"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Baron Williams of Oystermouth Again Looks Ad Orientem

Virtually from the beginning of his academic life decades ago, Rowan Williams, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury, has been recognized as an exceptionally important Western scholar of Eastern Christian traditions. His 1975 doctoral dissertation was devoted to Vladimir Lossky's theology, and since then Williams has also written such iconographically devotional books as Ponder These Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin and in-depth scholarly studies that include Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction, and these are just his more recent books. He's written scores of others devoted to figures and themes in Western theology, too. He's even been known to offer a gracious "blurb" for such books as this one. 

In September of this year, another work coming out that will surely bear close attention: Looking East in Winter: Contemporary Thought and the Eastern Christian Tradition (Bloomsbury, Sept. 2021), 272pp.

About this new work the publisher tell us this:

In many ways, we seem to be living in wintry times at present in the Western world. In this new book, Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and a noted scholar of Eastern Christianity, introduces us to some aspects and personalities of the Orthodox Christian world, from the desert contemplatives of the fourth century to philosophers, novelists and activists of the modern era, that suggest where we might look for fresh light and warmth. He shows how this rich and diverse world opens up new ways of thinking about spirit and body, prayer and action, worship and social transformation, which go beyond the polarisations we take for granted.

Taking in the world of the great spiritual anthology, the Philokalia, and the explorations of Russian thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, discussing the witness of figures like Maria Skobtsova, murdered in a German concentration camp for her defence of Jewish refugees, and the challenging theologies of modern Greek thinkers like John Zizioulas and Christos Yannaras, Rowan Williams opens the door to a 'climate and landscape of our humanity that can indeed be warmed and transfigured'.

This is an original and illuminating vision of a Christian world still none too familiar to Western believers and even to students of theology, showing how the deep-rooted themes of Eastern Christian thought can prompt new perspectives on our contemporary crises of imagination and hope.

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