In the face of mass tragedy and terror in a post 9/11 world, we wonder where God is. But this is not a new question. Significant figures throughout history have struggled to see where God’s hand was at work and what it means to trust him. These include the prophets and patriarchs.
Bianchi is the founder and prior of the ecumenical monastic, Bose Community in Italy (founded in 1965, just after Vatican II). He is a perceptive spiritual writer ( I have previously read and highly recommend his Echoes of the Word). In God Where Are You? Practical Answers to Spiritual Questions, Encho explores several Old Testament saints. His treatment of each of these patriarchs and prophets yield fruitful insights into the spiritual life:
- Abraham was called to go to the land that God would show him. Abraham’s faith in God in going is a model for us. Especially because Abraham is given a promise that will not be fulfilled in his lifetime (i.e. possession of the land, become a great nation, etc.). Even in his reception of a promised offspring, Isaac, he models for us a spirit of relinquishment of all he holds dear. So the father of our faith (and the Jewish faith) faces circumstances and ordeals that make faith in God difficult.
- Jacob was the deceiver who cheated his brother out of his brother out of his birthright and inheritance. Despite his scoundrel nature, he was a child of promise. Two events changed Jacobs life forever. The first was his dream of a ladder from heaven to earth while he was on lam. The second happened when he returns home many years later and wrestles with God at the ford of Jabbok. The second event was the culmination of a lifetime of struggling with God, but it is through the struggling that Jacob (and we) discover that a new life is possible.
- Moses is a man who saw God’s glory and is physically transformed by the time he spends with God on the mountain. He is privileged to hear God–YHWH, I AM Who I AM–and he is commissioned to lead God’s people out of slavery to the promised land. He is commssioned by God, but also struggles with God, interceding for the people when they stand under His judgment. IT is through Moses’ struggle with God, he learns to think of others as better than himself. He leads the Israelites to the cusp of the promised land, though he himself would not enter.
- Elijah fearful and depressed longing to die, meets God in the silence on Mount Horeb.
- Isaiah‘s call underscores how our encounters with God call us to be obedient servants of His word.
Ultimately these ancient encounters reveal that life with God has never been easy but that God has revealed himself to us in the midst of his people (129) and in the person of Jesus Christ and in those who live in him (133). In Jesus we find we are not just on our search for God, but God is searching for us.
Bianchi’s prose is simple and unadorned, but he speaks deep things. He is well read in Jewish and Christian spirituality and synthesizes their wisdom. I didn’t agree with his interpretation at ever turn. But I was challenged and think his reputation as a Christian writer is justified (Rowan Williams writes the forward and calls Bianchi one of the most significant Christian voices in Europe). Currently, I would give this book four stars, but I already want to read it again, so it may grow on me. ★★★★
Notice of material connection: I received this book from Paraclete Press for the purposes of this review.