Saint George's Anglican Church, Paris
Saint George's Anglican Church, Paris

Lent, Holy Week and Easter 2019

Books in Lent

The Way of Ignatius: A prayer journey through Lent by Gemma Simmonds

SPCK £8.99 (978-0-281-07531-7) Church Times Bookshop £8.10


In The Way of Ignatius, Sr Gemma Simmonds offers an attractive introduction to Ignatian
spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises, inflected for use during Lent, and reflecting Ignatius’s use of the feelings and imagination. She arranges her account around the story
of his life, and also that of his follower Mary Ward a century later, daughter of a recusant Yorkshire family, and presented as a woman who was ahead of her time: “She came to realise that the historical categories open to women and the prevailing concepts of female holiness were too narrow.” 

The author does a convincing job of transposing late-medieval and Counter-Reformation piety into terms that belong to the modern world, and emphasises the humane, realistic, and world-facing aspect of Ignatius’s spirituality: “For Ignatius it was
about finding one’s inner monastery, as it were, and taking that into whatever sector of the world one normally inhabits,” including its “complex social, political and financial
networks”. And she seems to push the boundaries of Catholic teaching: “if the Spirit is present wherever a bond of true love is present in a way that is creative, self-giving, liberating and faithful, then we should at least be wary of confining that Spirit to
categories of our own devising, however hallowed by tradition.”

The Merciful Humility of God by Jane Williams

Bloomsbury £9.99 (978-1-4729-5481-7) Church Times Bookshop £9


Graham Greene wrote of “the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God”. We seem to hear an echo of this when Jane Williams speaks of “the mad logic of the merciful
humility of God”, and throughout The Merciful Humility of God she alerts us to “the continuing strangeness of God’s action”, and the implications of this for who we are: “our lives will pass into nothingness unless they are held in the eternal meaning of God,” a meaning that she constantly derives from his loving acceptance. Each of the five chapters explores a stage in the Gospel story and pairs it with a short account of a later Christian figure: the temptations in the  wilderness and St Augustine; the early hidden years of Jesus and Julian of Norwich (Charles de Foucauld might have been another option); the call of the disciples — “comfortingly and challengingly familiar” — and St Francis; the Passion and St Teresa of Ávila; and on to the resurrection and ascension, with Jean Vanier: “the resurrection confirms the life of Jesus
as the way of God in the world. . . We leave behind our own interpretations of power and salvation, of  achievement and merit, and step into the space made for us by the humility of God, so strong that death cannot overcome it.”

Williams writes with a subtle simplicity, great insight, and an enviable ability to help us see the familiar in a new light. Each chapter is usefully followed by suggestions for personal or group response and for further reading. In various ways, the other Lent books sit loosely to Lent itself and to the Passion of Christ. The Merciful Humility of God takes us straight towards it, and for many people
will be their obvious choice for the season.

The Shattering of Loneliness: On Christian remembrance, by Erik Varden

Bloomsbury £10.99 (978-1-4729-5328-5) Church Times Bookshop £9.90


In The Shattering of Loneliness Erik Varden, formerly an academic in Oxford the now abbot of Mount St Bernard’s Abbey in Leicestershire has written a profound exploration of what it means to be human. His book is a series of reflections on the importance of the conviction that we are not alone — when so much might persuade
us otherwise. At the heart of this is the idea of remembrance: we must properly remember that we are created, that we are led and guided by God (the Exodus narrative), that Jesus bids us (plural!) do something in memory of him, and so on. The
reader should beware: Varden’s approach opens up far more to ponder than the “shattering of loneliness”. There is almost too much material here to take in. This is profound meditation on what it means to be human, and the enrichment that a
thoughtful faith can bring to that humanity.

Lent Study Groups

Wednesday Group

6.30pm-7.30pm, Parish Hall

Facilitated by Fr Mark, this group will use Jane Williams’ 

The Merciful Humility of God.

Saturday Group

3.00pm-4.30pm, Parish Hall

Facilitated by Sonia Taylor and Fr Nicolas this group

will follow a French language Bible Study.

And amongst the busyness...

Lent’s also a great time to take up something that will bring you closer to God. Why not try the Prayer of Examen. It’s a prayer of looking back—not what’s gone wrong but where God has been moving in your day. The prayer is best used regularly, it can be done in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. Most people find it helpful in the quiet time before going to sleep and you can remember these 5 points by counting them off on your fingers…

1. No matter what I’m worrying about...stop!

God is with me—quiet perhaps, but always there. I remember that God has created all things. Everything I have is a gift from God.
Is there something that I would especially like to give thanks for today? 

2. I ask God to shine his light into my heart

so that when I look back over the day I might see it from His perspective, working in the things that have happened to me.

3. Now I remember the day starting from when I woke up

I remember the people I met and the things that happened –was it a ‘good’ day or a ‘bad’ day? Was it unusual? Who did I meet? Did I come across something surprising: a long-lost friend… or an awkward enemy? Does something special come to mind… something I was told… a beautiful sunset… something on the TV? In all the things that happened how did I feel? Was I joyful or sad, angry or frightened? Maybe I felt great and was happy? What caused my feelings and did they change during the day?

 

God guides us through our moods and feelings. Normally, the way of God is (in a deep sense) peaceful and consoling. If your day was disturbed or if you were uneasy, can you sense where that uneasiness was coming from? like a sailor buffeted by different winds we are affected by different things—the better we come to know these swirling breezes, the easier it will be to see the perhaps subtle movements of God in our lives.

4. An important question to ask is: what can I be proud of today?

There will be things—if you can’t think of anything then you haven’t looked hard enough! I will give thanks for this. But also, did I turn away from God during the day? Maybe I turned a blind eye when it suited me? Did I recognise God in that homeless man, the annoying child or the spiteful parent in the school-yard? I will say a prayer asking forgiveness for anything I may have done to hinder or ignore God’s love during the day that has passed. I will ask especially for the graces of healing and strength.

5. The final part of the prayer is to look forward to tomorrow.

We are a people of hope—let us remember that God will be with us wherever and whatever is before us.

If we practise the Examen, we will grow to know ourselves, our moods and with the help of God, see in our prayer the way that God is moving in our lives. As our hearts become more sensitive we will recognise God more quickly so that eventually we will be sensitive to the God who is not just in ‘holy’ things but who is in all things. 

Our Holy Week Preacher

The Ven. Victor Stock OMA FRSA is Dean Emeritus of Guildford Cathedral. Born in Fulham and confirmed
at St John’s, Fulham Broadway he was ordained in the Diocese of London serving at University Chaplain,
Rector of Friern Barnet and Rector of St Mary le Bow . A writer and broadcaster he has preached Holy
Week in Cape Town, Salisbury , Wakefield , Norwich and St Paul's Cathedrals. He is now a Priest Vicar at
Westminster Abbey. 

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