Sunday, July 25, 2010

In which I catalog what books I read...

I have decided to begin a series of posts in which I share my impressions about every book I finish reading. I realized last week that I go through a lot of books, and I thought it would be neat to see how many I get through in, say, a year. The best way to keep track of this is to document it somewhere, and this blog seems as good a place as any to do so (being a librarian's blog and all). The books I read range in genre from fiction to theology/spirituality and more. I also tend to read more than one book at a time. This series of posts will only include books I have read in their entirety, which can include books I have read for the first time, or that I have recently reread.

Title: Theology of Wonder

Author: Bishop Seraphim Sigrist

Read or Reread: Read

Impressions: I picked this book up at the St. Vladimir's Seminary Bookstore back in June when I attended a week-long Summer Institute. I spent most of my money that week on course-related titles, but saw this book and decided it would make for a less-academically-demanding, spiritual jaunt for me at some later time. Well, several weeks later I began reading it, one chapter per night (roughly). Every chapter title is a single word, ranging from "Tree" to "Theosis." I'll be honest and say that I found these sorts of stylistic juxtapositions a bit jarring. Often in a single reflection-chapter Bishop Seraphim draws from literature, sacred texts from a multitude of faiths (including many non-Christian ones), and theological scholarship, woven together by his own poetic-prose writing style, and all arranged in order to speak to the subject of that particular chapter. Despite this unique style, several of Bishop Seraphim's reflections I found poignant and helpful. The chapter I enjoyed most was the one called "Hermit." In this chapter he addresses the desire of many an Orthodox Christian to find that special and holy relationship with an elder/spiritual father/staretz/geronda. (Think Alyosha/Elder Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov.) After reflecting on this a bit, he lands somewhere surprising and refreshing:
Now it seems to me that in every aspect of our involvement with the Divine we are at risk of missing what is actually there, and what God is sending us, in looking for something else. If I look again at the person next to me in line at the supermarket, perhaps he is the Hermit, at least at this moment and at least for me. (31)
I like this. It is good, healthy and--dare I say--joyful to go through our daily life, always on the lookout for that which God is sending us. Often, the remedy for our longings does not require a long journey to elsewhere to find that which we think we do not have, but rather, a journey inward to recover our sight, so that we can see the riches God has already provided. This, I think, is what this book hopes to teach its readers.

Summed Up: Spiritual reading that is light and varied, which will probably be enjoyed most by creative types who are not put off by thoughtful but meandering prose.


Update, 2/16/2010: It's worth noting that, because my blog went into hibernation several months after this post, this series of posts never really came to fruition. Perhaps I will resurrect the "Books I've Read" label, perhaps not. We'll see how things progress.

1 comment:

  1. Nice... I saw this book again, I think somewhere over my Christmas holidays, which I remember reading when I was a catechumen... I was surprised to realize how much of other traditions he used, but when I was new to the Church I was more used to books like this (spiritual eclectic etc)... now, well I would read this book with a bit more awareness but it can be good, I agree, for the creative types and for those are still trying to sort things out and are on the beginning steps...