Fr. James Alison remains one of my favourite theologians since I had the good fortune in 1998 to pick up a copy of his Knowing Jesus on the way to a weeklong retreat with New Zealand’s sole Cistercian community at Kopua. I read it from cover to cover over that week. And I think I have Rowan Williams to thank for introducing me to him. The underlining, still evident in the book when I took it off the shelf recently, bears testimony to the way of captured my thinking and imagination.
Recently America: The National Catholic Review (May 19th 2014 / Grant Kaplan) published an article on the “theological project of James Alison” under the title Renewing the Tradition.
Here’s an excerpt:
“…The church calls Augustine “the doctor of grace.” No contemporary Catholic theologian remains more tethered to an understanding of grace as gratuitous than does Father [James] Alison. The very language he uses to describe an authentic encounter with Jesus contrasts “undergoing” with “grasping” (see especially Undergoing God). If God’s gift is always a self-gift, then Father Alison correctly deduces that any real encounter entails a kind of passivity. Like the jolt of falling in love, it happens to us. This necessary quality of religious experience follows from an anthropology that describes the disinclination of humans to relate peacefully to others. We experience the divine in a radically different manner because Jesus, the forgiving victim, comes to us in a way so unlike our expectations of divine justice. Grace, freely given, reorders the universe and remakes the community we call church. Unlike previous communities in which the bond among members forges itself through those it excludes and scapegoats, the gratuity of the resurrection allows for a community shaped by forgiven-forgivers…”