Page 6, 11th January 1980

11th January 1980
Page 6
Page 6, 11th January 1980 — ArtsPage*mm..1 1 ,44,"; Glorious awakening • o - f Canon A M Allchin's essays and

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ArtsPage*mm..1 1 ,44,"; Glorious awakening • o - f Canon A M Allchin's essays and

portraits of more £3.95) than life-sized Christians -1 HE apostolic order which characterises' Holy Church and which anchors it in the original events of the Gospel is indeed a thing which carries death within it; but it is a death which brings us to life; which leads to the coming of the Spirit, who is the Lord of Life. For it is in the lire-giving death of Jesus Christ, that death is overcome and the Spirit made free,"

"From the eternal stability of the Word comes the ceaseless creativity of the Spirit."

These two quotations from the pen of the author of this inspiring and inspired book sum up the general outlook on the approach to God, through Faith and Church, that Canon Allchin most delicately and convincingly proposes, analyses and illustrates.

For illustrated it is by a series of penetrating and smoothly written essays on Ann Griffiths, a Calvinistic Methodist of the XVIllth century.

Her personal knowledge of God led her to reflect in her writings a Roman Catholic type of theology: and on N F S Grundivig, a Danish XIXth century Lutheran theologian.

Among his writings were: "Word without spirit is empty chatter, but spirit without word is vain imagination", and who, by taking from the Holy Trinity. the model of the unity between single and multiple in the Mystical Body, and by considering man as a "God-creature who is child in creation and full grown in salvation," can be seen as bridging the views of Saint Gregory of Nazianzas with those of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Among the other portraits are that of the Xth century Paphlagonian Saint Syrneon, the Singer of Fire and Light, who, because according to him "knowing goes together with feeling", projects himself as a brother in spirit. and a very close one indeed, of Charles Wesley; and that other picture too of Nathan Scott, a black contemporary of ours, belonging to the Episcopalian Church of America.

He strongly feels and preaches that "nothing that exists is an island unto itself", that everything that holds membership in the world is an element of a seamless garment: the ragged edges of every individual reality playing off into those of another, and the world being a wedding", and who thus, in his view that "everything exemplifies and bespeaks" for God, relates to Saint Francis of Assisi and to Cardinal Newman who in the petals of flowers saw samples of the Angels' robes. and to the early and oriental Saint Maximus the Confessor, for whom "the Word of God, who is God. wills, always and in all things, to work the mystery of His Incarnation".

Other studies are dedicated to F D Maurice. the XIXth century Anglican priest, who was a mystic of the Monarchy and a socialist, but who declared: "The Holy Trinity is our social programme."

Also to the contemporary Russian theologian, Wladimir Lassky, whose teaching was that mysticism precedes theology, because. "if the mystical experience is, as he wrote. a personal working out of the context of the common Faith, theology is an expression for the profit of all, of that which en be experienced by everyone."

Such a statement is a logical deduction from the true and marvellous saying of the XVIth century Anglican Divine, Richar Hooker, also quoted in this so enriching book: "The Church is in Christ as Eve in Adam . . it formeth out of the very flesh and bleeding side of the Son of Man."

But among all the holy and hlissfully inspired people presented in this volume, which I would be inclined to call "The Bible of Oecumenism", none appeared to me more touching than that of Evelyn Underhill.

This Anglican lady died during world war two, after having been confirmed in her persuasian by two of the most eminent Catholics of her time, namely the Abbe Huvelin and the Baron von I Iiigel; and who, moreover, right at the end of her life, and when very near to that dawn of her transfiguration which, in her last days, showed in her physical presence, fell with ravishment for the "symbolic richness and inner simplicity" of the Oriental Church.

Yet this book is not a mere oecumenical gallery of portraits of some members of the Commuanon of Saints. For these, 'reiterate are illustrations of four main themes The first could be summarised in the words of Saint Augustine: "What makes man is the heart." The second, in the words of Saint Athanasius: "God made Himself man that we might be made gods." The third, in the last word of Saint Thomas Aquinas about his own works: "chaffr, because life for a theologian, as for everyone clse, is fare less a breaking down of God into human conprehension and intellectual definitions, than a surrender to Whom He ineffably reveals Himself to be, through faith and the sacraments.

The fourth is that God being infinite, discloses Himself under a multiplicity and diversity of aspects and conceptions which should not act divisively among His creatures, but bring them, instead. together in Him, as, indeed, they do when men and women consider the wording of their faith as no more than a particular approach, while they value only the ineffable and lived and ever developing knowledge it leads them to, which is that of Him who is all in all. That is why the Church ought to be, in Canon Allchin's wise and mystical opinion, as comprehensive as it possibly can, to use an Anglican expression. or, as the Romans would say, catholic.

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