Nouwen's Symphony of Movements

Worthy Of Note

Nouwen's Symphony Of Movements
By Bob Hulteen

When I told friends I was rereading Henri Nouwen's books as part of a tribute to him, I not only was loaned books, I was also treated to poignant stories about how he had touched people's lives. He seemed ever-so-slightly to change people on contact.

A psychologist by vocation, Nouwen was a leader in the movement to bring spirituality back to his profession. For decades, the field of psychology had retreated from religious devotion, usually even blaming it (all too often rightly) for increasing psychological unhealth. Nouwen saw another path, and he chose it.

Nouwen, as prolific as he was insightful, really does not have a seminal work. Instead, each book is a steppingstone for the journey. His greatest contributions, in my opinion, are centered on a deep psychological reinterpretation of the Golden Rule: Nouwen sees health in the act of loving God and others as ourselves. These three foci of love form his holy triad.

In Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Doubleday, 1975), Nouwen identifies personal movement from loneliness to solitude (our relationship to ourselves); from hostility to hospitality (our relationship to others); and from illusion to prayer (our relationship to God). The often painful paths toward wholeness come in these movements.

Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life (Ave Maria Press, 1974) is his attempt to expand on the first movement. In this small and meaningful offering, Nouwen encapsulates his commitment to action and contemplation. In the tension of these two elements of the life of faith, Nouwen creates home, and invites us in to share.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1996
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