Launch of Lent Book: "Abiding" by Ben Quash
Monday 11th February 2013The Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book 2013 was launched at an event hosted by Bloomsbury in London on Monday 11th February.
The book, 'Abiding' by Ben Quash, considers what the concept of 'abiding' means for Christian prayer and devotion. The word was used by Jesus to describe the Good Shepherd who did not abandon his flock, and Quash argues that the sense of full personal commitment which abiding carries can be key in understanding our relationships with God and within our churches. He draws on modern fiction, film and art as well as great figures from Christian tradition.
The book had been commissioned by the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who called it “…a large meditation in a small space…”, and it was supported enthusiastically by the current Archbishop, Justin Welby.
Archbishop Justin's message, delivered at the Launch, follows:
I am deeply grateful to Ben Quash for writing this book and also to Archbishop Rowan for having the wisdom to invite him to do so. I gladly associate myself with it and welcome it as the first Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book of my time in office.
Ben Quash’s encouragement to us to abide (with all the meaning that he enables us to give to that word) and his reminder that God abides with us shows us a way to intensify relationships so that they may be characterised by the peace of God, and indeed make that peace more real for us. We saw this when Jesus, from the cross, made a new relationship between his mother and his beloved disciple and so began the set of relationships we call Church. We see it wherever we stand alongside another in solidarity, especially if that solidarity is being carved out of enmity.
I joyfully commend Ben Quash’s ‘Abiding’, and join my prayers with all who use it to accompany their Lenten journey.
The foreword to 'Abiding' was written by Dr Rowan Williams:
This is a reflection on where we find our centre of gravity. Ben Quash diagnoses with great sensitivity the different ways in which we can misunderstand our need for continuity and security – by resorting to inflexible habits or expectations, by looking for unchanging landmarks in a world where things naturally change, and equally by locating what really matters in an all-powerful individual will that ought to be able to mould reality according to its agenda. Against all this, he sets the habits of patience, the willingness to learn and be changed, the readiness to be someone else’s guest and dependent, the renouncing of heroic fantasies in favour of ordinary sense and sensitivity and readiness to respond generously. This is a book about learning to inhabit your body and your history without resentment; it is also about inhabiting, steadily and mindfully, the daily disciplines of exposing yourself to the Bible and the rhythms of liturgical prayer. It celebrates the backgrounds and contexts we don’t choose. It focuses our attention on attention itself, the kind of patient looking that Annie Dillard described, in the title of a famous book, as Teaching a Stone to Talk.
It is written with clarity and openness, introducing us to a good deal of painful personal experience without any jarring note of self-dramatising, and showing a wide range of interest in contemporary culture. Ben demonstrates very plainly the importance to Christian reflection of the riches found in modern fiction and film. At the same time, we are introduced to some of the major figures of the classical Christian tradition. St Benedict and his Rule feature prominently; but we also have a chance to become acquainted with a much less well-known figure from the fourth century, Macrina, sister of bishops and theologians who regarded her as their teacher and inspiration, the account of whose death is the subject of some of the most searching pages here.
Ben Quash has succeeded in holding together the uneasy and often bewildering plurality of the modern heart or mind with the depths of the tradition he inherits, both the Anglican inheritance and the wider legacy of early and mediaeval Christian thought and prayer. In this way he himself models the ‘abiding’, the letting-yourself-be-centred, that he analyses with such vividness and humanity. This is a large meditation in a small space – appropriate for us who live immortally in the local space of a fragile body.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book
Archbishops of Canterbury have commissioned an 'Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book' for decades, collaborating with a Christian publisher. The books concentrate on theological or devotional Christian themes relevant to Lent, in preparation for the celebration of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Holy Week and Easter.
Ben Quash is Professor of Christianity & the Arts at King's College London.