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 ones 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 8:1922; 2325; 2627). 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 Churchs trinitarian faith that
is then summarized in Edwards 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
Matthews Gospel in the Church Today. Strathfield: St Pauls Publications,
2004. ISBN 1 876295 84 8, $29.95.
Those who enjoyed Brendan Byrnes The Hospitality of God: A Reading
of Lukes Gospel (published in 2000) will no doubt welcome this companion
study of Matthews 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
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,
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 books 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.