by Sr. THERESA HOAR
A Layman's Guide to Christian Terms by Ellen C. Shannon (Thomas Yoseloff Ltd. 80s)
HE Gutenberg Bible," -Rochet," ''Form Criticism," "St. Ma la c h y."
"Pelican," "R isen Christ," "Odor of Sanctity"—this is a very random sample of the sort of terms this book defines. On the whole the definitions are succinct and adequate, if a little solemn.
A roman collar, for example. is described as "A stiff, short, white collar that stands upright and is fastened at the back of the neck . . originally used only by priests of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. The roman collar has also been a symbol of Catholic Priesthood." (Does one detect a note of nostalgia in that "has been"?) More seriously, despite its competence, it is difficult to see the need for a book like this. At 80s. it is dearer than several much more scholarly theological and scriptural dictionaries whose definitions are certainly not beyond the range of the average layman. Its justification may lie in the "broad spectrum of words defined", but many of these are curiosities rather than what the author calls in her preface 'the vocabulary of Christianity."
It might be useful for the purposes of "Twenty Questions" to know the meaning of "hearth penny", "riddle", "ripidion", or who the Bogomiii were, but this knowledge hardly seems relevant to daily Christian life.
All this is perhaps a bit unfair. The book will have its uses; and 1 daresay I shall find myself looking up quite a few terms in its comprehensive pages. In any case it is a good deal lighter — in both senses — than its more learned counterparts.