Monday, February 26, 2007

Lenten reading.

Like many others, I often think of Lent as a time for giving things up. Every year, I spend the last few days before Ash Wednesday reflecting on what exactly I will resolve to forego for the season, trying to think of a Lenten resolution that I can realistically stick to for forty days while still retaining a sense that I've actually sacrificed something. Normally - and this year is no exception - this line of thought leads me to give up something edible, either a specific item (like chocolate) or a whole class of items (like sweets in general).

The sacrifices we make in Lent have a penitential character, but they are also meant to help us focus more clearly on God. This is something we do in other ways during the Lenten season - either by doing things we might not do normally (for many, this means going to daily Mass or taking up Lenten devotions like the Stations of the Cross) or by taking a different approach to things we do normally. Since I graduated from college, I've made a point of setting aside some time each day - even if it's only a few minutes - to read for pleasure or personal enrichment. During the Lent, I approach my daily routine of extracurricular reading differently by choosing books that reflect the themes of the season. Some readers might be curious what I've chosen to read this Lent, so I'll share my choices below.

As a daily spiritual companion for Lent, I've been reading The Lenten Spring, a collection of short meditations by Father Thomas Hopko. An Orthodox priest, Hopko writes from the perspective of a Byzantine Christian but does so in a way that is accessible and helpful for Roman Catholics and, I suppose, for other Christians who observe Lent. The Lenten Spring is ideally structured for daily meditation, arranged in forty short chapters corresponding to each of the days of Lent. A daily reader of a different kind is Flannery O'Connor's Complete Stories, which I've resolved to read this Lent in accordance with a longstanding desire to become acquainted with a celebrated writer I haven't read until now. I haven't gotten far enough into The Complete Stories to be able to offer anything approaching a systematic evaluation of her work; at this point, all I can say is that I like what I've read of her so far. I hope to finish the O'Connor book before the end of Lent, so you may see further reflections on this topic before Easter. In the meantime, please know of my prayers for you during this Lenten season. AMDG.


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