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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very helpful and spiritually enriching little book, 27 Aug 2002
By 
Richard Fisher (PRESTON, Lancs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
I came to this book as a Christian convinced of the benefit of icons for the spiritual life and have already been enriched by meditating on icons of the Virgin, but this book took me on much further. It introduced me to these three different styles of Virgin icons and enabled me to understand them properly for the first time. Williams' reflections on these "windows onto God" are borne out of his deep study of Eastern Orthodox theology, and his meditations reflect that. They were very stimulating for me in my attempts to live a life of faith today with its challenges.
One of the things that Williams highligts about these icons is how much they are actually about God in Jesus Christ and their relationship to the world. Here is reverence for Mary the mother of God, Jesus Christ. Here too is an acknowledgement of the mystery of God. The words of Dr Andrew Walker are pertinent to this book: "Orthodox mysticism rests securely in a doctrinal theological theological framework that is trinitarian and incarnational"
Williams use of words reminds one of the fact that he is a poet for they bear a depth of meaning which will bear repeated reading. I should point out that each chapter is quite short, could be read in about half an hour, but could also be read over a much longer period if one choses to meditate on all that is being said. Two of the things that stay with me are that God is crazy about me - passionate in his love for even me! - and that He is closer to us than we are to ourselves (it is only our lack of awareness of this that hinders our living in the reality of it).
It is an enjoyable book to handle partly because there is the richly meaningful Virgin of Loving Kindness on the front - built into the cover (there is no dust jacket)- and also because there are snippets of the illustrations scattered throughout the text, as well as full pictures of the icons themselves.
A beautifully produced book, then, with food for thought and prayer.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pointing to Jesus, 9 Sep 2003
By 
Dai (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
For Evangelicals with a capital 'E' the title of this book might be enough to send them away lamenting Williams' further dodgy theology. Not just gay priests, but symbolism and a focus on the Virgin too... But this text is just not like that - a sure proof of the old saying about books and covers. Each chapter take a look at a particular style of Eastern Orthodox icon, and explores it in depth. Williams examines these images in detail, always focusing on how they point us to Jesus. And though it might be argued that his study is more a reading of his own views into the icons rather than an extrapolation from the icons of their theology, there is no doubt that what he has to say is reasoned and relevant. Contrary to the shock-horror reactions some like to pander to, and that the press like to jump upon, this is clearly a work by a man with a deep love for God and a deep love of lending a hand to people on their personal pilgrimages.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-sensory prayer, 19 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
`Ponder These Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin' is the latest book by Rowan Williams, recently appointment to be Archbishop of Canterbury after a distinguished career as an academic and cleric in the Church of England (Anglican Church). Williams has a great affinity for the wider breadth of Christian experience, drawing influences and inspiration from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox practices across the centuries. In this book, which is introduced by Bishop Kalistos Ware, a prominent Orthodox theologian, Williams explores ways in which meditation and prayer can be strengthened and enhanced with incorporation of iconographic images.
Protestants particularly have lost the tradition of the use of art work as representative objects for worship. However, the debate over the appropriateness of icons and other imagery is almost as old as Christianity itself. That Jesus could be depicted without violation of the `no graven images' commandment took a long time to be decided, and finally was deemed permissible because of Jesus' human nature. Rare the depiction of God or God the Father as anything more than a cloud, a hand, or some other vague symbol meant to characterise, more than anything else, the mystery involved rather than an actual physical likeness. Michaelangelo's depictions on the Sistine Chapel ceiling are remarkable not simply from their aesthetic quality, but also in that the image of God is very direct and distinctly human in form.
However, icons are a special form of art. They are not simple paintings, however elegant, as Ware points out in his introduction.
`The icon is not simply a work of art on the same level as any other work of art. On the contrary, the icon exists within a specific context; and, if divorced from that context, it ceases to be truly itself. The icon is part of an act of worship; its context is invocation and doxology. The art of the icon is a liturgical art. In the tradition of the Orthodox church, the icon is not merely a piece of decoration or a visual aid. We do more than just look at icons or talk about them; we pray with them.'
Williams draws his work from an event in his own ministry back in Britain.
`These meditations are really about how we are led by faith both to live in the world, fully flesh and blood in it, and at the same time to be aware of the utter strangeness of God that waits in the heart of what is familiar - as if the world were always on the edge of some total revolution, pregnant with a different kind of life, and we were always trying to catch the blinding momentary light of its changing.'
Using three traditional icons and one modern piece, Williams draws us into a method of contemplation and consideration with the icons. The Hodegetria, the Eleousa, and the Orans traditional icons show depictions of the Virgin Mary in very traditional ways; one who is faithful, who is loving, who is sign and a direction of the way we are to go. Traditionally the Virgin Mary is the first human being to have faith in Jesus, faith in his mission and faith in God's direction of that purpose. The Magnificat is a verbal depiction of this kind of faith; icons are the visual depiction. As the scriptural text talks about Mary `pondering these things in heart', so to are we called, when praying with the icons, to exhibit that kind of faith and loving nature, sureness of God's call and direction to us, whatever it may bring.
The modern piece is not what one would consider an icon in the regular sense. Using a modern art scarlet and purple fabric study by Leigh Hurlock, Williams explores a legend of Mary, the story of her weaving the sanctuary veil, a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the eyes and physical presence of those who came into the Temple. In a sense, Mary's being provided the substance to weave both the veil and the way to see past the veil to holiness through Jesus.
Purple is the colour of royalty; scarlet is the colour of martyrdom, or the cross. The colours are significant, as are the images, in making the completeness of the experience as an iconographic piece.
This is a small book. It has a mere 75 pages or so of text, and thus could be read fairly quickly. However, to do so would be to deny oneself the richness of the experience. One can glance at an icon, generally a fairly small object, and think one has seen it. However, the true experience of an icon, and the true experience of this book, comes from re-reading, stopping, meditating, and slowly working through each detail. The book is generously illustrated in word and graphic art. Each of the icons is presented in full colour, with details highlighted in larger size at appropriate points in the text.
Through all the meditations, we are looking for God, and hopefully come to realise that God also looks for us.
`We find the God who has taken up residence in the heart of our humanity, who prays when we are not looking, not trying, who is at work when we are silent or helpless, and who can never be pinned down to a here or there in our individual lives or in the Church at large.'
Ponder these things...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very helpful and spiritually enriching little book, 27 Aug 2002
By 
Richard Fisher (PRESTON, Lancs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
I came to this book as a Christian convinced of the benefit of icons for the spiritual life and have already been enriched by meditating on icons of the Virgin, but this book took me on much further. It introduced me to three different styles of Virgin icons and enabled me to understand them properly for the first time. Williams' reflections on these "windows onto God" are borne out of his deep study of Eastern Orthodox theology, and his meditations reflect that. They were very stimulating for me in my attempts to live a life of faith today with its challenges.
One of the things that Williams highlights about these icons is how much they are actually about God in Jesus Christ and their relationship to the world. Here is reverence for Mary the mother of God, Jesus Christ. Here too is an acknowledgement of the mystery of God. The words of Dr Andrew Walker are pertinent to this book: "Orthodox mysticism rests securely in a doctrinal theological theological framework that is trinitarian and incarnational"
Williams use of words reminds one of the fact that he is a poet for they bear a depth of meaning which will bear repeated reading. I should point out that each chapter is quite short, could be read in about half an hour, but could also be read over a much longer period if one choses to meditate on all that is being said. Two of the things that stay with me are that God is crazy about me - passionate in his love for even me! - and that He is closer to us than we are to ourselves (it is only our lack of awareness of this that hinders our living in the reality of it).
It is an enjoyable book to handle partly because there is the richly meaningful Virgin of Loving Kindness on the front - built into the cover (there is no dust jacket)- and also because there are snippets of the illustrations scattered throughout the text, as well as full pictures of the icons themselves.
A beautifully produced book, then, with food for thought and prayer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Iconography, 1 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
Easy to use, informative and a good aid to contemplation. Useful illustrations and small enough to be carried in a pocket.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This gives you the space to ponder, 31 Dec 2013
By 
Trevor Lewis "RevTrev" (Middlesbrough, N.E. England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
I like my Icons and this little book can help you to ponder on Icons of Mary and to pray with the Icons. I bought it on a whim and have found it to be a little gem.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An introduction, 2 May 2013
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This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
There are so many icons of the virgin. This is a good introduction to the various themes that are portrayed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Praying with Icons of the Virgin Mary", 21 May 2012
By 
Ms B. Peters "BP" (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (Hardcover)
As always Archbishop Rowan Williams writes with depth and clarity and provokes thoughtful meditation
Beautiful Illustrative and prayerful with Classic Icons of the Virgin
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Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin
Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin by Rowan Williams (Hardcover - 1 July 2002)
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