Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Becoming Christ: Transformation through Contemplation

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Becoming Christ: Transformation through Contemplation

Article excerpt

Becoming Christ: Transformation through Contemplation. By Brian C. Taylor. Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 2002. xi + 234 pp. $14.95 (paper).

One would not think that the book market, already awash with books on prayer, would need one more, but Brian Taylor's volume is so level-headed, clear, and unpretentious that it comes as a welcome addition amidst the flood. In fact, among all the detritus, flotsam, and muck, Becoming Christ could serve as a strategically tossed life preserver.

Taylor divides Becoming Christ into three roughly equal sections: "Practice," "Context," and "Transformation," each with three chapters. He is wise to begin with practice because, as he says later on, "we can only look at contemplation from the inside out, by becoming people of prayer" (p. 91). The approach he takes "is a specific one," he acknowledges, one that "will work for some, but not for everyone" (p. 7). The first chapter presents practical instruction, while the second "goes into more depth about how we can pray contemplatively with our whole being, and the third suggests ways of praying contemplatively in Christ" (p. 1). The author very helpfully offers specific suggestions on preparing the body and mind for prayer and on how to deal with involuntary thoughts that arise. He advocates time-honored apophatic prayer, "empty, expectant openness" to God, as he nicely puts it (p. 22), and does so in a friendly, informal manner that is not scary or elitist or off-putting.

In part 2, "Context," Taylor sets "our private practice of contemplative prayer within the larger context of the church's life" (p. 89). The church, Taylor rightly insists in our solipsistic culture, "provides wisdom, challenge, depth, diversity, support, corrective, historical continuity, and ritual life that simply cannot be found on our own" (p. …

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