Many Mansions edited by Dan Cohn-Sherbok (Bellew Publishing, £14.95); The Fire of Your Life: A Solitude Shared by Maggie Ross (Darton Longman & Todd, £6.95) Fr Maurice Nassan
THE sub-title of the first book is "Inter-faith and Religious Tolerance". The book deals with the most appropriate ways in which major world religions should relate to one another.
It consists of a series of essays by well-known writers concerning inter-faith worship covering a wide range of positions. Tolerance is a main theme running through the essays.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, gives an excellent exposition of it. pointing out how much better it is for different faiths to tolerate one another than act towards one another with bigotry, persecution and hatred.
At the same time he sees difficulties that can arise from toleration, for example in the work of evangelisation. Other writers are Lord Runcie and John Hick who is always interesting and controversial. There are nearly 20 essays in all.
There are a variety of views expressed in the book but there is a common desire for understanding and toleration of the different positions taken up. In December 1991 an open letter was published by a large number of clergy of the Church of England stating the belief that inter-faith worship and prayer deny the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ as the only saviour. The contributors of this book hardly agree with that statement.
Maggie Ross, author of the second book, The Fire of Your Life: A Solitude Shared, is an Anglican solitary. She says there is nothing special about her life as a solitary; it is simply the way she lives out her ordinariness; she wants to share the fruits of her solitude with others.
"Every human being," she writes, "is a solitary, a unique creation of God and alone because of that uniqueness." Each makes his or her own journey towards God.
Her book contains reflections for each of the 12 months of the year. These are reflections full of the fire of the Holy Spirit with a depth of meaning and completely devoid of pious platitudes. This theme of personal solitude runs through the reflections.
"We need to live all of life from the wellsprings of interior solitude," she writes. There are a great number of subjects dealt with in the book. Among them are Our Lady. prayer, penance, chastity and the holocaust.
The book has a profundity and beauty of language and at the same time is down to earth and very helpful for bringing God nearer to us in the solitude of our lives.