Friday, February 17, 2006

Lenten Reading -- Journeys

I'm splitting off just one of Elizabeth's three topic-starter questions and bringing it to the top here. Gosh, maybe we need another sub-blog-- Sprucies in the Library (I am KIDDING! ;-)

I haven't decided on what to read this year. Of course, you can't lose with Schmemann's classic Great Lent, and there are numerous works by or about the saints we commemorate in Lent, like John of the Ladder and Mary of Egypt. But in Lent particularly I always find myself drawn to journey tales, so the following titles, though perhaps a little unexpected, are some of my favorite Lenten reading:

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. This is the most Lenten of the Chronicles of Narnia. It begins with sin and repentance, and tells of an ascetic journey in the harsh Northern Wilderness, where Jill and Eustace must escape captivity by Giants and subterranean creatures in their quest to rescue an enchanted prince. Along the way, Jill is required to recite a list of signs each day; and like us, she loses her way when she sets aside her daily discipline. At the darkest of moments the greatest courage and determination are required. "I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia."

Crusader by Tim Severin. The author of The Brendan Voyage recreates a medieval journey by horseback from Ireland to the Holy Land. A great way to learn what the realities of pilgrim journeys were like in the old days. And of course Brendan Voyage itself demonstrates the possibilities of the Irish Saint's sea journey—the ancient account may seem like some flight of fancy, but the re-enactment of the voyage from Ireland to North America in a skin boat shows the tale is not so far-fetched after all.

As long as we're on the journey theme, try any of the travel books of H.V. Morton—titles include In the Footsteps of St. Paul. Morton was an English traveller in the early part of the 20th C, and his books are still easily available in second hand shops. Like Severin he has not just the essential curiosity but the humility of the great traveller, respect for the people and customs he encounters. Morton, travelling many decades earlier than Severin, encountered a Holy Land that was still in many respects like it was in the First Century.

Lastly, because most of us are not desert monks but are making our Lenten journey in the company of our fellow parishioners: Richard Adams' Watership Down. This book should be required reading for all seminarians and indeed for anyone, lay or clerical, interested in establishing a mission. It contrasts in detail the differences between healthy and unhealthy communities, including the importance of tradition, freedom, teamwork, and many other things; and it provides a paradigm of steady balanced leadership, a priestly leadership in which the Chief Rabbit must "Be El-ahrairah to his people" in self-sacrifice, healing, nurturing the weak, learning from others in the team and providing them opportunity to use their diverse gifts. I actually wrote a whole essay on this application of this book, all done but the footnotes, never got around to sending it anywhere.....

20 comments:

elizabeth said...

though i must admit that Sprucies in the Library would be something i would like! :) of course i am getting a MA degree to be a librarian, so this comes as no suprise...

i've never read Watership down; i own stories published later; i should read it sometime... reading about examples of community and what is healthy/unhealthy is important...

am so glad that it is lent soon; i realized today that i have 2 months left in my co-op; soon i will have to move back to london on to finish up my final 3 courses this summer; i sure hope my journey includes returning to ottawa to work and live...

thomasw said...

donna, i really appreciated your thoughts on the notions of leadership and community as exemplified in waterqshipqdown.

Matthew Francis said...

Watership Down is one of my favourites as well. That Tim Severin sounds interesting. Anyone ever read "Brendan" by Frederick Buechner? It's another good one about that Irish saint.

elizabeth said...

by the way... if i do read Watership Down someday, can i read the article you wrote afterwards Mat. Donna? of course getting it published and reading it that way would be great :)

MatDonna said...

I will e-mail the essay to anyone who wants to see it. But the main point of the essay is-- run out and get a copy of this book to read! ;-)

elizabeth said...

:) cool; will email you my email address directly...

Peter T Chattaway said...

Interesting recommendations!

I tried re-reading all the Narnia books a couple months ago and gave up somewhere in the middle of The Silver Chair -- perhaps it was just too Lenten for me! :)

I love Watership Down, though I haven't read the book since I was in, like, Grade 6 (that would be 24 years ago). I still watch the 1978 film version every now and then, though -- four years ago, I posted some comments here on the film's many religious, indeed almost biblical, elements.

MatJenny said...

I recently read Silver Chair to Ella (we're going through the series -- she was ready for chapter books a lot sooner than I realized!) and I thoroughly loved rereading it. It really is incredible. Here's a weird thing though: we were only a couple of chapters from the end and the book VANISHED! I mean it was in her room, up high on her bed, her dad din't move it, I didn't move it, she didn't move it. Heulwen could /possibly/ have moved it but I doubt it and anyway I would have found it lying around somewhere. I have been searching for a couple of weeks and it is GONE! How does this happen? It's a little creepy, actually. I also lost an art book that is practically irreplacable and I KNOW I didn't lend it out because I do not lend any book out that I can't easily replace.

Anyway, sorry to go on, but I'm flummoxed!

Fr. Justin (Edward) said...

No, it would have to be something like "Kenosis Library"... Sprucies? :-P Sorry, Biss, just a little to princessy for me! :-)

I'd have to second most of Matushka Donna's recommendations - although I must admit I haven't read the Crusader book - sounds interesting! But, while we're on the topic of lenten journeys and spiritual warfare, how did The Lord of the Rings get missed?

MatDonna said...

I didn't include LOTR in my Lenten reading because I tend to re-read it in the fall, I guess because of Bilbo's birthday and the fact that Frodo's journey begins in the fall. However, the observant will note that the Ring finally goes into the fire on the feast of Annunciation. If you really want your eyes opened about Middle Earth, have a look at Secret Fire: The spiritual vision of JRR Tolkien, by Stratford Caldecott.

MatDonna said...

Isn't "Kenosis Library" already the name of the parish library?

....because books tend to leave and not come back...;-)

MatDonna said...

Peter, great post from the onfilm group, and the subsequent discussion there too. I am eager to see the film again now.
Though my preference is to dispense with movies and TV in Lent. However, it gets harder and harder to get my family to agree to this...Currently Sunday nights are Babylon Five time, and I don't think we'll be done the season before Lent...

Peter T Chattaway said...

What season are you on right now?

Deanna and I started watching the entire series on our honeymoon, one year ago, but we only got as far as, I think, the 2nd disc of Season 4 before she had to spend three months in the hospital getting "bed rest". I gave her Season 5 for our wedding anniversary last Monday, so we at least have the complete series now; now we just have to find time to watch the rest of it.

RW said...

Good Luck with that Peter!

MatJenny said...

The self-emptying library! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (etc)! That is a hoot.

MatDonna said...

I did not invent the idea of the self-emptying library-- does anyone else remember who it was? Was it Seraphim?

Peter T Chattaway said...

Seraphim's the first one I remember making that play on words during one of the church announcements, yeah.

Matthew Francis said...

The Silver Chair has always been my favourite of the Narnia books for some reason, and for some reason the scene that always stays with me is the "exciting conclusion" where Rilian goes into the silver chair and finds his sanity there, though it can be mistaken for madness because of his previous delusions. For some reason that just makes so much sense to me about life in general.

thomasw said...

it is interesting that for me two of cs lewis' most compelling characters are human-like narnians: puddleglum the marshwiggle and reepicheep.

elizabeth said...

sigh. i remember when Seraphim came up w. the idea of that name for the library... didn't we have a wooden sign or something made too? good memories... 2 years ago now...

and here i am becoming a librarian... hmmmm