The two books I’m reading for Lent this year are Mark Galli’s Beyond Smells and Bells (the Kindle version is available right now for $2.99!) and Ben Quash’s Abiding. I’m reading both books slowly (Abiding is designed to be read one chapter per week throughout Lent), so now is not the time for a review of either book. What I offer instead are some brief reflections on the importance and value of each book.
Beyond Smells and Bells is (so far) a wonderful, personal and theological reflection on the importance of liturgy in the Christian life. Galli states that the book is for “those who find themselves attracted to liturgy but don’t quite know why. For those immersed in liturgy and want to think more deeply about it. And for those who wonder if it is worth committing themselves to a liturgical church” (Kindle Locations 49-50). If you fit one of those three descriptions, this book is for you. It is clear, straightforward, well-written, and brings to life “the wonder and power” not just of the Christian liturgy, but of the liturgical life.
As much as I am enjoying Beyond Smells and Bells, Abiding is the book that’s hitting home with me this Lent. The official Lent book of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Williams, not Welby, although Welby endorses it), the author Ben Quash wrestles chapter after chapter with the oft neglected topic of abiding. Each chapter begins with a figure (both historical and fictional characters are used) that models the type of abiding Quash has in mind. We don’t often use the word ‘abiding’ probably because it entails a sense of full, personal commitment that we don’t commonly experience in everyday life. Yet the language of abiding (Gk: μένω) is used in the Gospel of John frequently to speak of the believer’s relationship to Jesus, his word, and his love. The first two chapters (“Abiding in Body” and “Abiding in Mind”) have been extremely well-written, insightful, and probing. This is the kind of book the invites deep reflection, self-examination, and multiple reads. (So far) I highly recommend it.
If you’re reading or have read either of these book, let me know what you think. Or better yet, let me know what you’re reading this Lent. I’m always open to good book suggestions!
I purchased a copy of “Beyond Smells and Bells” about two years ago, and it’s been on my to-read list ever since. Maybe I’ll get to it this summer, when I have a little down time from seminary.
For Lent, I’ve been trying my best to wake up every morning around 6 or 6:30 for lectio divina and prayer, sometimes supplemented by non-scriptural readings. I’m hoping this becomes regular habit year-round. I’ve been cycling through a few different texts:
• “Too Deep For Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina,” by Thelma Hall
• “The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century,” by Joan Chittister
• “Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers,” by Henri Nouwen and Yushi Nomura
• “Final Sanity: Stories of Lent, Easter, and the Great Fifty Days,” by Phyllis Tickle
Beyond Smells and Bells looks interesting.
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