We are nearing the beginning of Lent. I love this season! I find the preparatory seasons of the church calendar (Lent and Advent) great times to press into devotional practices which are difficult for me the rest of the time. Wednesday, I will find a church service to attend so I can get the Face-palm of Death (AKA the Imposition of Ashes). I will fast. I will engage spiritual disciplines. This season is sacred time and I enter in eager to see what God will do in me.
One of my conversation partners this Lent will be Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide for Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide (Paraclete Press, 2016), compiled by Sarah Arthur). This is one of three devotionals Arthur has edited following the church calendar (also: At the Still Point: a Literary Guide for Prayer in Ordinary Time, and Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer For Advent, Christmas and Epiphany). At the Still Point was the only one of these devotionals I have read any of before, though my Ordinary Time resolve is nowhere near as resolute as my Lenten devotion.
Between Midnight and Dawn pairs suggested weekly Scripture readings with prayers, poetry and fiction readings. There are seven readings for each week of Lent—six poems and one piece of fiction. During Holy Week and Triduum, there are scriptures and 5-7 literary selections for each day, before returning to the weekly format of Scriptures, poetry, and fiction for each week of Eastertide.
The poems and fiction are selected to lead us deeper into the land of Prayer. Arthur suggests reading this literature, applying aspects of lectio divina—lectio (reading), meditatio (reading it again, several more times, slowly), oratio (paying attention to words and phrases) and contemplatio (shifting our focus to God’s presence, p.13). Certainly, this takes a little bit of time. The story sections are longer (because ‘fiction doesn’t work its magic right away’), so Arthur suggests saving the story for a day of the week when we have time to just focus on the story.
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Plough Publishing. 2002) is a similar sort of devotional, using literature as a way into this liturgical season. Arthur’s selection is different in that she is more focused on reading literature as an act of prayer, and the scriptural readings (absent from Bread and Wine) give focus to daily practice.
As of yet, I haven’t really read the book, only scanned the selections, the poems and stories selected. Arthur has chosen both contemporary and eminent voices from the past. Poets like Hopkins, Donne, Rosetti, Herbert, Tennyson but also those like Luci Shaw, Katherine James, Scott Cairns, John Fry, Tania Runyan). There are stories from Buechner, Chesterton, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, George Macdonald. There are some favorite poets and poems I am surprised to not see here, but I am interested to read the ones which Arthur has chosen. I am excited to journey with poets and storytellers on my Lenten journey
Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from Paraclete Press for the purposes of review.
If you would like to get a copy for yourself for Lent you can purchase it from
Amazon (also available on Kindle)
or wherever fine books are sold.