Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Silence Beholding

Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Silence Beholding

by Maggie Ross


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The subtitle of Maggie Ross's new book captures its essence, for it is about silence and our need to behold God. Beholding is a notion that we are in danger of losing. It is often lost in translation, even by the NRSV and the Jerusalem Bible. Beholding needs to be recovered both in theology and practice.

Ross is very aware of "poor talkative Christianity." There is a twofold plea to enter into silence—for lack of silence erodes our humanity—and to behold the radiance of God. This is a book full of deep questioning and the testing of our assumptions. Throughout there is a great love for the world and for our humanity, accompanied by sadness that we are so easily distracted . . .

We are invited into a silence that is not necessarily an absence of noise, but is a limitless interior space. Ancient texts are used in new and exciting ways, and many of our worship practices are challenged. She is in no doubt that "the glory of the human being is the beholding of God."
—adapted from a review in The Church Times (London) by Canon David Adam.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620326930
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 03/22/2013
Pages: 164
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Maggie Ross is the pseudonym of a professed Anglican solitary responsible to the Archbishop of Canterbury. After many years in Alaska, she is now based full-time in Oxford, England, where she researches and writes books, papers, and liturgies. She also preaches, lectures, leads retreats, and engages in pastoral care. Among her other books are The Fire of Your Life, Pillars of Flame, and The Fountain and the Furnace. She blogs at ravenwilderness.blogspot.com.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction xvii

Cranberries 1

Barking at Angels 6

Whatever Happened to Discretion? 15

The Space of Prayer 25

The Walrus of the Living God 34

Liturgy in Truth 42

Remembering to Forget 55

Writing the Icon of the Heart 65

The Ecology of Repentance 75

Practical Adoration 86

Heaven Can't Wait 98

Tears and Fire 109

Notes 125

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Maggie Ross has established a very distinctive voice in writing about the life of the spirit. Richly resourced from the historic tradition, but constantly pressing the most radical question of all, the question of how we can speak of a reality that requires us to let go of controls, images, systems, even—or especially—'spiritual experiences,' this book is a welcome addition to a series of deeply focused and challenging works from a very serious and substantial thinker."

—Rowan Williams, Cambridge University

"I knew for years that silence would nourish my soul, but I never understood why until I actually made room for it. I still feel like a novice, but Writing the Icon of the Heart has injected passion into my heart as I behold the Lord in faithful silence. This is a beautiful book."

—John H. Armstrong, President, ACT3 Network

"This book in particular, and Maggie Ross in general, represent a much-needed locus and focus for spirituality: deep insight and living practice over mere theology, living fire more than sweet piety, naked seeking of God and love unhindered by churchiness or smallness."

—Fr. Richard Rohr, Founding Director, Center for Action and Contemplation

"I have often thought of Jesus as the Undistracted One who was always aware of his Father's presence in a way we seldom are. Maggie Ross lives that undistracted life better than anyone I know, and the eloquence of her words allows us a glimpse into that beholding that is the awareness of his presence."

—James P. Danaher, author of Contemplative Prayer: A Theology for the Twenty-first Century

"This collection of essays by Maggie Ross spirals around the themes of silence, beholding, and letting go. Examples are drawn from Ross's own life and from her extensive reading, including excerpts from seldom-quoted Syriac spiritual masters. For Ross, beholding is more than seeing. It is inward vision springing from the 'deep mind': non-linear, non-controlling, and self-emptying."

—Fr. Charles Cummings, author of Monastic Practices

"Maggie Ross is already well known for her ability to express what defies expression. In Writing the Icon of the Heart she draws her reader through a vivid engagement with creation and a jarring acknowledgment of human suffering toward the transfiguration of human life in beholding God's presence. This is a book that gives hope to a jangled, distracted world."

—Bill Countryman, author of Calling on the Spirit in Unsettling Times

"Maggie Ross writes in the silence that births language and lays it to rest. I'll share this book with an Anglican wondering whether her simple, steady skepticism means she has lost her faith; with a gay friend longing for communion and struggling with his Roman Catholic church's condemnation of homosexuality; and with a Buddhist whose compassionate practice teaches me so much about prayer. Then I'll read it again."

—Donald Schell, President, All Saints Company

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