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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Looking East in Winter by Rowan Williams, read by Elliot Fitzpatrick.

In many ways, we seem to be living in wintry times at present in the Western world. In this new book, Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and a noted scholar of Eastern Christianity, introduces us to some aspects and personalities of the Orthodox Christian world, from the desert contemplatives of the fourth century to philosophers, novelists and activists of the modern era, that suggest where we might look for fresh light and warmth. He shows how this rich and diverse world opens up new ways of thinking about spirit and body, prayer and action, worship and social transformation, which go beyond the polarisations we take for granted.

Taking in the world of the great spiritual anthology, the Philokalia, and the explorations of Russian thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries, discussing the witness of figures like Maria Skobtsova, murdered in a German concentration camp for her defence of Jewish refugees and the challenging theologies of modern Greek thinkers like John Zizioulas and Christos Yannaras, Rowan Williams opens the door to a ‘climate and landscape of our humanity that can indeed be warmed and transfigured’.

This is an original and illuminating vision of a Christian world still none too familiar to Western believers and even to students of theology, showing how the deep-rooted themes of Eastern Christian thought can prompt new perspectives on our contemporary crises of imagination and hope.

©2021 Rowan Williams (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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  • Clive Smart
  • 08-28-21

I wanted to like this....but it's too much!

It's great to see western theologians of note engaging with eastern theology and spirituality. The problem I have is that Rowan is just too verbose here. It heats the head (if you can follow his meandering theological precision) but barely reaches the heart! This is ironic since that is what the great ancient way of eastern Christianity aims to do. I am an ex monk and I suppose a theologian (I'm certainly no mechanic!) and yet I struggled to follow Rowan. It reminded me of theological conferences in Rome back in the day....why say 5 words when you can talk for an hour! Even as a specialist I couldn't follow this audiobook all the way through...I've given up. It is not enjoyable and is so different to the life giving experience of visiting an orthodox monastery and engaging at length with their monks. Now that touches the heart and gets to where Orthodoxy is coming from. Forgive me, maybe some people need the word salad to really "taste and see" psalm 34. But the Eastern Orthodox are fresh precisely because they can and do take is beyond the word salad to the deep heart. This book is tough going especially in audio format. It didnt draw me into prayer and to the heart...so however eloquent it is and precise in its terminology: it just frustrated me. I think the Othodox would dig the challenge put to Rabbi Hillel: explain to me Orthodoxy while standing on one leg. As an Orthodox monk first said to me: "We must find a way back to the heart." A theologian must be a person with a living heart connected to God. We in the West have active heads but have largely lost the way to the deep heart.

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  • Literati
  • 07-10-21

Deep!

I love Orthodox books. Rowan is of course not Orthodox but has a deep affection for it.

This is deep stuff, I found it helpful to slow the speed down a bit because there is a lot to take in and to listen in small chunks. As for the content I'd need to listen more than once to do it justice.

For a deep but easier to cope with view of the Orthodox Church I'd recommend anything by Ancient Faith.

Perhaps 'Thinking Orthodox' would be a good place to start.

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