A Book Filled with Joy and Light

At Play in Creation: Merton’s Awakening to the Feminine Divine (Liturgical Press, 2015) by Christopher Pramuk

I’m slightly embarrassed that a male so clearly and closely articulates the feminine face of God, but maybe we have Chris’ wife Lauri, mother Gladys and daughters Grace and Sophia to thank. It’s hard not to let our friendship and the beauty of his style—the precision of each word—influence my judgement, but still the book stands: clear, luminous, a diamond with many facets to which I’ll return repeatedly. I can read simply for the pleasure of a sentence such as this: “God…saturates all things in a sea of reverence.”

The overarching theme of the book is Merton’s discovery of God as Wisdom, a process in which Rowan Williams says we can observe the dynamic of God and human possibilities. Merton’s awakening is expressed primarily in Hagia Sophia, which Pramuk inspires us to re-read if it’s been a while… Wisdom-Sophia “is God’s call from the future breaking ever into the present.” This book gives us the freedom to know God not only as Father, Son, and Spirit, but also as mother, sister, child, and friend.

Such breadth ain’t the God of your ordinary homily, this “spirit of creativity and celebration.” As the author comments wryly, this spirit is “feared and starved dead for oxygen by an institutional church that seems determined to rigidly choreograph and control every move in the dance. After all, as the logic of clericalism goes, the people in the pews ‘are not theologically trained.’” For those who feel suffocated by such thinking, this book offers a chance to breathe again, and symbols that contradict hopelessness.

Considerably shorter than the author’s other books, this one nevertheless combines his signatures: careful scholarship with lyrical prose and accessible insights. Seems a bit odd that chunks of this book have appeared in previous books, but maybe that’s only a problem for fanatic Pramuk fans like myself, who read every word he writes. So treat yourself to a large draught of beauty, freedom, fresh air and joy.

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