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Adoration and Annihilation

The Convent Philosophy of Port-Royal

John J. Conley, S.J.

In seventeenth-century France, southwest of Paris, the Port-Royal convent became the center of the Jansenist movement and of its adherents’ resistance to church and throne. Three abbesses from the Arnauld family spearheaded this resistance: Mère Angélique Arnauld (1591-1661), Mère Agnès Arnauld (1593-1671), and Mère Angélique de Saint-Jean Arnauld d'Andilly (1624-1684). Although many books have been written about the tragic lives of the Port-Royal nuns, John J. Conley provides the first study of the radical Augustinian philosophy developed by these remarkable abbesses during decades of persecution by Louis XIV and his ecclesiastical allies. Openly declaring themselves “disciples of Saint Augustine,” the Arnauld abbesses forged a philosophy notable for its original treatment of the attributes that stressed divine otherness; a moral philosophy of virtue rooted in grace; and a politics that supported the right of women to resist abuses of religious and civil authority. Although their philosophy was clearly influenced by their male Jansenist mentors, the nuns’ radical Augustinianism maintains its own gendered originality: their philosophy of virtue is closely tied to practices valued in a contemplative convent setting; their defense of freedom of conscience is linked to their defense of women’s right to exercise religious authority; and their negative theology, focused on divine incomprehensibility, depicts a God beyond sexual difference. A fascinating account that includes translations ranging from abbatial conferences to private letters, Adoration and Annihilation is an important chronicle of the doctrinal battles of early modern Catholicism.

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Adoring the Saints

Fiestas in Central Mexico

By Yolanda Lastra, Dina Sherzer, and Joel Sherzer

Mexico is famous for spectacular fiestas that embody its heart and soul. An expression of the cult of the saint, patron saint fiestas are the centerpiece of Mexican popular religion and of great importance to the lives and cultures of people and communities. These fiestas have their own language, objects, belief systems, and practices. They link Mexico’s past and present, its indigenous and European populations, and its local and global relations. This work provides a comprehensive study of two intimately linked patron saint fiestas in the state of Guanajuato, near San Miguel de Allende—the fiesta of the village of Cruz del Palmar and that of the town of San Luis de la Paz. These two fiestas are related to one another in very special ways involving both religious practices and their respective pre-Hispanic origins. A mixture of secular and sacred, patron saint fiestas are multi-day affairs that include many events, ritual specialists, and performers, with the participation of the entire community. Fiestas take place in order to honor the saints, and they are the occasion for religious ceremonies, processions, musical performances, dances, and dance dramas. They feature spectacular costumes, enormous puppets, masked and cross-dressed individuals, dazzling fireworks, rodeos, food stands, competitions, and public dances. By encompassing all of these events and performances, this work displays the essence of Mexico, a lens through which this country’s complex history, religion, ethnic mix, traditions, and magic can be viewed.

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Advaita Worldview, The

God, World, and Humanity

In this book, Anantanand Rambachan offers a fresh and detailed perspective on Advaita Vedaµnta, Hinduism’s most influential and revered religious tradition. Rambachan, who is both a scholar and an Advaitin, attends closely to the Upanis|ads and authentic commentaries of Såan³kara to challenge the tradition and to reconsider central aspects of its current teachings. His reconstruction and reinterpretation of Advaita focuses in particular on the nature of brahman, the status of the world in relation to brahman, and the meaning and relevance of liberation. Rambachan queries contemporary representations of an impersonal brahman and the need for popular, hierarchical distinctions such as those between a higher (paraµ) and lower (aparaµ) brahman. Such distinctions, Rambachan argues, are inconsistent with the non-dual nature of brahman and are unnecessary when brahman’s relationship with the world is correctly understood. Questioning Advaita’s traditional emphasis on renunciation and world-denial, Rambachan expands the understanding of suffering (duh|kha) and liberation (moks|a) and addresses socioeconomic as well as gender and caste inequalities. Positing that the world is a celebrative expression of God’s fullness, this book advances Advaita as a universal and uninhibited path to a liberated life committed to compassion, equality, and justice.

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Advent to Pentecost

Comparing the Seasons in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite

Patrick Regan, OSB
Foreword by Rev. Msgr. Kevin W. Irwin

Since 2007, use of the Roman Missal of 1962 has been broadly permitted within the church. This creates, in effect, two liturgical years running concurrently. In Advent to Pentecost, Abbot Patrick Regan compares the prayers and prefaces, readings and rubrics, calendar and chants of the 1962 Missal with those of the Missal as it was revised following the Second Vatican Council, now in its third edition. The result is a striking demonstration of the splendor and superiority of the reformed Missal over its predecessor, at least as far as the liturgical year is concerned.Regan's chapters on Advent, Lent, and the Easter Season are particularly informative because these seasons are so different in the two missals. Perhaps less obvious are the differences between Holy Week and the Triduum. Regan not only describes external modifications in the services as restored by Pius XII in 1956 but explores deeper theological currents, especially in the relationship between the passion and resurrection of the Lord in the one paschal mystery, to show how advances in this area find expression in the current Triduum celebrations and throughout the fifty days of Easter. The originality of the book lies mainly here. The most urgent liturgical challenge today, the author contends, is to raise the ars celebrandi to the same level of excellence as the Missal itself.

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Aeled of Rievaulx

Spiritual Friendship

Marsha L. Dutton, Editor; Lawrence C. Braceland, Translator

Spiritual Friendship is today the best known and perhaps most influential of the thirteen surviving works of Aelred, abbot of the great English Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx from 1147 '1167. During his abbacy he built Rievaulx into a place of spiritual welcome and physical prosperity, desiring to make it a mother of mercy" to those in need. In a three-book Ciceronian dialogue Aelred defines human friendship as sacramental, beginning in creation, as God sought to place his own love of society in al his creatures, linking friends to Christ in this life and culminating in friendship with God in beatitude. This fresh new translation makes the work crisply readable, allowing the intellectual and Christian insight of this great Cistercian teacher and writer to speak clearly to today's seekers of love, wisdom, and truth.Lawrence C. Braceland, was professor of classics and dean at Ignatius College, Guelph (Canada), until in 1963 becoming professor of classics and dean of arts and sciences at St. Paul's College, the University of Manitoba. After his retirement in 1-978, he devoted himself to Cistercian scholarship, publishing numerous articles and translating in four volumes al the works of the English Cistercian abbot Gilbert of Hoyland.Marshal. Dutton, professor of medieval literature and director of graduate studies in English at Ohio University, is along time student of the works of Aelred of Rievaulx and of other twelfth-century Cistercian writers. She is associate editor of Cistercian Studies Quarterly. In addition to her many articles on Cistercian thought, Dutton has written the introduction to Vita Aelredi (CF 57) and edited Aelred's The Historical Works and Lives of the Northern Saints (CF 56, 71) as well as preparing a critical edition of Aelred's Pastoral Prayer (CF 73). She was one of the editors of Truth as Gift: Studies in Cistercian History Honoring John R. Sommerfeldt (CS 204)."

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Aesthetic Revelation

Reading Ancient and Medieval Texts after Hans Urs von Balthasar

Oleg Bychkov

Oleg Bychkov's masterly exposition also shows how the texts analyzed have significantly influenced the development of Western theological thought.

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Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies

Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics

David Nirenberg

Throughout most of Western European history, Jews have been a numerically tiny or entirely absent minority, but across that history Europeans have nonetheless worried a great deal about Judaism. Why should that be so? This short but powerfully argued book suggests that Christian anxieties about their own transcendent ideals made Judaism an important tool for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized by prizing soul over flesh, the spiritual over the literal, the heavenly over the physical world—came to terms with the inescapable importance of body, language, and material things in this world.

Nirenberg shows how turning the Jew into a personification of worldly over spiritual concerns, surface over inner meaning, allowed cultures inclined toward transcendence to understand even their most materialistic practices as spiritual. Focusing on art, poetry, and politics—three activities especially condemned as worldly in early Christian culture—he reveals how, over the past two thousand years, these activities nevertheless expanded the potential for their own existence within Christian culture because they were used to represent Judaism. Nirenberg draws on an astonishingly diverse collection of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the roles played by representations of Jewish “enemies” in the creation of Western art, culture, and politics, from the ancient world to the present day.

This erudite and tightly argued survey of the ways in which Christian cultures have created themselves by thinking about Judaism will appeal to the broadest range of scholars of religion, art, literature, political theory, media theory, and the history of Western civilization more generally.

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Aesthetics and Analysis in Writing on Religion

Modern Fascinations

Daniel Gold

This book addresses a fundamental dilemma in religious studies. Exploring the tension between humanistic and social scientific approaches to thinking and writing about religion, Daniel Gold develops a line of argument that begins with the aesthetics of academic writing in the field. He shows that successful writers on religion employ characteristic aesthetic strategies in communicating their visions of human truths. Gold examines these strategies with regard to epistemology and to the study of religion as a collective endeavor.

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Africa’s Ogun, Second, Expanded Edition

Old World and New

Edited by Sandra T. Barnes

The second edition of this landmark work is enhanced by new chapters on Ogun worship in the New World. From reviews of the first edition:

"... an ethnographically rich contribution to the historical understanding of West African culture, as well as an exploration of the continued vitality of that culture in the changing environments of the Americas." -- African Studies Review

"... leav[es] the reader with a sense of the vitality, dynamism, and complexity of Ogun and the cultural contexts in which he thrives.... magnificent contribution to the literature on Ogun, Yoruba culture, African religions, and the African diaspora." -- International Journal of Historical Studies

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African American Folk Healing

Stephanie Mitchem

Cure a nosebleed by holding a silver quarter on the back of the neck. Treat an earache with sweet oil drops. Wear plant roots to keep from catching colds. Within many African American families, these kinds of practices continue today, woven into the fabric of black culture, often communicated through women. Such folk practices shape the concepts about healing that are diffused throughout African American communities and are expressed in myriad ways, from faith healing to making a mojo.

Stephanie Y. Mitchem presents a fascinating study of African American healing. She sheds light on a variety of folk practices and traces their development from the time of slavery through the Great Migrations. She explores how they have continued into the present and their relationship with alternative medicines. Through conversations with black Americans, she demonstrates how herbs, charms, and rituals continue folk healing performances. Mitchem shows that these practices are not simply about healing; they are linked to expressions of faith, delineating aspects of a holistic epistemology and pointing to disjunctures between African American views of wellness and illness and those of the culture of institutional medicine.

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