My choice for Lent 2014: a book (p)review

The past couple of years my Lenten practice has been enriched by books from Paraclete Press. Two years ago I prayed the daily offices from the Prayer Book of the Early Christians through Lent. Last year my wife and I read Seeking His Mind: 40 Meetings With Christ by M. Basil Pennington as part of our evening devotions.I was on the hunt for a good reader for Lent this year and was excited by Paraclete’s latest offering, God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter. I am highly impressed and excited about this! I have read God With Us, the companion volume to this book which explores the meaning of Advent and Christmas.  So I had some inkling of what to expect when I opened the book.

However, I was ill-prepared for how beautiful this book is. It is a hardcover book with ribbon bookmarks. Inside, it has inside a stunning collection of art work. Icons, religious art, landscapes, and still life which deepen our experience of Jesus life, death and resurrection. The art is well chosen to illustrate the readings, they are not just pretty pictures. I counted over a hundred paintings, in a variety of styles but mostly from the Western European tradition.

God For Us is edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (of Image Journal). Pennoyer and Wolfe have assembled an impressive list of of Christian writers and poets which include the likes of Richard Rohr, Lauren Winner, Scott Cairns, James Schaap, Luci Shaw, and Kathleen Norris. There is a preface from Greg Pennoyer and an introduction by Ronald Rolheiser, OMI. Beth Bevis opens the volume with a section on the history of Lent and has fourteen other articles which punctuate the text. These authors share a commitment to Christ and they are all great writers (five of which are personal favorites). However they also represent a range of church traditions. They are Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian, Presbyterian (maybe more–I don’t know the denominational affiliation of James Schaap or Beth Bevis).

Each week of Lent has daily readings  by one of these contributors. Richard Rohr writes the entries from Shrove Tuesday to the Saturday of the first full week of Lent (a week-and-a-half’s worth).  Lauren Winner covers week two; Scott Cairns, week three, James Schaap , week four; Luci Shaw, week five; and Kathleen Norris covers Holy Week and Easter Sunday.  Bevis’s articles introduce each of the weeks as well as important feast and fast days.  The daily entries are each about two days long, reflect on the daily lectionary and close with a brief  printed prayer. This a substantive devotional which opens up the contributors’ own practice of Lent. The literary gifts of the authors ensures that this devotional

I really like the format for this book. Reading one author for a  week and then changing to the next, provides both continuity and variety. Beth Bevis’s articles illumiate aspects of church tradition (i.e. Lent as the season of Baptismal preparation, differences between practices East and West, etc.). This gives a rooted-ness and framework for the rest of the book. I love how well this book is crafted!

As I look over  this book I am grateful for a book that helps me press fully into the meaning of the season. I will be reading this through Lent and would love some friends to read this with. So if you are shopping for a Lenten devotional, perhaps we can read in community and go through this together.

Thank you to Paraclete Press for Providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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