Monday, August 29, 2011

Revies :: Giver of Life :: Fr. John Oliver

While I've been preoccupied with relocating across the country (see La Fleur's post for the update), Englewood Review of books published my review of Fr. John Oliver's Give of Life: the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition.

I thoroughly enjoyed this brief, poetic volume--the sort of book I could as easily read devotionally as I could assign it to students in an Intro to Christian Theology course. I highly suggest finding a copy to peruse for yourself.

I've included a couple of excerpts from my review. For the full text, head over to ERB. Subscribe to the email feed for regular updates on other good books to read (I did). Now my excerpted thoughts on the book:

Simone Weil, political mystic and trinitarian philosopher, wrote that love of God and love of neighbor “have attention for [their] substance” (Waiting for God, 114). Oliver waits upon the Spirit with this love, a patient attention that avoids the impatience that contradicts love. Weil writes elsewhere that error is due, fundamentally, to a lack of love: it is “due to the fact that thought has seized upon some idea to hastily, and being thus prematurely blocked, is not open to the truth . . .  We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them” (Waiting for God, 112). Oliver is patient with the Spirit he loves.

The historical development of a theology of the Spirit also recommends patience. The mystery of the Holy Spirit has not been disclosed us with an abrupt clarity. In fact, for the better part of three centuries, the Spirit remained in the background of theological conversation, a presence to be confessed but then footnoted (or, perhaps, a presence to be practiced and celebrated but not theorized or formulated).

. . . Father John Oliver does what is best in this complicated history: he prays. Giver of Life could be read quickly; its prose flows graciously and simply even when touching on the highest mysteries of God. But the text itself invites patient, reflective, even prayerful reading. More than just a page-by-page textual invitation to slow reading, Giver of Life takes it structures from a simple, common prayer of Orthodox tradition:

O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life; come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.
Each chapter meditates on one of this prayer’s acclamations or petitions. Oliver explains,

“While a book like this one about the Holy Spirit may transmit information, an interior awakening is the real goal. This is why Orthodox theological insight is embedded in our liturgical life. As we pray, so we believe; as we believe, so we pray. Prayer opens the heart to the penetrating presence of God.” Giver of Life is best read as a confession, a prayer of faith, offered to share the vision of God the Holy Spirit one priest has found within his tradition.

1 comment:

  1. Just reviewed this book on my own blog and was looking over the blogosphere to see who else had read it. Loved your review!


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