I understand that, as the congregation left Canterbury Cathedral after the enthronement service for Archbishop Rowan Williams, each person was presented with a copy of Ponder These Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin, written by the archbishop.
This small monograph of 74 pages found its beginning in material that the archbishop developed from meditations during a diocesan pilgrimage to Walsingham in Norfolk, England. He says, “These … are really about how we are led by faith both to live in the world … and at the same time to be aware of the utter strangeness of God that waits in the heart of what is familiar.”
He does this by introducing the reader into the mystery of reflecting on three Russian icons and a weaving of scarlet and purple fabric. Icons are usually flat pictures painted in oil on wood, sometimes in mosaic or ivory, representing our Lord, perhaps the Blessed Virgin Mary and/or other saints. They are more than pictures, however. They are in fact theological statements which are read by the observer and which lead one into the mystery of God.
With gentle suggestion, the archbishop guides the reader through the gestures of the hands, the orientation of the eyes, the placement of the body and the gaze of Jesus towards the all-loving and revealing God expressed in the Virgin Mary.
In this journey we become aware of God’s hungry love for us in the midst of our helplessness and we are called to new depths in our understanding.
Ponder These Things is an excellent read for Lent. Like much of what the Archbishop of Canterbury writes, I find that I go back again and again to his words and images, delving more deeply into their meaning, for they both illuminate and disturb. Archbishop Finlay is Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario.