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Posted April 19, 2006

Book: Spirituality and Mysticism
Author: James A. Wiseman
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, pp. 242

An Excerpt from the Preface:

The sequence of chapters in this book is quite straightforward. After looking at the meaning of spirituality and the related term “mysticism” in the opening chapter, I turn next to the spirituality of the Bible, the text that will always be foundational for Christian theology. The subsequent five chapters proceed chronologically. The third chapter takes up the spirituality of the early martyrs as well as of two very influential thinkers of late-second-century and early-third-century Alexandria (Clement and Origens), while the fourth chapter considers the beginning of the monastic movement, the fathers and mothers of the desert having regularly regarded themselves as the successors of the martyrs once the Roman persecutions ended. Chapter 5, focusing on the patristic ear, treats several important authors from the Syriac tradition as well as individuals who wrote in Greek or Latin; it also looks at the work of one of the few Christian women from the first millennium of the church’s history from whom we have something written by herself, and it then concludes with a section on the early Christian spirituality of Nubia and Ethiopia. The next chapter opens with a treatment of some of the most influential reform movements in the church of the Middle Ages — the Cistercians, Dominicans, and Franciscans — goes on to consider the contributions of some important medieval women (the Beguines and Julian of Norwich) as well as a man who was himself influenced by the Beguines, Meister Eckhart. This chapter also examines the spirituality of the icons of the Eastern Church and concludes with a section on the hesychastic movement within that same church. The last of the strictly chronological chapters is the seventh, which discusses the spirituality of the sixteenth-century reformers, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, in each case showing how the work of those reformers has been reflected or carried forward by more recent figures in the history of Christian spirituality: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Evelyn Underhill, Karl Rahner, and Therese of Lisieux.