John of the Cross: Seasons of Prayer by Fr Ian Matthew, OCD

(ISBN 978-0-947916-14-5) Teresian Press 2014. Available from the Carmelite Book Service www.carmelitebooks.com

Very affordable at just £5, John of the Cross: Seasons of Prayer is a good introduction to the writings of the great Doctor of the Church St John of the Cross, and it gives a thought provoking insight into the depths of his works for readers who are more familiar with his writings. Easily accessible in a style which is scholarly yet also speaks to the heart, it will provide food for the soul. This book is a collection of revised articles which first appeared in Mount Carmel: A review of the spiritual life magazine a few years ago. As these articles continued to be of interest to readers they have been published again.

Fr Ian Matthew, OCD is a member of the Carmelite Order, author of The Impact of God: Soundings from St John of the Cross. He is an experienced spiritual director and retreat conductor on Carmelite spirituality.

This book is for anyone seeking a deeper relationship and intimacy with God in prayer.

God meets us in our vulnerability and woundedness and brings us inner healing and transformation, even through the darkest times in our lives. The author portrays John of the Cross as an ordinary weak, suffering and vulnerable human being, while at the same time revealing the sublime spiritual heights and amorous love for Jesus which John experienced in his life. Fr Ian Matthew brings the riches of John's writings to the reader in a way that is relevant to everyday life and experience.

Seasons of Prayer is introduced by Fr James McCaffrey, a respected Carmelite author in his own right, and editor of the Mount Carmel magazine.

The book begins with a brief biography of St John of the Cross then goes on to the main chapters which are as follows: Prayer as Presence, Praying from Our Need, Prayer: Anointing the Mind, A Song of Praise, and concludes with an epilogue: The Fatherhood of God: a Limitless Embrace.

The First Chapter; Prayer as Presence, draws from St John's letters and the books he wrote to help his Brothers and Sisters, reveals the breath-taking intimacy which is attained through a close relationship with Christ and how it is something which is for all of us.

The Second Chapter; Praying from Our Need, explores John's response in the midst of sickness,, anxiety, vulnerability and the desert experience which is all part of our human condition. He helps us to pray from within our woundedness.

The Third Chapter; Anointing the Mind, encourages us to allow God to bathe the eyes of our mind with light, to enable us to “see in the dark” that God continues to lead us and embrace us amid our own nights and fears.

In Chapter Four; A Song of Praise, the author speaks of John's amazement at what God can do in his life, of grace from inside which helps us to pray and praise God, knowing that we are in his embrace despite the limitations life imposes on us. God leads us into His wine cellar, to the riches and intimacy of a life of prayer and union with God.

In the Epilogue the author draws the threads together, looking at how John's doctrine on prayer leads us up the Mountain from the level of sense and life lived on our own terms, into the light which is given by the Spirit, to ever expanding horizons and freedom as we are embraced by the Father.

John of the Cross: Seasons of Prayer gives the reader a real taste of Carmelite prayer: prayer as Presence, prayer as Intimacy, prayer as Friendship with the God who loves us.

This new book from the Teresian Press is going to be one of a series of books of similar length, including books on Saint Teresa of Avila as the Carmelite Order celebrates the Fifth Centenary year of her birth in 2015. Sr Heidi