By Ann Jonas
For The Visitor
To help prepare spiritually for the Advent and Christmas seasons, some noteworthy books have recently been published. They are wonderful options to deepen our prayer life and make the seasons more meaningful. The first Sunday of Advent is Dec. 3.
“My Soul Waits: Praying With the Psalms through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany” by Martin Shannon, CJ; Paraclete Press; October 2017; 136 pp; $14.99
Martin Shannon, an Episcopal priest, is a member of the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod, an ecumenical monastic community of both celibate and married men and women who live in the Benedictine monastic tradition. His new book focuses on the psalms, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and ending with Epiphany. For each day, a psalm is cited (the psalm’s text is not provided) and a reflection is offered, followed by a meditation from one of the Church Fathers and then a brief prayer related to the psalm. “My Soul Waits” is an inspiring book for readers who want to use the psalms as a guide for a prayerful Advent and Christmas.
“Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent” by Walter Brueggemann, compiled by Richard Floyd; Westminster John Knox Press; September 2017; 95 pp; $13
The abundant life and grace we have been given from God is the theme for this new devotional by Walter Brueggemann, a well-known author and theologian. Brueggemann offers a Scripture passage and then a rumination on the passage for each day of Advent through Christmas Day. A short prayer completes each daily reflection. Also included in the book is a thought-provoking prayer for each of the 12 days of the Christmas season. “Celebrating Abundance” offers readers a tool to become more fully aware of all the generous gifts received from God.
“Your Light Gives Us Hope: 24 Daily Practices for Advent” by Anselm Grun, OSB, translated by Mark S. Burrows; Paraclete Press; October 2017; 93 pp; $16.99
A German Benedictine monk, Anselm Grun has written more than 300 books focusing on spirituality, theology and psychology. His new Advent “guidebook,” as noted in the translator’s foreword, explains that Advent is a season of rebirth, renewal and arrival. Grun shapes his message using “a dialogue between theology and psychology, faith and spirituality, divine revelation and human experience.” For each week of Advent Grun gives a Sunday reflection and then for each weekday, he offers a short meditation and a relevant, simple practice to experience a more purposeful Advent. In the book’s rather substantial afterword, Grun shares some additional thoughts on images of Advent and Christmas that can help readers experience the power of the season as a time of healing and to “bring us in touch with the healing powers of the soul.”
“Seeing Haloes: Christmas Poems to Open the Heart” by John Shea, drawings by Mark and Franklin McMahon; Liturgical Press; July 2017; 85 pp; $18.95
This small hardcover book is not an Advent devotional, but instead it invites readers to slow down and consider the spiritual meaning of the feast and the season. Shea, a theologian and storyteller, has written over 20 books of theology and spirituality, three novels and three books of poetry. His poems are very readable; some are whimsical and all are thoughtful. Several of the 26 poems in “Seeing Haloes” are grouped together in two themes: “Crèche Characters Ask Questions,” which includes poems offering views from the angel, the shepherds, the sheep, the Wise Men, Joseph, Mary and the child in the manger; and “Christmas Carolers” with poems titled “The Song of Zachary,” “The Song of Simeon,” and “The Song of Mary.” “Seeing Haloes” is a lovely book that will gladden readers’ hearts this Christmas season.
Ann Jonas is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.