Madeleine Davies

Words uttered in the catacombs: A review of ‘The Apostles’ Creed: A guide to the ancient catechism’ by Ben Myers

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2019 at 12:01 am

Apostles

I did not grow up saying The Apostles’ Creed. Bar the mention of the Communion of Saints – not something I remember being articulated – its doctrine is all very familiar to me. But I am not accustomed to saying it aloud every Sunday.

I would like to recommend Ben Myers’ little book – The Apostles’ Creed: A guide to the ancient catechism – not only to others who are learning the Creed, but to anyone who would like to read a simple, compelling guide to the Christian faith. I’ve seen a few requests on Twitter lately asking for book recommendations for those exploring Christianity – this would be a wonderful addition.

One of its key strengths is its reminder that, at Christianity’s heart we find not a theory but a person, and that this person brings us into a family – that through baptism we join an “ever-widening circle of people who have handed their lives over to the pattern of Jesus’ life”.

By drawing consistently on the words of the Church Fathers, Myers presents as a friendly guide, initiating the reader into this circle. St Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus and Julian of Norwich are introduced not merely as historical figures but as friends who have gone ahead of us – members of a family that “stretches out across space but also across time”.

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Marilyn McCord Adams, horrendous evils, and the goodness of God

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2019 at 7:06 pm
Guernica

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, on display at the Renia Sofia museum in Madrid (CREATIVE COMMONS)

WHEN Marilyn McCord Adams died in 2017 I read in an obituary by her husband that, “the topic that most gripped her, and most inspired her intellectual work through the rest of her life was the theological problem of evil.”

In her book Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God, Robert Adams observed, “she does not try to answer the question, ‘Why did God permit all the evils that we know about?’ Rather she asks, ‘What can God do to make our existence a great good to us, without trivialising the horrendous evils that we know about?’”

This year I finally got around to reading Horrendous Evils. I have no background in philosophy, or theology, and it’s been a challenging exercise. But I have found it so helpful. What I’ve written below is mainly just a sort of repository for me to come back to, a store of some of the quotes I want to treasure..

The land that runs on memories: thoughts on Coco and grief

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2018 at 10:26 am

Coco

THE Land of the Dead was the “big design challenge” for the creators of Coco, according to the film’s lighting director, Danielle Feinberg. What should it look like?

“We all want to know the answer to that ultimate mystery: is there anything after death?” the director, Lee Unkrich, observes in an interview accompanying the film. “Is there a heaven? Is there a world to go to?”

What emerged from extensive research, including trips to Mexico, was a gorgeous vista of vertical cities, connected by vertiginous viaducts and lit up in a pretty palette – pink, orange and blue – evocative of enormous coral reefs. This soaring cityscape is built on pyramids that give way to pre-colonial architecture and topped by cranes signalling ongoing construction. It was in part inspired by designer Ernesto Nemesio’s visits to see his grandparents in Mexico, where he remembered close-knit buildings constructed almost on top of each other.

Although there are no living things in this world, what’s striking is how familiar it is. You arrive at magnificent iron-wrought station reminiscent of St Pancras or Grand Central, where customs staff are on hand to check your possessions (“Welcome back to the Land of the Dead. Please have all offerings ready for re-entry”). There are skyline trams, a plaza, concerts, and bureaucrats available to assist with family reunions.

“This isn’t a dream then?” asks Miguel Rivera, the 12-year-old at the centre of the film, who accidentally winds up here. “You’re all really out there? . . . I thought it might have been one of those made-up things that adults tell kids, like vitamins.”

When it was released in January, to huge critical acclaim, Coco was praised by the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin as a “zingy, sunny family adventure about what it means to be dead”. In doing so, he noted, it “crosses a frontier that most films, animated or otherwise, can only tip-toe up to at best”. Rated PG, it wasn’t too ghoulish or macabre for children, he reassured readers, but “healing and hopeful . . . in the way it makes sense of bereavement, Coco could conceivably become a means for children to better understand grief.”

I watched it this week and, while there were many things I loved about it, I’m not sure I’d entirely agree.