This book sat in my to read
stack for almost two years, as I was waiting for the right mind-frame with which to tackle it. I'd thought it was going to be a Catholic version (reconcilement?) of the Eastern Orthodox "Way of the Pilgrim" but as it turns out, its value lies mainly in being a good source book for sermons and essays on the name of Jesus as well as Mary.
It was disappointing because Coomaraswamy was a brilliant mind (and a friend as well) with a spirituality centered upon the mystic. His contribution to the book consists almost entirely of the Introduction, which unfortunately is also a mass of quotes followed by quotes of saints and thinkers without any real theological challenge to the reader. However, Coomaraswamy does provide Saint Bernadine of Siena's sermon on "The Holy Name," Coomaraswamy's the first complete translation into English from the original Latin ever provided. If for no other reason, this alone gives great value to the book.
Following Saint Bernadine of Siena's sermons are writings by/on a virtual Who's Who of Catholic thought:
Saint John Eudes
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Blessed Thomas A Kempis
Blessed Henry Suso
Saint John Chrysostom
Saint Anthony of Padua
Saint Peter Canisius
Much of the writings are what you might expect from what served the church well enough for many centuries, however the flowery hyperbole can become numbing and I caught myself skimming through many a passage, trying to ignore the excessive adjectives and adverbs which I think trips up the the modern mind with a slowness it simply does not "want" at the moment. Good friends will disagree with me.
There is also a "Note on the Hail Mary" taken verbatim from Michael Muller's "The Devotion of the Rosary and Five Scapulars" (1878). Again, useful but nothing added to it.
For me, the important meat of the book is actually the Appendix: The Hesychast Prayer in the Orthodox Church
, written by Archimandrite Placide Deseille, a former Cistercian turned Orthodox monk and theologian. Much information is given that requires a slow and careful read to be absorbed correctly. He focuses upon the "Jesus Prayer" which has become very popular among the masses again in the past 50 years or so, and how it is to be used "correctly" for proper spiritual growth. He uses two words new to me that I can't stop considering: "deiformity" and "enstasy." They're real, I even looked them up to be sure :) A lot of theology is packed into these 32 pages and will be a re-read for me this year and probably again into the next.
Originally I gave this book 4 stars upon completion because of its value as a source book but I'm dropping a star now as I've considered its flaws again, the greatest one consisting of Coomaraswamy's "voice" remaining mostly unheard.