Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another

Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another

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by Rowan Williams
     
 

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The
place "where God happens," according to Rowan Williams's striking new
reading of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, is
between
each other
.
It's a truth that we of the twenty-first century most urgently need to learn in
order to heal the experience of alienation that has become endemic to our age,
and these odd and

Overview



The
place "where God happens," according to Rowan Williams's striking new
reading of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, is
between
each other
.
It's a truth that we of the twenty-first century most urgently need to learn in
order to heal the experience of alienation that has become endemic to our age,
and these odd and appealing ancient figures, surprisingly, hold keys to this
healing.

The
fourth-century Christian hermits of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine understood the
truth of Christian community profoundly, and their lives demonstrate it
vividly—even though they often lived in solitude and isolation. The author
breaks through our preconceived ideas of the Desert Fathers to reveal them in a
new light: as true and worthy role models—even for us in our modern lives—who
have much to teach us about dealing with the anxieties, uncertainties, and
sense of isolation that have become hallmarks of modern life. They especially
embody valuable insights about community, about how to live together in an
intimate and meaningful way. Williams makes these radical figures, who clearly
have a special place in his heart, come to life in a new way for everyone.

The
book includes an appendix of selections from the teachings of the Desert Fathers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Church, has penned a remarkable little book that makes it all both relevant and accessible. Even if the names of these monks and nuns are foreign to you, their pearls of wisdom are not. This is a great introduction to the early hermits. For those interested in learning more, the book ends with a wonderful chapter on monastic wisdom, with detailed notes and suggestions for further reading.”—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Rowan Williams is a scholar and priest, a mystic and a poet, a contemplative and an advocate for social justice—all rare combinations for a church leader.  In Where God Happens, he combines his roles by examining the ancient wisdom of the Desert Fathers and interpreting the relevance of their teaching for Christian spirituality today. In the early monastics' search for the experience of God and an alternative style of community, he finds a new and deeper faith for the postmodern world. This compelling work of scholarship and spirituality shows why the Archbishop of Canterbury is truly a breath of fresh air and one of the most important and hopeful church leaders we have today."—Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, author of God's Politics

"Rowan Williams calls for a Church renewed in contemplation. In the raucous circus of contemporary culture and religion nothing could be more important.  And this book is immensely practical—nailing us just where we are—teaching us that the spiritual life is 'not only about how prayer is to be experienced but about how humanity is to be understood.' There's a liberating sanity here in the simplicity of the message: 'our life is with our neighbor,' and 'being is communion.' This is required reading for spiritual pilgrims of all traditions."—Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, author of Soul Making and Reimagining Christianity

"This book is a marvelous introduction to the first Christian monks, the Desert Fathers, and makes their wisdom available and relevant for the twenty-first century reader; but it does more, since it is written in the same spirit as the texts from the desert, that is, as a clear window that will give direct access to God."—Benedicta Ward, translator of Sayings of the Desert Fathers and The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780834825666
Publisher:
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
12/11/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
668,552
File size:
489 KB

Read an Excerpt


From
Life,
Death, and Neighbors

Some
old men came to see Abba Poemen and said to him, "We see some of the
brothers falling asleep during divine worship. Should we wake them up?" He
said, "As for me, when I see a brother who is falling asleep during the
Office, I lay his head on my knees and let him rest."

We
can be deceived into thinking that the desert monks and nuns—at least those
quoted here—were somehow indifferent to sin, or that their notion of relation
to one another was a matter of bland acceptance. But they are not exponents of
some sort of "I'm OK, you're OK" method. They actually believe that
sin is immensely serious and that separation from God is a real possibility: if
you define the purpose of your life, a costly, boring, difficult life in
physically harsh conditions, as "winning your neighbor," you may
reasonably be expected to believe that it is a tough and serious business, in
which success isn't guaranteed. But they also take for granted that the only
way in which you know the seriousness of separation from God is in your own
experience of yourself. Moses writes to Poemen, "If you have sin enough in
your own life and your own home, you have no need to go searching for it
elsewhere." And, more graphically, from Moses again, "If you have a
corpse laid out in your own front room, you won't have leisure to go to a
neighbor's funeral." This is not about minimizing sin; it is about
learning how to recognize it from seeing the cost in yourself. If it can't be
addressed by you in terms of your own needs, it can't be addressed
anywhere—however seductive it is to say, "I know how to deal with this
problem in
your
life—and never mind about mine."

The
inattention and harshness that shows we have not grasped this is for so many of
the desert fathers and mothers the major way in which we fail in winning the
neighbor. Poemen goes so far as to say that it is the one thing about which we
can justly get angry with each other.

A
brother asked Abba Poemen, "What does it mean to be angry with your
brother without a cause? [The reference is obviously to Matthew 5:21 ff.] He
said, "If your brother hurts you by his arrogance and you are angry with
him because of this, that is getting angry without a cause. If he pulls out
your right eye and cuts off your right hand and you get angry with him, that is
getting angry without a cause. But if he cuts you off from God—then you have
every right to be angry with him.

To
assume the right to judge, or to assume that you have arrived at a settled
spiritual maturity that entitles you to prescribe confidently at a distance for
another's sickness, is in fact to leave others without the therapy they need
for their souls; it is to cut them off from God, to leave them in their
spiritual slavery—while reinforcing your own slavery. Neither you nor they
have access to life—as in the words of Jesus, you have shut up heaven for
others and for yourself. But the plain acknowledgment of your solidarity in
need and failure opens a door: it shows that it is possible to live in the
truth and to go forward in hope. It is in such a moment that God gives himself
through you, and you become by God's gift a means of connecting another with
God. You have done the job you were created to do.

Saint
Anthony of the Desert says that gaining the brother or sister and winning God
are linked. It is not getting them signed up to something or getting them on
your side. It is opening doors for them to healing and to wholeness. Insofar as
you open such doors for another, you gain God, in the sense that you become a
place where God happens for somebody else.
You
become a place where God happens
.
God comes to life for somebody else in a life-giving way, not because you are
good or wonderful, but because that is what God has done. So if we can shift
our preoccupations, anxiety, and selfishness out of the way to put someone in
touch with the possibility of God's healing, to that extent we are ourselves in
touch with God's healing. So, if you gain your brother or sister, you gain God.



What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Church, has penned a remarkable little book that makes it all both relevant and accessible. Even if the names of these monks and nuns are foreign to you, their pearls of wisdom are not. This is a great introduction to the early hermits. For those interested in learning more, the book ends with a wonderful chapter on monastic wisdom, with detailed notes and suggestions for further reading.”—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Rowan Williams is a scholar and priest, a mystic and a poet, a contemplative and an advocate for social justice—all rare combinations for a church leader.  In Where God Happens, he combines his roles by examining the ancient wisdom of the Desert Fathers and interpreting the relevance of their teaching for Christian spirituality today. In the early monastics' search for the experience of God and an alternative style of community, he finds a new and deeper faith for the postmodern world. This compelling work of scholarship and spirituality shows why the Archbishop of Canterbury is truly a breath of fresh air and one of the most important and hopeful church leaders we have today."—Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, author of God's Politics

"Rowan Williams calls for a Church renewed in contemplation. In the raucous circus of contemporary culture and religion nothing could be more important.  And this book is immensely practical—nailing us just where we are—teaching us that the spiritual life is 'not only about how prayer is to be experienced but about how humanity is to be understood.' There's a liberating sanity here in the simplicity of the message: 'our life is with our neighbor,' and 'being is communion.' This is required reading for spiritual pilgrims of all traditions."—Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, author of Soul Making and Reimagining Christianity

"This book is a marvelous introduction to the first Christian monks, the Desert Fathers, and makes their wisdom available and relevant for the twenty-first century reader; but it does more, since it is written in the same spirit as the texts from the desert, that is, as a clear window that will give direct access to God."—Benedicta Ward, translator of Sayings of the Desert Fathers and The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers

Meet the Author

Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, is an acclaimed theologian, writer, and pastor, in addition to being the spiritual leader of the world's 100 million Anglicans. He was a lecturer at Cambridge University and held the Lady Margaret Chair of Divinity at Oxford University. He has been Canon Theologian of Leicester Cathedral, Bishop of Monmouth in the Church of Wales, and Archbishop of Wales. He is the author of several books, including The Dwelling of Light and A Ray of Darkness.

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Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We are using this for a church Men's Group study guide. it has stimulated much discussion and created much thought.