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Music of Eternity

Author Robyn Wrigley-Carr
Publisher SPCK £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281085507

The idea of using the writings of Evelyn Underhill, a founding member of the modern Retreat Movement, to accompany the reader through Advent to Christmas Day is an inspired one and has been designated the Archbishop of York’s Advent Book for 2021. Readers are encouraged to sign up, either as individuals, or as a Group, to the ‘Big Church Read’ and receive extra materials and videos. However, how to do this on the website was not made very clear, but it might be easier to use the QR code supplied on the book. Divided into four parts each with short chapters on different aspects of the incarnation, readers are encouraged to meditate on the mysterious ways that God comes into their lives every day from Advent Sunday to Christmas Day. Throughout the book the reader is encouraged to make time amid the frenetic busyness of the season in order to, in Underhill’s words, listen attentively ‘for the music of Eternity’. I so much wanted to love this book, especially as one, who like Evelyn Underhill, attended their first retreat at the Chelmsford Diocesan retreat house at Pleshey in Essex. Although there is much to treasure here I have some quibbles about the way in which Evelyn Underhill’s writings have been adapted by Wrigley-Carr, and in distinguishing between them and the editor’s interjections. She claims not to have changed Underhill’s ‘meaning but . . . tried to modernise the language’ to make it ‘more accessible to contemporary readers, particularly young people’. I am not sure she always succeeds in this, especially when she substitutes ‘dizzy’ for ‘muzzy’, or that ‘courage’ quite equates to ‘fortitude’; and what is so difficult about ‘thwarts’? It also denies the younger reader a connection with the past. But to be fair, with the help of Google searches, I have been able to track down some passages that have been quoted verbatim. I realise that this book has a higher purpose than deserving such nit-picking, but it made this reader go searching for Underhill’s thoughts in her own words. I am also not sure that choosing paraphrases from the Message Bible for the psalms always works very well especially when it uses phrases such as ‘Praise-Lofty’ for ‘who is worthy to be praised’ from Psalm 18.3. It would also have been useful to footnote the occasional mentions of people quoted in the extracts, such as De Causade in chapter 3. Despite these reservations this book is a welcome tool for those who want to escape the distractions of the secular celebrations and to ‘cultivate an inner stillness . . . so we may attend to what we usually miss amid the busyness of the Christmas season’.

Reviewed by MARIE PATERSON

Advent