Sebastian Moore, monk of Downside, has now passed his ninetieth year and yet continues to plumb the human consciousness and to challenge readers to go deeper still with him year by year. The Contagion of Jesus is a collection of mostly-unpublished occasional pieces: reflections, sermons, meditations, and poetry, assembled somewhat tenuously by Sebastian’s younger friend Stephen McCarthy in a series of topics. Part One contains material on “The Trinity and Human Relationship,” “Jesus—Our Scapegoat” (the influence of René Girard is palpable and acknowledged), “Resurrection and Eucharist,” “Church, Theology and Culture,” and “Mary and the Feminine” (this last owing much to Sebastian’s conversations with and reading of Tina Beattie).
Part Two speaks of “Focusing—Digging for our Real Desire” (and includes an Appendix on the practice of focusing as described by Eugene Gendlin), “Desire is Love Trying to Happen,” “Love, Sexuality and the Church,” “Friendship and Discipleship.” The middle two sections in this part are well worth the price of the book. Poetry is scattered throughout, but there is a separate Appendix of poetry as well, plus a number of “haiku for focusing” in the second Appendix. The poetry I found less appealing, but tastes differ.
In the sexuality section is an essay opining that Roman Catholicism, with its emphasis on Natural Law, is better able to cope with changing views of sexuality than the churches of the Anglican Communion, at least those of an evangelical stripe that are wedded to the Bible as their first and sometimes only font of revelation (never mind the other legs of the stool!)—although indeed the definition of Natural Law as “that which promotes human flourishing” was not something I recall having learned in school or university! We Anglicans who lovingly maintain the Catholic tradition are in better shape here, of course. I concur with Sebastian when he writes:
Stephen McCarthy confesses in his editorial note that he is not a trained theologian, hence “my selection criteria were very largely those that served to deepen my own faith” (p. vii). That in itself makes the book an excellent tool for the preacher who seeks to speak to and enlarge the faith of her or his hearers. (From Catholic Review)