The Bright-Sadness of Lent"God for Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter"is a superb new aid for those seeking the "bright-sadness" of Lent. From the outset, the sobriety of Lent and the joy of Easter are held together, with the former always pointing toward the latter. Ronald Rolheiser writes in the introduction: Seasons of play are sweeter when they follow seasons of work, seasons of consummation are heightened by seasons of longing, and seasons of intimacy grow out of seasons of solitude. Presence depends upon absence, intimacy upon solitude, play upon work. In liturgical terms, we fast before we feast.(xi)To help you in your fasting, the book is, at its simplest, a collection of daily meditations, each tied to lectionary-style readings and accompanied by a prayer. Absolutely gorgeous art (some sacred, some not) accompanies each reading, and histories of the feasts and fasts of Lent help newcomers appreciate the historical richness of the Lenten season.Each of these elements pulls readers into the beauty of time. Daily we read and meditate on the Word of God. Yearly we celebrate feasts and fasts, establishing the sacred rhythm of the church calendar and of our lives. And for centuries we as Christians have celebrated and memorialized our faith through art and prayer and poetry and song. The reading experience of "God for Us" is a rich one, full of good words, vivid colors, and an inviting faith.Each week's meditations are written by a different author, and Richard Rohr's writings during the first week are the perfect lens to focus your Lenten devotional practices. As a Franciscan priest and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, Rohr combines elements of mysticism with calls to action. "Jesus's very first words in the Gospels are a call to change," he writes, championing first and foremost, a fast from prejudice, oppression, exclusion, and ego. The lectionary reading from Isaiah 58 - in which God's desired "fasting" includes freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry and reconciling with family - is present throughout Rohr's meditations and keeps reader's attention ever on the end of Lent. Though Rohr begins the theme, perhaps it is Beth Bevis, writing about the history of the second Sunday of Lent, who best summarizes how Lent leads us on to something outside of itself. "Lent is best understood as a time not of denial for its own sake, but for redirecting our desires toward that which nourishes us both spiritually and physically, preparing us for fuller communion with God and each other, " she writes (49).Also notable are Scott Cairn's essays, which bring with them the ancient and beautiful and intensely physical perspective of the Orthodox Church. His reflections focus on sin and death, as proper Lenten devotions should, but always with an eye toward the eternal. "We may find ourselves moving through the darkness," he writes, "but our paths are, even so, illuminated by his light" (83). Perhaps more than any of the other writers Cairns draws out the penitential aspect of Lent. Fasting has always been a sign of broknness and repentance, and Cairns promotes this state as good and even necessary, since "the ache of repentence...is the beginning of healing" (73). Rounding out the distinguished authors of "God for Us" are author Kathleen Norris, professor and novelist James Schaap, poet Luci Shaw, and Episcopal priest Lauren F. Winner. With Greg Pennoyer's preface, Ronald Rolheiser's introduction, and the histories of feasts and fasts written by Beth Bevis, the list of distinguished contributors grows longer. In short, the books is quietly ecumenical but never compromising in its depth. The words, the art, even the craftsmanship- from the two ribbon bookmarks to the Lenten purple color scheme- are all beautiful, intentional and profound. The book is meant to last you through years of Lenten seasons. "God for Us" is the perfect guide during this sacred time; it will nurture you during this fast and prepare you for the feast to come. Erin Zoutendam, Englewood Review of Books
--This text refers to the
About the Author
Greg Pennoyer is president of The Humanitas Group which manages creative endeavors designed to enrich our understanding of what it means to be human. He is cofounder of the Centre for Cultural Renewal, member of the Board of Directors for Image journal, and co-editor with Gregory Wolfe of God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas.