From Publishers Weekly
In these graceful meditations, Zaleski, a professor of religion at Smith College, searches for the affinities between narratives of near-death experiences (NDEs) and the traditional Christian doctrines of hope and the afterlife. Delivered originally as lectures during the Octave of Easter, Zaleski's reflections are ordered according to the three great hours (Lauds, Vespers, Compline) of the Divine Office. The meditation on Lauds, or morning prayer, thus explores the ways that NDEs may be understood as awakenings to the reality of death, while the meditation on Vespers, or evening prayer, reflects upon the NDE as an experience on the threshold of death. Weaving a rich tapestry of images of the afterlife from the writings of the early Church fathers and from New Age accounts of NDEs, Zaleski concludes that traditional Christian images of the afterlife may be greatly enriched by an encounter with the images of afterlife offered in NDE accounts. Because Zaleski's meditations possess that rare combination of intellectual gravity and lyrical playfulness, they are certain to appeal to a wide range of readers.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Zaleski is a well-known scholar of near-death experiences, and there is much interest in such experiences in both popular and scholarly circles, so this meditative little book is likely to have a substantial audience. It is an expanded version of three lectures presented in 1993 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake^-Mundelein Seminary. Zaleski delivered the lectures during the Easter season and noted a division between Western and Eastern Christianity that marked the time as a simultaneous reminder of death and resurrection. She conceived the lectures as a set of meditations on the hours of Lauds, Vespers, and Compline in the Divine Office, "which traces the mystery of death and resurrection through the course of a single day." Many readers will find the liturgical structure an aid to meditation; many more will find comfort in Zaleski's emphatic yes to the question of whether Christians are morally entitled to believe in life after death. The real theme of the book is hope, and that is a theme in great demand. Steve Schroeder