A book review of "Intimacy Human and Divine" by Sandra Holt, SPCK, London, 2001

Published in Search Vol. 27, No 1, Spring 2004

This is a book written out of Sandra Holt's reflections on the journey she has been making which includes both her marriage and her reaching out for God. Her book will probably have most meaning for those who have experienced the journeying of marriage; although she rightly claims that the search for intimacy, both human and divine, is not confined alone to those who engage and commit themselves to marriage.

The spirituality which is helping to give shape to Sandra Holt's life and experience is Ignatian, it is both Christocentric and imaginative. Her chapters contain extended meditations on such gospel stories as the turning of the water into wine at the marriage of Cana, of the invitation to 'come and see' by Jesus to two of his disciples, and of the washing of the disciples' feet by Jesus. She relates these meditations to growing in intimacy in both its dimensions of reaching out towards another person and to reaching out towards God.

The journey into deeper intimacy is a going beyond the known into the unknown. It involves patience and time, openness and disclosure, trust and playfulness, love and courage. It will lead to both healing and transformation; as well as, at times, to a sense of mystical union and transcendence.

She challenges images of God which she claims get in the way of a picture of a God faint with love and desirous of an ever deeper intimacy with each beloved human person. For example, the 'policeman God' must go.

She draws on the Song of Songs, Dante, and Shakespeare; and for those who know little of the methods of Ignatian Spirituality there is guidance in this book.

There is a freshness and vitality in her writing, a hopefulness and vision for those prepared to stick at their marriages, be appreciative of them, and see in them not just potential for growth and healing for each partner, but also a deeper journeying to meet with God.

She appears to accept, seemingly unaware that this is questioned, that the words ascribed to Jesus in St John's gospel are the very words that he spoke, rather than the words ascribed to him, post-Easter, by the church. She does not address herself to a sense of God's unknowability, there is no God of the 'Cloud of the Unknowing' in this author' devotional life as one comes to learn about it from this book. One wonders, as she continues to journey and grow, about a rather different book that she may write in ten year's time.

Andrew Furlong

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