Home
About us

Subscribe
Archive

Links
Contact

SUMMER 2004
Vol 38 No 4


Editorial:
God–Lover or Judge?


Leslee Sniatynskyj
A REFLECTION ON LOSS: IN THE CONTEXT OF MATTHEW'S PASSION NARRATIVE


Cormac Nagle OFM
PUBLIC POLICY AND MORALITY


Brian Lewis
SOME POPULAR MYTHS ABOUT GAYS AND LESBIANS


Frank Fletcher MSC
INTRODUCING HEART SPIRITUALITY


Brendan Byrne SJ
CAN THE SCRIPTURAL WORLD STILL BE OUR WORLD? EARLY MILLENNIAL REFLECTIONS OF AN AUSTRALIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR


Michael Trainor
ON THE RISE AGAIN NEO-FUNDAMENTALISM IN AUSTRALIAN CATHOLICISM (PART THREE)


REVIEWS

Kevin Mark
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS BY AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS




 

REVIEWS

Denis Edwards, Breath of Life: a Theology of the Creator Spirit, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2004. Paperback, pp 214, ISBN 2003021370, A$ 34.95.

The many people who have heard Denis Edwards speaking publicly in recent years will be delighted that this latest work brings together into a most satisfying whole what they have had the pleasure of hearing in parts. Breath of Life is the fruit of Edwards’ ongoing research into ways that both systematic and praxis theology can address issues consequent upon the development of Big Bang cosmology and evolutionary biology. Readers familiar with Edwards’ previous works, Jesus and the Cosmos (1991) Made from Stardust (1992), Jesus the Wisdom of God (1995) and The God of Evolution (1999) will have an added appreciation of what Breath of Life has to offer.

The two foundational chapters of Breath of Life (‘The Story of the Universe’ and ‘Basil on the Holy Spirit’) prepare the reader to ‘dig more deeply into their tradition of the uncontrollable Spirit as the wild wind that ‘blows where it wills’ (Jn 3:8)’. The section devoted to ‘the Breath of God as the Communion-Bringer’ (26-29) will surely invite re-readings as one advances through the book.

Edwards has wagered very well indeed that the Spirit-theology of St Basil of Caesarea can help to open up a richer than commonplace spiritual life for Catholics, that it can also contribute to ecumenical healing and stimulate further development of an ecological theology of the Spirit.

Part 2 allows ‘The Story of the Spirit’ to unfold within the universe from its beginning. The reader is drawn into the mysterious experiences of grace and salvation in Christ, and is enabled to move beyond the metaphorical ‘square’ into serious reflection about the presence of the Spirit in non-Christian religions. Edwards’ four-point method of proceeding and of coupling Spirit theology with Jesus as divine Wisdom is beautifully paced for one’s meditative appropriation.

Part 3 explores the theology of the Creator Spirit as ‘Midwife and Companion’ as creation groans in her triple travail of ‘new’ birthing (Rom 8:19–22; 23–25; 26–27). A spirit of dynamic communion is set up between all creatures and the Holy Spirit of God as the ‘Unspeakable Closeness of God’.

Part 4 addresses the particular issues of the ‘procession’ and ‘the discernment’ of the Spirit. The result is a finely constructed synthesis of the development of the Church’s trinitarian faith that is then summarized in Edward’s own five carefully nuanced statements.

Breath of Life concludes with an overview presented in such a way as to take the reader in stepwise fashion through the entire argument of the book that: ‘The Breath of God is healing, transforming, renewing, refreshing, one who promises health and wholeness for all creation.’ (171). Here as in all his work, Edwards is the skilled teacher; his own scholarship is nourished by the multitude of voices from the within and without the Christian tradition; his own theological conclusions are arrived at through patient attentiveness to the Word, and ample room remains for his readers to engage in ongoing consideration of what has been presented.
—Marie Farrell RSM

Brendan Byrne SJ, Lifting the Burden: Reading Matthew’s Gospel in the Church Today. Strathfield: St Pauls Publications, 2004. ISBN 1 876295 84 8, $29.95.
Those who enjoyed Brendan Byrne’s The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel (published in 2000) will no doubt welcome this companion study of Matthew’s Gospel. As in its predecessor, Byrne concentrates on a central theme which is indicated in the title Lifting the Burden. As he puts it: ‘Matthew presents Jesus as the One whose principal concern is to heal and lift the burdens of afflicted humanity’ (p.39). Byrne discerns this motif operating throughout the gospel, threading its way from the genealogy of Jesus to his ascension. Furthermore, he emphasizes the continuity between Jesus’ earthly presence as God-with-us and his continuing abiding presence in the Church; thus spelling out both the Christological and ecclesial implications of a message for a burdened humanity.

This is a highly attractive reading of Matthew; one that will surely resonate with the modern reader. The advantage of concentrating on a single theme is that, unlike the typical commentary, it allows the book to be read from cover to cover. At the same time the book concludes with a series of indexes that allow extensive cross-referencing.

Byrne brings his considerable scholarly acumen to this study, yet writes in a style that is accessible and engaging. This study of Matthew will have great appeal for those wishing to deepen their knowledge of sacred scripture. And it will have a particular attraction for preachers and parish liturgy teams as we begin the cycle of readings for Year A.
—Gerard McCormick MSC

Francis M. Mannion, Masterworks of God: Essays in Liturgical Theory and Practice, HillenbrandBooks, Chicago/ Mundelein, Illinois, 2004 [ISBN 1-56854-511-8], 264pp.
The book is a collection of essays by the founding director of a recently opened liturgical institute in Chicago. The publishing press, Hillenbrandbooks, is a new venture of the institute in connection with LTP. The eleven essays span twenty years, and though divided into four sections are more or less in chronological order. The four areas cover liturgical systems (penance, stipends, congregationalism), culture (the current crisis of culture), arts (music and architecture) and the liturgical future (a new agenda, doxology).

The essay ‘Paradigms in American Catholic Liturgical Music’ is a helpful and important essay, laying out quite clearly five different paradigms, currently operative in the USA, of what constitutes appropriate liturgical music. The remaining essays are of varying insight and quality. Some offer useful information and summaries of historical and pastoral discoveries, as in the chapters on penance and on stipends. The essay dealing with architecture sets out ten theses towards a new era in church architecture. Yet in this piece the elaboration of each thesis remains shallow and less convincing that each idea merits. The reasons for this become clearer in the more recent papers. They contain a too hurried retreat from an analysis of the dynamics of contemporary western culture, and a too hasty embracing of an idealised and unrealised ‘Catholic tradition’. The underlying assumptions around the question of culture remain too closely fixated in the ‘culture’ wars of the USA, have little appreciation of the living cultural diversity in our world, and take an ultramontane position when faced with the quest to allow the gospel and liturgy to take root in different languages and world views. Any practical solutions on offer are timid, amenable only to the right, and more idealist than pastoral. Unfortunately neither the essays in general nor the cover photo of a painted sanctuary match the promise of the book’s title.
—Gerard Moore SM

Australian Religious Diary 2005, David Lovell Publishing Pty Ltd, PO Box 822, Ringwood 3134 [ISBN 1 86355 104 2], $29.95.
This is the diary I use. I have use for a diary that gives details of the liturgical year including the scripture references for each day, that signals days that are important for other denominations, other faiths (we always send a card to the local Muslim community for Eid al Fitr) and important days in the national and world calendar. The dates of Easter are listed right through to 2015! It comes with strong binding and art reproductions in colour.
—Editor