"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).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Theology as a Way of Life

Last fall, in teaching a course on sacraments, I had my students read, inter alia, Hans Boersma, Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry, one chapter of which argues that the very study of theology itself can be a sacramental practice if undertaken properly, that is, if undertaken as more than a mere academic exercise.

Boersma's book came back to mind in reading of a recent release that furthers the same theme: The Practice of the Presence of God: Theology as a Way of Life, eds. Martin Laird, Sheelah Trefle Hidden (Routledge, 2016),168 pp. This book features such senior scholars of the Christian East as Sebastian Brock and Andrew Louth, along with others familiar with the East such as Rowan Williams.

About this book we are told:
Exploring the unity of the practice of prayer and the practice of theology, this book draws together insights from world-class theologians including Rowan Williams, Andrew Louth, Frances Young, Luigi Gioia, Margaret R. Miles, Enzo Bianchi, Sebastian Brock, and Nicholaï Sakharov. Offering glimpses of the prayer-life and witness that undergirds theological endeavour, some authors approach the topic in a deeply personal way while others express the unity of prayer and the theologian in a traditionally scholarly manner. No matter what the denomination of the Christian theologian - Greek or Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist - authors demonstrate that the discipline of theology cannot properly be practiced apart from the prayer life of the theologian. The prayer of the theologian shapes her or his approach to theology. Whether it be preaching, teaching, writing or research, the deep soundings of prayer informs and embraces all.
We are also given the table of contents:

Introduction:Oracles, Prophets, and Dwellers in Silence James Alison

Part 1. Foundational Soundings
1 Theology as a Way of Life Rowan Williams
2 Undergoing Something from Nothing Brian D. Robinette
3 The Trinity as our Ascetic Programme Nicholaï Sakharov

Part 2. Personal Accounts of a Theological Life
4 Ecumenical Confessions of an Unconventional Protestant Frances Young
5 Augustine on Practicing the Presence of God Margaret R. Miles

Part 3. Theological and Liturgical Retrievals
6 The Liturgy, Icons and the Prayer of the Heart Andrew Louth
7 To Feel so as to Understand: Hadewijch of Brabant and the Legacy of St. Anselm Rachel Smith
8 Etching the Ineffable in Words: The Return of Contemplation to Theology Martin Laird
9 The Guidance of St. Ephrem: a Vision to Live by Sebastian Brock
10 The Threat of Death as a Test for Theological Authenticity Luigi Gioia

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