Describing what takes place in contemplative prayer, Father Thomas Keating, founder of the Centering Prayer movement, writes: "The full flowering of our relationship with God is somewhat like that of an elderly couple who have lived together for a long time, brought up the children, suffered together the ups and downs of daily life, and who really love each other. . . . They don't have to talk all the time. They chat as they pour coffee in the morning, but they can also sit together and look at a sunset and just enjoy each other's company. They might hold hands or look into each other's eyes to maintain the sense of union. They have moved beyond conversation to communion."

Not bad. Father Keating also presents an imaginative treatment of the Bethany household of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. He sees the first as symbolic of those on the Purgative Way; the second as following the Illuminative Way, which involves a deep listening to Jesus Christ; and the third as a paradigm of Christian transformation (we must die to the false self).

In this fourteenth John Main Seminar, Father Keating singles out Alcoholics Anonymous as "one of the most succinct and accurate expressions of Christian spirituality." He also discusses Lectio Divina as one of the oldest forms of meditative practice in the Christian religion, the link between the Eucharist and contemplation, and the place of the Christian contemplative tradition in the spiritual renewal of our time. Whether talking about the divine presence, the period of prayer as "a vacation from the false self," or the seven gifts of the Spirit, Father Keating demonstrates a magisterial overview of the faith and its various stages of development.