Thomas Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in New York City. He leads retreats and is the author of eight books. The essays in this paperback, which he has edited, include pieces by James Wiseman on "The Body In Spiritual Practice: Some Historical Points of Reference," Casey Rock on "Voices from the Mat," Jim Dickerson on "The Political and Social Dimensions of Embodied Christian Contemplative Prayer," and James Hall on "Reclaiming the Body of the Earth: Born Again of Water and Spirit."
All of these folk are interested in moving Christians beyond the old mind-body dualism and the negation of the flesh, which has been part of so many people's experience of the faith. Although the Eastern religions have made a place for the body in the spiritual practices of yoga, tai chi, aikido, breathing exercises, and walking meditation, Ryan contends that Christianity has "the highest theology of the body among all religions." In his two substantive essays, "Toward a Positive Spirituality of the Body" and "The Body Language of Faith," he explores the importance of the incarnation and all of the bodily gestures in worship and prayer. He sees fasting as a body-prayer par excellence and salutes yoga for the relax pose.
The material in these two essays alone is worth the price of the book. We were especially impressed with the following Grail Prayer which Ryan uses in the morning:
"Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind, Lord, that you may think in me.
I give you my spirit, that you may pray in me.
Most of all, I give you my heart, Lord,
That you may love in me your Father and all humankind.
I give you my whole human self, so that it is you, Lord Jesus,
Who lives and works and prays in me."