Rekindling the Christic Imagination
Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization
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The Second Vatican Council marked the beginning of the New Evangelization. It sought to communicate the Gospel's perennial newness to the contemporary world in a spirit of joy and hope. Yet despite the exhortations of Paul VI and John Paul II, a number of ecclesial and cultural factors deflected the church's evangelical energies, so that the council's radiant Christocentric vision faded in an increasingly polarized church.
In this important new work, Robert Imbelli probes the council's comprehensive Christocentric vision and its evangelical imperative. It maintains that Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his body, the church, and that the Eucharist effects the ongoing intimate communion between Head and members. It is this life-giving communion that the church desires to share with the wider world as the world's truth and salvation. Drawing on the writings of Pope Benedict and the witness of Pope Francis, Imbelli's insights will help transform what is merely notional for the reader into a vivid reality through the lure of beauty. Includes four-color illustrations.
Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, has taught at the New York Archdiocesan Seminary and at the Maryknoll School of Theology, and from 1986 to 2013 he taught systematic theology at Boston College. He is currently associate professor emeritus. His work appears frequently in journals and magazines such as Theological Studies, The Thomist, Pro Ecclesia, Communio, Worship, Origins, Commonweal, America, and L'Osservatore Romano.
Robert Imbelli not only has the right ideas but is pitch perfect in delivering the message and helping me to pray as I read. People talk often about theology and aesthetics; I often think some of them have never been truly moved by beauty. By contrast, Imbelli's text is simply beautiful, and the way the art is embedded makes it come alive. Liturgical Press has done a wonderful job with the entire design, from the typography to the hue and texture of the paper, the feel of the cover. Bravo!
William R. Burrows, STL, PhD, Managing Editor Emeritus, Orbis Books, Research Professor of Missiology in the World Christianity Program, New York Theological Seminary
In an unusual and rewarding new book, Father Robert Imbelli guides readers along the path of beauty toward the realization that all truth, all beauty, and all goodness reflects the one reality that truly does matter-the one thing we do need to know: the person of Jesus Christ. . . . Knowing Imbelli as a distinguished theologian, I expected to encounter truth and goodness in the book. I was surprised by how much beauty I found as well. . . . Rekindling the Christic Imagination is not only an aid for the Catholic who wants prayerfully to think through his faith. It is also, as its author promises that it will be, a resource for the New Evangelization."
Phil Lawler, CatholicCulture.org
[Robert] Imbelli has embraced Jesus not only with his acute theological mind but also with his priestly heart. In tune with the Second Vatican Council's request for a `new evangelization,' Imbelli returns to the sources to proclaim the joy of the gospel to the contemporary world by means of a theopoetic, contemplative, mystagogical theology. . . . The attentive reader will note that years of profound study and contemplation of Scripture, the Fathers, the councils, contemporary thinkers, and the liturgy, as well as a deep appreciation of the best in the Christian artistic and literary traditions buttress in an unobtrusive way Imbelli's excellent exposition of Christianity's heart.
Harvey D. Egan, SJ, Theological Studies
A deeply cultured and committed expression of Catholic faith!
Anthony J. Kelly, CSsR, FACTA, Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University
A theologically rich, entirely accessible walk through the great themes of Evangelical Catholicism, keyed to four masterpieces of Christian art. Father Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, distills a half-century of theological scholarship and teaching into a hundred beautifully crafted pages of reflection on Christ, the desire of our hearts and the motive for Christian mission.
George Weigel, First Things
Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization, . . . is a brief, accessible book that sits perfectly in one's hands. Its pages are heavy and glossy, its margins wide, its print clear, its headings helpful, its notes and bibliography thoughtful and informative and its artwork striking. The book is a small, beautiful thing that consists in four mediations about Jesus Christ, Trinity, Eucharist and Church. At the heart of the book is a reassurance of the transformative presence of Jesus Christ in the world, in the church and in that which reconciles humanity with its Creator: Jesus Christ present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
Kevin Spinale, America
Drawing on sources artistic, literary, spiritual, and theological, Robert Imbelli provides a splendid and intellectually stimulating exploration of the New Evangelization. Anyone interested in preaching, teaching, or pastoral work should read this uplifting book.
Very Reverend Robert Barron, Rector / President, University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois
By careful scriptural exegesis Robert Imbelli properly places Christ at the center of our Christian faith and lives, governing the identity, mission, and worship of the church. All this is illustrated from Christian poetry and art over the centuries in such a way as to encourage and inspire in a freshly imagined way the new evangelization that the Second Vatican Council saw to be sorely needed in our time and world. Rekindling the Christic Imagination could serve in a classic way the theological education of candidates for the priesthood as well as refreshing those already in the ministry (including Protestants!).
Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, Robert Earl Cushman Professor Emeritus of Christian Theology, Duke Divinity School
Here is clear and beautiful writing at a peaceful pace and tone. With quiet confidence Robert Imbelli places the concept of revelation, especially in its fresh articulation in Vatican II's Dei Verbum, at the center of the theological enterprise. And as the center of revelation he places with renewed clarity the figure of Jesus Christ. This is a model of how to advance theological thinking in the coming years. Faith, wonder, and adoration accompany sharp critical thought in exposing the uniqueness of the treasure given us by God in Jesus Christ.
Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, Pontifical Athenaeum Sant' Anselmo, Rome/Mount Angel Seminary
I had the good fortune of reading Fr. Imbelli's book right before Christmas. The small but rich book proved to be a most rewarding meditation on the surpassing mystery of the incarnation-theologically fecund, spiritually edifying, and aesthetically appealing. The content, style, and artistic appeal of the book gives tangible witness to the fact that truth, goodness, and beauty are united in the person of the crucified and risen Christ. Fr. Imbelli's very accessibly written "mystagogy" is a compelling invitation into the mystery of Christ and an important contribution to the New Evangelization.
Reinhard Hütter, Professor of Christian Theology, Duke University Divinity School
Imbelli doesn't just talk about mystagogy; he practices it. Drawing on poets and painters, Rekindling the Christic Imagination aims for the reader to be `possessed' by Christ. Imbelli rightly refuses to choose between aggiornamento and ressourcement, recognizing that their unity is found in a renewed focus on Jesus Christ himself as the center of our theological endeavors. The result is a biblically grounded and theologically rich meditation on Christological, trinitarian, eucharistic, and ecclesial themes.
Hans Boersma, J. I. Packer Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Painters and poets help Imbelli distill decades of preaching and teaching into a fine evangelical wine. Charles Taylor's call to recover a sense of what the incarnation can mean inspires an accessible and moving account of church, Eucharist, and Vatican II as Christic calls to holiness in the world. A meditative gem of a book!
William L. Portier, Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton
Robert Imbelli's beautifully written book on the centrality of Christ for the Catholic faith does fair justice both to trinitarian theology and to the mystery of the church in the light of Christ. It should be read in the manner it was written: in a spirit of contemplative reflection. The author's intention of being a work of aggiornamento and ressourcement is fully realized.
Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology (Emeritus), The University of Notre Dame
This is a beautiful, profound, and precise book. Theology, for Imbelli, is a matter of meditative, Christ-centered reasoning, and he shows what this means by responding to Christ as imaged by and present in four works of visual art. This way of working gives to Imbelli's prose and pattern of thought a limpidity through which the face of Jesus can be seen in chiaroscuro. It also makes possible a depth of theological thinking that undercuts and reconciles the tired divisions in the American church. I read Imbelli's book immediately after reading Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium, and what Imbelli does exemplifies what Francis recommends: a recovery of the joy of thinking about and approaching Jesus that transcends internal oppositions and permits ressourcement and aggiornamento to kiss. Imbelli's work is theological mystagogy of a very high order.
Paul J. Griffiths, Warren Chair of Catholic Theology, Duke Divinity School
To read these profound theological meditations is to recall the words of the fourth-century monk, Evagrius Ponticus: "the bosom of the Lord is knowledge of God; the one who rests there will be a theologian." Robert Imbelli is, by Evagrius' standard, a master theologian. He offers evocative explorations of such diverse sources as the documents of Vatican II, the theology of Pope Benedict XVI, Dante, iconography, hymns, and the writings of Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum. In these pages we reap the fruit of a long career of theological scholarship and biblically informed preaching. Under Imbelli's tutelage we experience the rewarding cultivation of a "Christic imagination" too often neglected in contemporary theology.
Richard R. Gaillardetz, Joseph McCarthy Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology, Boston College
Robert Imbelli's new book uses art and literature to show how the new evangelization needs to be rooted in the paschal mystery of Christ and Vatican II's universal call to holiness. Fresh and original in its approach and profoundly incarnational, this timely book is a rich resource for adult education and introductory courses in theology.
Thomas P. Rausch, SJ, T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California
Rekindling the Christic Imagination is superb! It moves seamlessly and effortlessly from Scripture to the Fathers to Caravaggio to Rostropovich to Benedict XVI, Taylor, Rahner, Hillesum, Wiman, and others. There's a tight, unified vision centered on the newness of Christ, a real Person whom we encounter, who transforms us, who invites us to share life with him. The use of art at the start of each chapter touches the heart and the words on the page touch the mind. This is very rich fare! These meditations will be very valuable in a parish setting—there's a deep theological vision, and yet the book does not overwhelm with technical terms. Bravo!
Rev. Richard G. Smith, St. Joachim–St. John the Evangelist, Beacon, New York
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Rekindling the Christic Imagination