Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Desiring Life: Benedict on Wisdom and the Good Life

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Desiring Life: Benedict on Wisdom and the Good Life

Article excerpt

Desiring Life: Benedict on Wisdom and the Good Life. By Norvene Vest. Boston: Cowley Publications, 2000. 171 pp. $12.95 (paper).

"What is it that we really desire?" (p. 2). Following St. Benedict, Norvene Vest maintains that the true object of our human yearnings is fullness of life in God. Nothing else will satisfy us; nothing else is worthy of our effort and attention. But this does not mean that we ought to turn away from the stuff of everyday existence, eschewing all concern for food and drink, companionship, success, sex, and all the rest. On the contrary, desire for the "good life" necessarily takes us along a road that passes through engagement with these things to an "ongoing conversion of heart" (p. 157). In calling us to attend to our daily experience so that we may learn to live well, St. Benedict stands within a tradition of teachers of practical wisdom stretching back to the Book of Proverbs: "For whoever finds [wisdom] finds life" (Prov. 8:35).

This is Vest's third book on Benedictine spirituality as a resource for the renewal of Christian life in our time. No Moment Too Small (Cowley, 1994) dealt with the practices of silence, lectio divina, and prayer, while Friend of the Soul (Cowley, 1997) treated the relationship of faith and work to vocation, stewardship, and obedience. Here Vest once again identifies a threefold cluster of topics, this time exploring "the good life" under the headings of wisdom, virtue, and ethics. The reader is saved from "trinitarian overload," however, by a twofold pairing of chapters within each section: one chapter on the topic's more general background in Scripture and monastic tradition, followed by a second chapter presenting reflections on selected portions of the Rule of Benedict (the Prologue with its invitation to "listen," chapter 7 on humility, and chapter 4 on the instruments of good works). …

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