A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Veil Over the Light, by Joy Cowley

Review by Fr Neil Vaney SM

Fitzbeck Publishing, 2018

As Joy herself says, she is elderly, her sight is fading fast so this could be her last book. If so, it is a gift of exquisite value. In 168 pages we find a collection of wisdom, humour, joy and profound personal revelation. Michael Fitzsimons, the publisher, has selected many of the author’s best reflections and garnered them with superb illustrations.

The work comes in three sections: thirty reflections (most between 2-5 pages), four stories and nine prayers.

Joy touches on many of her favourite themes: the love and beauty of God, the profound mystery that is the Divine yet the human ability to meet this in the ordinary experiences of life; how we grow spiritually through suffering and prayer.

Every reflection is deep and engaging. I will highlight just a few that touched me particularly.

From A Personal Creed, “I believe that experiences of prayer, love, compassion, beauty, awe and wonder, can open doors between the visible and invisible worlds.”

There is a surprisingly tender reflection on Fundamentalism and Beyond, looking kindly on the way many searchers for God begin their journey. This is followed up by a piece entitled Eucharistic Planet, giving us an overview of the way in which our images of God typically grow and develop. The topic of prayer occurs often; one such piece, Refuelling ,uses the image of prayer as the fuel that keeps life’s journey on the road. It concludes:

You can buy a copy online from Pleroma Christian Supplies, www.christiansupplies.co.nz or write to 38 Higginson St, Otane 4202

“So here I am again, Lord, the old car pulling into the service station, slow, a bit battered, but confident of the process although I don’t know what to call it, but it feels a lot like high-octane love.”

Finally, I touch on a reflection called The Meaning of Compassion. This is a compelling piece that includes this paragraph:

“There is a lovely definition of compassion that comes from the Jewish Chassid tradition. Rabbi Shelemo said, ‘if you want to raise someone from the mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching down to him a helping hand. You must go all the way down yourself, down into the mud and filth. Then take hold of him with strong hands and pull him and yourself out into the light’.”

This book is a treasure that invites dipping into, reading and re-reading over and over. Its language is simple, direct and grappling, yet within it are hidden years of reflection on scripture, the human spirit and writing from ancient Christian and other mystics.

It would be a superb Easter gift, the first one for yourself.   


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