Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is

Article excerpt

Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is. By Joan Chittister, OSB, and Rowan Williams. (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2010, Pp. 204. $16.95.)

It is easy to give thanks to God when things are going well; it is not easy to be grateful when things are going badly. Joan Chittister, OSB, and Rowan Williams want to help their readers to be faithful when their faith seems to be undermined by life's misfortunes. The introduction and fifteen of the twenty-three chapters are written by Chittister, a Roman Catholic Benedictine, retreat leader, and activist. The remaining, longer chapters, are by Williams, the present archbishop of Canterbury.

Williams explores the complex Christian understanding of God, using deft references to the Bible. God's "flexible" love, for example, is displayed in the Book of Genesis, "finding ways through the spiny thickets of our failures and wrong turnings" (146), while God's "inflexible" love is evidenced in Exodus, where God refuses to let humans define their own happiness. Throughout, God remains ultimate and sovereign. As Williams comments, "In a very important sense, all of Genesis, and all of the rest of the Bible, is really a long explanatory note to the opening affirmation - that the God of this story is the one whose utterly free decision is what lies at the origin of everything" (91). Thus to ask, as some people do, what in the world God would do without our acts of service is to pose "the most deeply unbiblical question imaginable" (90).

Williams also draws on classical Christian authors such as Augustine and addresses many traditional spiritual topics. In his chapter on "Saints," for example, Williams dryly notes that holiness is not a descriptive term but rather "being in a particular kind of relation to God that allows certain things to happen" (65). …

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