- I Live, No longer I: Paul's Spirituality of Suffering, Transformation and Joy by Laura Reece Hogan
Laura Reece Hogan's book is a rare combination of mystical reflections and keen exegetical exactitude. It is a text of unusual spiritual richness written in beautiful language. I Live, No Longer I might be compared in its pedagogical objective and instructional style to a text like the commentary by John of the Cross on his poem The Dark Night. This comparison comes to mind not only because Hogan is a Third Order Carmelite, but also because she is a published poet whose work in O Garden Dweller anticipates parts of this book. As with John of the Cross some readers might prefer the poetry over the treatise while some might find the treatise very helpful for their own journey.
Hogan's language has a lyrical style, which is intended to lead the reader into a mystical experience. She does this by explaining the traditional Latin categories of a spiritual journey—purgative, illuminative and unitive—through her interpretation of Paul's life and message as a process of (the Greek) kenosis, enosis and theosis. The lyrical style of her language and the intensity of her mystical insights make this book a perfect retreat guide, or a beautiful accompaniment for someone on a conscious soul-search or journey. The chapters can easily be used as a resource for a retreat and the content might evoke for spiritual directees or directors fresh cat egories and examples. One strength of the book is that it can be picked up at any time and does not have to be read chronologically; rather, one can have meaningful reading experiences by pondering a single chapter, or even a few pages.
Hogan's work on Pauline literature, her in—depth reading of spiritual classics, her poetic embeddedness in nature, and her down to earth life as a mother protects the book against spiritual speculations and pietism, which sometimes can limit this sort of text. Her examples are engaging and her major interpretative keys, as I see them, are very helpful for understanding the mysticism she is presenting. Those keys are: 1) All of life, in all its secular daily experiences and realities, is profoundly a spiritual journey; 2) That experience is drawn into the "circular model of revelation," [End Page 276] which in her Rahneresque terms, is the self-gift of God that leads into the gift of self back to God; 3) The spiritual journey is not a clean cut move through the conversion process into unity, but rather an intertwining of the distinct mo-ments that blur the separation between the three parts of the great commandment, moving the person up the spiral "indigo glowing staircase" (69) towards God; 4) On this mystical ascent the single most important thing to realize, for Hogan, is that it is completely unique but available to all. Her insistence on this throughout the book reminded me of the just published reflections by David Steindl-Rast, titled (with E.E. Cummings's twist on Paul's words): I am through you so I.
The book is structured in seven chapters with an introduction and conclusion. The chapters form a continuum but are not necessarily written by the way of constructing an argument. After forewords by Donald Senior, bearing witness to Hogan's biblical acumen, and by Ruth Burrows, who stresses the prayerful mystical insights of the book, the introduction extends Paul's historical situation into the everyday life of a person in the twenty-first century.
In the first chapter Hogan lays the groundwork for her message as she describes the mystical movement from I to Thou, finishing the chapter with the promise that if "we come to focus our gaze on Christ . . . something brighter, more expansive and more inclusive becomes the center" of our lives (17). In the second chapter she ponders the contradictory message of Jesus' Cross as it is reflected in the experience of anyone on a...