Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God

Article excerpt

Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God. By Cynthia Bourgeault. Cloister Books. Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 2001. xii + 104 pp. $8.95 (paper).

If ever a word needed more precision, that word is "hope." I hope I get a good grade on my test (a possibility depending on grace and good work). I hope the Cubs or Red Sox win the pennant (apparently an impossibility). French and Spanish wisely follow "I hope" with the subjunctive mood. But we seem to be an indicative people, pragmatically sure of things (and ourselves). All the more reason to thank Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest, for presenting in this slim volume better theological precision and a deeper spiritual explication of hope, thus providing us with a better understanding both of God and of ourselves.

"Hope," Bourgeault reminds us, "is not intended to be an extraordinary infusion, but an abiding state of being" (p. 17; emphasis hers). Hope, then, is like prayer: not so much an event or action but a way of being. Bourgeault wants us to see that hope dwells within "rather than coming from without" (p. 20); we are surrounded by the "embodying fullness" of God, which she calls "Mercy." Mercy is "the length and breadth and height and depth of what we know of God-and the light by which we know it" (p. 20). Mercy is "God's innermost being turned outward to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love" (p. 25). Mercy is "the very heartbeat of God resonant in creation" (p. 31). "Mystical hope," then, "would simply be what happens when we touch this innermost ground" (p. 34).

Bourgeault is steeped in "the inner tradition" of mysticism, "a subterranean but distinct vein of Christianity" that has "kept its focus squarely on the path of inner awakening taught and modeled by Christ" (p. …

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