable hits against some of the cherished presuppositions and conclusions of liberal theology, neatly demonstrating how a smoothing away of the reality of the biblical understanding of what took place at the Lord’s Passover leads to all sorts of collusions with the power structures and injustices of this world. He is deeply sensible about the ‘second coming,’ about judgement, and even – though perhaps I am being unfair to say ‘even – has a good (if short) section on the sacraments, seeing baptism and Eucharist as particular moments when God’s new creation breaks into, and becomes a reality in, this world.
But – there has to be a but, hasn’t there? We have scarcely begun, when Wright has characterized Keble’s eschatology as Buddhist and called Newman a Gnostic. Most of our hymns are neo-pagan. The Common Worship funeral rites are hopeless (actually, he’s got a point there). The liturgical year is all wrong – the feast of Christ the King shouldn’t be there, and neither should All Souls Day. The saints can’t pray for us (not even the Mother of Jesus): first because there aren’t any saints in any case, second because, even if there were, we can – and should – go straight to the top, to the boss man. (At one point Wright likens the risen and ascended Christ to a new CEO running a global company, with us as his branch-managers: who was it that said that the problem with Bishop Tom’s God is that he is ‘a big man in the sky who does things?’) After death, everyone goes to sleep, more or less, to await the General Resurrection when suddenly everything will get frantically busy, with all of us engaged in rebuilding the world and putting everything right. (What happens then?)
We knew all of these views of Wright’s before, of course; and we know where to look for an alternative point of view. Professor David Brown preached a splendid sermon, in Bishop Tom’s own cathedral, a year or so ago, clearly setting out Catholic teaching on the Communion of the Saints. So let us be grateful for what is good in Surprised by Hope – and what is good is very good indeed – and leave the rest quietly to one side. I suppose the really mischievous thing would be to write to Bishop Tom and thank him for his book: and assure him that (when the time comes) we will ask Our Blessed Lady to intercede for the repose of his soul.
THE MEANING OF LIFE
A Very Short Introduction
OUP, 109pp, pbk
978 0 1995 3217 9, £6.99
Terry Eagleton is the John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester, and is influential as a literary critic. In this slim volume he successfully negotiates the challenges of the Very Short Introduction format. Over four chapters, helpfully supplemented by suggestions for further reading, Eagleton looks at the validity of the question of the meaning of life; the meaning of ‘meaning’; the understanding of the idea of’life’; and, drawing on his expertise in the field of literary criticism, the answers to this conundrum provided in art.
His essay includes discussion of many of the standard philosophical authorities who have attempted a response to the puzzle of the meaning of life, including Aristotle, Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. The summaries he provides are neither cursory nor overly focused on specifics, and his style is lucid and entertaining, thus making this title suitable for all, regardless of experience in academic philosophy. Nor indeed does Eagleton limit his survey to the contributions of philosophers only: in his third chapter, on “The Eclipse of Meaning’, he ably evaluates the ideas of Chekhov, Beckett and Shakespeare; and, unlike so many of his peers in academia, his treatment of the understanding of the meaning of life in religious thought is conscientious if, at times, somewhat uncomfortably critical.
Among the implicit arguments of this work are the relativism to historico-cultural situation of the perceived meaning of life and the important notion that the current fascination with this question stems from a disintegration of personal identity as a result of ethical alienation. Eagletons skill surely lies in his ability to unpack this forbidding thesis into a work of such accessibility and clarity!
The author lays the blame for this predicament at the feet of modern liberal individualism, which has obscured the community (and thus ethical) dimension of our self-definition. In a damning indictment of the contemporary situation he observes how ‘fact and value [seem] to have split apart, leaving the former a public affair and the latter a private one’. Eagleton is also scathingly dismissive of the plethora of pseudo-spiritualities, including points of view espoused by representatives of the mainstream religious traditions, which have offered a procession of vacuous solutions to the dilemma of the meaning of life: in particular, he argues against ‘the banal misconception that spirituality must surely be something outlandish and esoteric, rather than practical and material’. It is with compelling logic that Eagleton highlights how the answer to a loss of existential bearings is unlikely to be found in further divorcing ourselves from the realities of the world around us. He is rightly suspicious of a religious dualism which, inter alia, does not ‘require of you any inconvenient sort of action, such as freeing yourself from the burden of running your mansions by giving away large amounts of money to the homeless’.
Eagleton is nevertheless similarly critical of zealous religious fundamentalism, describing it as the ‘neurotic anxiety’ of those who cannot acknowledge the possibility that ‘God’s presence makes the world more mysteriously unfathomable, not less’. On the contrary, this book pushes a resoundingly affirmative approach to the world we encounter and, a fortiori, to the people we meet in it. Not for us a Protestant anti-essentialism which denies value to our human being because it threatens the supreme power of God!
Instead, Eagleton recommends engagement with the world around us as an essential component of the meaning of life. His approach is broadly Aristotelian, equating the meaning of life with the meaning of the good life. Like Aristotle, he acknowledges the respect which must be paid to human characteristic action in this matter, with happiness ‘a creative realization of one’s typically human faculties’. Furthermore, and again with Aristotle, he emphasizes the connection between ethics and politics: living the good life ‘demands the kind of social and political conditions in which you are free to exercise your creative powers’. Articulating his own thoughts on the issue, Eagleton contends that the ‘meaning of life is not a solution to a problem, but a matter of living in a certain way… It is not something separate from life, but what makes it worth living.’ In continuation of his critique of modern liberal individualism, the author makes the vital observation that human social relationships, and those of a certain nature, are essential to living meaningfully. Accordingly, he maintains that social inequalities must be addressed in order to make fruitful relationships possible.
The Meaning of Life is a fine addition to the series of Very Short Introductions from OUR Whilst Eagleton’s background in literary criticism and Marxist thought, and, surprisingly, his Catholic heritage, come through in this volume, nevertheless they make for an absorbing, thoughtful and, ultimately, very convincing argument. This eudemonic manifesto provides an excellent introduction to the question of the meaning of life; what is required of the reader is to flesh out the proposals articulated therein.
WHY HISTORY MATTERS
Palgrave, 192pp, pbk 230 52148 3, £9.99
History occupies a strangely schizophrenic place in the national consciousness at the moment. Books, television and film are awash with historical drama, historical reconstructions, mighty series on kings and queens and much dressing up. Yet in our public discourse and political life, there is a dirigiste disdain for the past. It is as if 1997 was Year 1 of the New Labour Revolution and we have seen a series of administrations over the past decade that has consciously and as a matter of policy turned its back on the past. Occasionally the past has refused to be ignored and has bitten at the heels of the new masters. The attempt to abolish the Office of Lord Chancellor without any consideration or understanding of its roots and tendrils throughout the constitution, both written and unwritten, came a cropper because no one had stopped to look at the historical record. It was an example of staggering historical ignorance.
John Tosh is concerned in this short book to combat this criminal ignorance of history in our national polity. ‘Judging by the tenor of political debate and the coverage of the media, most people in Britain think that in a fast-moving world, history has little or nothing to offer a rational public discourse. Time and again, complex policy issues are placed before the public without adequate explanation of how they have come to assume their present shape, and without any hint of the possibilities that are disclosed by the record of the past.’
He posits a practical justification for the teaching and understanding of history. There are other justifications, not least that history is significant in its own right and needs no justification beyond its intrinsic worth; a kind of moral worth with no need of utilitarian justification. But as a matter of practicality, history, he argues, is a critical resource for the active citizen in a representative democracy. Well, that is all well and good, but as we see often enough, many of our fellow citizens (should that be subjects of the Queen?) are slothful, inert, scandalously uninterested in anything beyond their appetites and self-serving indulgence. It is unlikely that the wilfully ignorant, the defiantly ignorant, will be seduced by the professorial academic voice, however persuasive the rest of us find it. Of course, it must be right that the equipping of the young ‘with a distinctive mode of thinking which can be critically applied to the present’ is of pressing and vital importance. Were our educational system less shambolic, it might have some hope of success.
There have been attempts to inculcate the skills and evidential techniques of the historian in the teaching of history. I am old enough to remember teaching the Schools Council History Project which required the reading and analysis of documents and arriving at a conclusion. One classic element was a consideration of material about Richard III – essentially was he a good thing or a bad thing, or something in between? At the end of the final lesson of textual examination and detailed discussion, weighing the evidence, sifting out bias, arriving at a rounded conclusion, one young budding historian asked, ‘But, Sir, what is the right answer?’ Well, you win some, you lose some, but it was disheartening. As Professor Tosh puts it, ‘The Project became heavily associated with ‘skills’ at the expense of conceptual and social approaches’
Of course, the historians’ skills applied to the political discourse of the time would be helpfully determinant: but what would be the right answer? The application of skills and techniques is all well and good but they do not exist in an intellectual or a fact-free vacuum. Should an a priori necessity be some common ground about the past, about what happened, not necessarily why it happened, nor how it happened? But that sense of history as a shared past, or a shared narrative of the past, is something that Professor Tosh explicitly excludes from his tract, which is avowedly narrow in its focus and its recommendations. But it lies at the heart of the difficulty in which historians and the body politic find themselves, and which fatally undermines the excellent intentions of this book.
This is painfully obviously in the fractured and fragmentary nature of our society and its absence of a shared inheritance. The failure of the assimilation of multiethnic minorities into a common culture and the deification of multiculturalism militates against a common narrative of the past, and a common cultural heritage, indeed a common cultural present. ‘Traditional’ native values have failed to secure a hold on the affections and the loyal adherence of ethnic minorities – and why should they? Why should we assume that what has formed us has made us any better than those formed and steeped in a different set of narratives and cultural determinants?
If ‘Citizenship’ has become the modern watchword in a participatory democracy, then history, as Bernard Crick in his Report Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools in 1988 pointed out, ‘of all the other subjects…may have (should have) the greatest role to play’ History in schools is in itself a course in citizenship if it does nothing more than provide a context for the present.
As Professor Tosh has it, ‘The civic role of history amounts to much more than support for cultural identities and respect for other cultures. It gives people the rudiments of a mode of thinking which enables them to deepen their understanding of the issues on which, as citizens, they will be called upon to take a view’
The Ancient Customs of Salisbury
Spire Books, 118pp, pbk
9781 90496518 3,
This is the second edition of Philip Baxter’s Sarum Use, and is published to mark the 750th anniversary of the dedication of the New Sarum (= Salisbury) cathedral on 30 September 1258. The subject matter is predominantly the Sarum Rite, which was a normative source for liturgical ceremonial and ritual in the medieval Church, but the book also looks at the wider context in which the Rite developed, including the prescriptions laid down at Sarum for ecclesiastical business and management.
The author’s involvement with the cathedral and its community began with his appointment in 1984 as Diocesan Deputy Director of Education. He was a voluntary organist at Salisbury, the founder-director of the Cloister Choir, and a vicar choral deputizing for the Canon Precentor. His studies of the Sarum Use were continued at Brasenose College, Oxford (which adopted the Sarum Rite at its foundation in 1508), where he was awarded a Fellowship. He is thus in an excellent position to approach this topic.
The volume itself is modest in length, but beautifully presented, with an abundance of illustrations including fourteen colour photographs, among which are a number of extracts from richly illuminated Sarum Rite missals. Some of the details which Mr Baxter chooses to emphasize are fascinating additions to his introduction to the Sarum Use, such as the idea of the Bishop of Salisbury’s continuing entitlement to be Master of Ceremonies to Saint Peter’s in Rome, a privilege not formally rescinded at the Reformation. Another amusing piece of information concerns a list of charges levelled at the author’s predecessors as vicars choral in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, which includes ‘wearing ‘a cape of many colours,’ a ‘belt of marvellous size’ and going to Southampton ‘in a striped costume’ (p. 89).
A great strength of this book is the equal attention paid to both the history and sources from which the Sarum Use was derived, and also to the legacy of the Sarum Use at Salisbury cathedral and more generally. For example, the Use heavily influenced Archbishop Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer; and Bishop Benson’s introduction of a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols to Truro Cathedral in the nineteenth century was prompted by research into the Sarum Matins of nine lessons and responds.
Baxter provides a fine commentary on the liturgical peculiarities of Sarum, among other areas in respect of the Divine Office and of clerical vesture. The attitude of the Sarum liturgists towards the public prayer of the Church is ably captured in these pages: quoting Rocks The Church of Our Fathers (1852), the author describes the ‘undying wish to make the house of God the throne of Christ, the altar more glorious than the houses of men, more dazzling with beauty than the thrones of earthly kings.’
Sarum Use ranges over the various elements of this formative liturgical movement in sixteen readable chapters. The historical detail is never overbearing, and Baxter manages to engage the reader in the story of the Sarum Use by means of a strong narrative sense. Only towards the end of the book does this become a little inconsistent, when the author comes to deal with present-day aspects of cathedral life. Here the text sometimes seems more like a visitors’ guidebook than an essay. Nevertheless, this is overall a charming work, and a very good
introduction to the topic. The engagement of the Sarum liturgists with their material suggests a number of important lessons for the Church today – among them, the need for close attention to consistency in ritual, and the significance of the liturgy’s remaining constantly valid and appealing to those who experience it.
THE LAST OFFICE
1539 and the Dissolution of a Monastery Geoffrey Moorhouse
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 320pp, hbk 297 85089 2, £25
‘Half church of God, half castle’ was the apt summary of Sir Walter Scott’s description of the mighty Cathedral of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert and the adjoining castle which stand above the River Wear dominating the skyline of the city and the surrounding countryside. It is ‘one of the great architectural experiences of Europe,’ designated a World Heritage Site and voted Britain’s finest building in some recent poll. It is renowned as an undoubted and renowned masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. Its massive pillars, strangely individual, deeply incised in chevrons and lozenges mainly, are as memorable as its external setting, ‘massive and magnetic, timeless and unforgettable, operatic in its stony grandeur, its towering outline a sign of faith and hope, a promise of eternity.’
Begun in 1093 and largely completed within about forty years, it is the only cathedral in England to retain almost all of its Norman craftsmanship, and one of few to preserve the unity and integrity of its original design. Built as a place of worship, specifically to house the shrine of St Cuthbert, after the many wanderings of his body from Holy Island, and in whose honour pilgrims came to Durham from all over England (in the Galilee Chapel there is the tomb of the Venerable Bede, equally well loved and the patron saint of historians), it was also for four centuries the home of a Benedictine monastic community until the dissolution of the monastery during the monstrous reign of King Henry VIII, when it became what we know today as Durham Cathedral. Which brings us to this impressive and elegantly written book.
Geoffrey Moorhouse is among the best of popular historians and he writes with a grace and elegance that is masterly. He tells the story of the transition of Durham from Benedictine monastery to Cathedral and begins his fascinating tale, in what is nowadays a commonplace technique in history writing, with a beautifully evocative, resonant and moving description of the last monastic office sung on Wednesday, 31 December 1539. The monks entered the Choir at six o’clock: ‘The church would have been in darkness by now at this turn of the year, had it not been for the candle flames guttering and swaying upon its altars and along its quire. In their wavering glow the vivid colours of paint upon stone, which everywhere brightened the pillars and the walls in the light of day, were dulled and indistinct, and dissolved mysteriously in the encompassing gloom.’ Highly atmospheric but rooted in the archival sources, this is not dry-as-dust history but penetrates the heart and soul of the community and of the building at this crucial moment. Four hundred years of Benedictine life, worship and spiritual activity, as well as the labour and manual work that sustained the communal life, were coming to an end. ‘The old men’s voices trembled with age, but the others sang lustily in great Latin periods, which rose and fell, then rose again up to the invisible roof of the quire.’ Light conjecture is skilfully woven with what the documents reveal about the day to day life of the monastery and the lives of the monks. From the written record we meet and come to know several individuals: Hugh White-head (Prior), Stephen Marley (Sub-Prior), William Wylam (Third Prior), Robert Bennett (Bursar), Roger Middleham (Cellarer), John Duckett (Refectorer) and others: there were fifty-four members of the community at the time.
The Henrician reformation led to the destruction of the some six hundred and fifty religious houses, large and small, prestigious and modest, many of which had played a central role in the spiritual, intellectual and economic life of the country. For some, the transition from one state to another, from a community life to closure and the dispersion of monks and nuns, came overnight. It was not quite so in Durham. The monks sang the last Office and the next morning the priory and its community were surrendered into the hands of the King’s commissioners. But then nothing happened. There was an interregnum that lasted sixteen months before the Priory of Blessed Mary and St Cuthbert was reborn as the new Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert, part of the Church of England rather than the Church in England.
In some places, notably Glastonbury, the Abbot and his monks did not subscribe to the new religion and suffered their fate on the gibbet, the block or the stake. In Durham, however, the Prior became the Dean of the new Cathedral and twelve of his monks were retained as prebendaries. The Prince Bishop of Durham, Cuthbert Tunstall, who had succeeded the absentee Cardinal Wolsey ten years earlier, also subscribed and accommodated to the new regime and continued to sit in the loftiest cathedra in the land. Although not entirely persuaded by the King’s arguments, his instinct for self-preservation, helped by a raid on Auckland Castle by the rough emissaries of the detested Thomas Cromwell, brought him round.
The book is not narrowly focused on the dissolution of the monastery, nor on the Protestant Reformation. They form the backdrop to a meticulous reconstruction of the monastic life before the seismic shift in ecclesial life, and its transformation by the ecclesiastical and political events that Henry VIII set in train. It also powerfully evokes the cult of St Cuthbert, and that of St Bede, and delineates in fascinating and vivid detail the relationship between the mighty prelates who were the Prince Bishops of Durham, and the equally mighty Priors who had mitred and abbatial status. But at heart it is about that community of men that had come together to share in a life offered to God and how their world was altered, both individually and collectively.
Some of the Durham monks who were pensioned off can be followed through fragmentary documentary evidence and several make their careers in the new dispensation by becoming curates or incumbents of parish churches. For those for whom no subsequent record exists beyond the fact that they received a state pension at the dissolution of the priory, let the comments on John Dove be their memorial. He had pursued his vocation to the religious life unobtrusively. A novice when Hugh Whitehead had been elected Prior, ‘not yet thirty at the time of the surrender, and never having been considered for promotion to the senior ranks of the obedientiaries, he had served as the priest at several chantries in the cathedral, had done his stint as a monk at the Finchdale cell and later at Jarrow before returning to the mother house; until he collected his state pension as he was bidden to one day and effectively disappeared as anonymously as he had lived most of his life in obedience to the letter and the spirit of Benedicts Rule.’
A cruel and wicked wind of change may have swept through England during the sixteenth century but there was a high degree of continuity with the faith that had sustained England for some one thousand six hundred years (even so, thank God for the Oxford Movement) and that is outlined here in the epilogue to this captivating and immensely enjoyable book.
HOMILIES FOR OUR TIMES
James Murray ssc
978 0 9803264 2 0, $A15
Privately published collections of sermons, like privately published collections of poetry, are a rare and specialized section of the book trade. For all that they have been spoken and heard, they tend to lack outside editorial judgement. The ‘selling point’ of this collection, from an SSC priest the other side of the world, is that he seems to combine the two. The sermons are laid out as though they were blank verse, and to some extent, being of a gentle and devotional character, they read like blank verse. Quite an effective trick, linked as it is to the lighter touch of Australian speech patterns.
SEE THE VIRGIN BLEST
The Virgin Mary in English
Palgrave Macmillan, 242pp, hbk
978 1403974921, £40
It is worth stating at the outset that a meeting of the Cell of Our Lady of Walsingham at St Peter’s, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, Australia, is responsible for planting the seed from which this book was grown. The seriousness with which the author, Barry Spurr, responded to his task of addressing the members of that Cell is testimony to the generosity of his spirit, the wealth and scope of the subject matter, and the quality of intelligent attention paid to it by Fr Richard Waddell ogs, who issued the invitation.
In See the Virgin Blest we have a well-researched narrative that plots the role of Mary as a point of literary reference from the thirteenth century to the present day. This book provides the student of English literature, the historian of the English Church, and the sceptic and the devotee of Our Lady with material that is accessible to the scholar and the general reader alike. As such it stands alongside and complements Donald Allchin’s The Joy of All Creation, first published by DLT in 1984 and reissued by New City in 1993. So an update is long overdue.
See the Virgin Blest begins with a preface and equally detailed introduction. The latter provides an excellent overview of devotion to Mary in the English tradition, and of itself would be justification for wanting to have a copy of this book to lend to serious inquirers on the subject.
Readers of New Directions will also appreciate Spurr’s grasp of the wider importance of the place of Mary in the Church at this stage of our history. The significance of Mary as the subject of the last ARCIC report, Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, is underlined by a quotation from Hans Urs von Balthasar: ‘Without Mariology the Church becomes functionalistic, without soul, a hectic enterprise without a resting place, alienated by over-planning… People desert such a Church in droves.’
‘Know thyself is the challenge that such a statement makes to us in the Church of England today. And what Spurr’s historical and literary survey tells us is that it has never been characteristic of the Church in England to be without a Mariology, though expressed in a variety of ways. A thread of Mariological poetic expression is presented under the headings of Medieval, , Renaissance, Romantic, Modernist and Today. Of these, the latter four plot a reformed expression, but one that clearly draws from its earlier sources.
The focus on poetry as a thread that spans 700 years is entirely legitimate, of course, but it raises a crucial issue about the wider artistic context. Spurr’s I preface notes the contribution of the visual arts, but he possibly underplays the significance of its loss at the Reformation. Thus, the recognition of the proper place of Mary in life of the Church of England after the Reformation is to be found in written and spoken form, but not in the visual or explicitly devotional. The visual reintroduction of that expression, in stained glass, the Mothers’ Union banner
and the Christmas crib, is an innovation to which we have as yet paid little attention.
It is for this reason that Spurr s chapter entitled ‘Renaissance Regina’ is important, for it plots the time in which poetry, among other things, like sermons, rescues the artistic beauty of Marian devotion as it passes from sight and gives it life in its own medium. It is here that I would wish to push our author to go further. We find many familiar names included in this study, and some perhaps surprisingly. Milton, Donne, Herbert and Vaughan are among the Anglicans, together with the welcome reminder of Nahum Tate (of’As pants the hart for cooling stream’ fame), and the first woman poet to be published in English, Aemilia Lanyer.
Although there are others missing from this crucial period, most notably Thomas Ken, Spurr, quite rightly, does not ignore the influence of the Catholic, Richard Crawshaw However, we might wish to hear more from the derivative relationship between art and poetry that continued to inform imagery and metaphor, together with an inquiry into the texts and tunes of religious music. So, for example, the Catholic-minded Thomas Campion can write love poetry, in his Fourthe Book of Ayres, that draws on picture imagery (a garden, roses, white lilies, cherries and angels) intimately associated with Mary but lost to English churches of his day.
Far from being a negative criticism of Spurr’s book, this observation is prompted by the quality of its inquiry. There were other sections, covering the contemporary, which inspired a similar desire for more. For example, Donald Allchin connects the poetry of Edwin Muir with Mary in its attention to the Incarnation, in a way that I find compelling, but not mentioned; and among poets writing today, I thought that Carol Ann Duffy deserved to find a place. Other readers may also have names to add to this list. If so, it is testimony to the worth of this book, which is timely, and does good service to the role that the archetypes of our faith, such as the Virgin blest, play in the unfolding of God’s revelation.
Martin Warner is Treasurer of St Paul’s Cathedral
THEOLOGY OF MONEY
SCM, 280pp, pbk
978 0 334 04142 9, [£24.99]
As a reviewer, I often ask for books not on subjects I already know well and on which I could therefore pontificate, but on subjects slightly askance to my own expertise, to see whether my world can be enlarged, my interests expanded. This seemed just such a book.
Oh dear. What do I do now? I did not understand it. Certainly, I followed the mass of complex argument, the extraordinary range of topics, and was often swept away by the author’s rhetorical commitment. But by the end, I couldn’t help feeling I had lost it. Somehow the thread slipped between my metaphorical fingers.
The notion of ‘theology’ was interesting. There is not a single reference to Christian theology, and I cannot remember God ever entering the argument. Rather it was a case of an economic metalanguage, which draws one into the entire range of human activity and culture. It is more than economics, that is for sure, but whether it was theology I do not know.
‘Social credit’ is the key, and the author has certainly gone a good deal further than what Fairtrade activists speak of. But how do the rest of us get involved? The Social Credit Party (remember them?) died decades ago (though some version of it continues in Canada). It is an uphill struggle, and one that Professor Goodchild is happy to take on. I warmed to his vigour in wrestling a new theory of money from the history before him, but I lacked the intelligence to follow him. ‘Evaluative credit’? Sorry.
SUNDAY BY SUNDAY
Music for the Second Service Lectionary Compiled by David Ogden et al.
Canterbury, 384pp, pbk 978 185311 840 1, £25
The Second Service Lectionary is something apparently devised by the Common Worship compilers, and shared by Methodists and the Church of Ireland (so the introduction tells me). It is often Evensong, might be Matins, but could be a Eucharist. Not commonly used by ND readers I would guess. The fascination of this book is that it exists at all, in an age where the internet rules supreme.
It is an old-fashioned labour of love, almost Victorian in its careful thoroughness, providing as it does a large choice for each Sunday of the year, w of relevant hymns from fourteen different hymnbooks, along with a selection of anthems graded according to the size of the choir, a list of songs for children, possible modern settings for the Psalm, and finally preludes and postludes for the organist.
In our parish, we still sing Evensong every Sunday; old-fashioned, you see. So, unsurprisingly, we use Ancient and Modern Revised as we have done since time immemorial (i.e. before the present incumbent arrived). Sadly AMR is not one of the fourteen hymnbooks mentioned. But then we’ve never discovered this Second Service Lectionary. But if you have, this is a treasure.