Parish Library

January 2017

Library Notes

Novelist Italo Calvino proposes that "a classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers."  They are books that can be read in any era and still have meaning.  They can be read at different ages in a reader's life and continue to grow.  A classic book may feel familiar on the very first reading, and yet it changes us.  Classics "imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable" and yet "each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery”.  This month we offer a selection of Christian Classics, books of heft and substance, even though none of them are terribly long.  Their covers may be drab and worn, but within are the words that have inspired, consoled, and deepened the faith of thousands, perhaps millions of Christians around the world.

 

Chesterton, G. K.   Orthodoxy.   239 C42o 

G.K. Chesterton, one of the most prolific writers of his age, converted to Catholicism in his late 40s, but his devout Christianity and Anglicanism was a defining characteristic for much of his adult life. In 1908 Chesterton published one of his most famous works of Christian apologetics, Orthodoxy, though the volume does not aim to legitimize the religion; instead, it describes the spiritual journey of a single man and how he personally came to believe in Christianity, and it does so with a brilliant combination of wit, intelligence and humor.

 

Augustine, Saint.  Confessions.  242 Au4s

This book has been categorized as autobiography, devotional work, philosophy, and classic literature. The whole writing is directed to God, not to the reader.  It contains brilliant insights into sin, human nature, and the work of God. Augustine’s theology is unmatched for its influence of Western Christianity.  It is also seen as valuable historical documentation of the life of the Church Father, but also provides an interesting look at the evolution of thought that led a first century citizen of the Roman empire to Christianity. Throughout the book, Augustine of Hippo discusses his dabblings in other religions and ideas that were popular at the time, personal loss and immorality. The book is also known for its thoughts about creation, which in many ways mirror contemporary debates about how to interpret Genesis’ account and what the seven-day timeframe outlined in the Bible actually means.   It will be difficult to find a list of Christian classics that doesn’t include The Confessions.

 

Benedict, Saint.  The rule of St. Benedict.  248 M45r

Composed nearly fifteen hundred years ago by the father of Western monasticism, The Rule of St. Benedict has for centuries been the guide of religious communities. St. Benedict's rules of obedience, humility, and contemplation are not only prerequisites for formal religious societies, they also provide an invaluable model for anyone desiring to live more simply. While they presuppose a certain detachment from the world, they provide guidance and inspiration for anyone seeking peace and fulfillment in their home and work communities.

 

John of the Cross, Saint.  Dark night of the soul.  248 Sa2d

The great Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross became a Carmelite monk in 1563 and helped St. Teresa of Avila to reform the Carmelite order — enduring persecution and imprisonment for his efforts. Both in his writing and in his life, he demonstrated eloquently his love for God. His written thoughts on man's relationship with God were literary endeavors that placed him on an intellectual and philosophical level with such great writers as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.  In this work — a spiritual masterpiece and classic of Christian literature and mysticism — he addresses several subjects, among them pride, avarice, envy, and other human imperfections. His discussion of the "dark night of the spirit," which considers afflictions and pain suffered by the soul, is followed by an extended explanation of divine love and the soul's exultant union with God.

 

Cloud of unknowing.  248.8 Clo

Widely considered a hallmark of Western literature and spirituality, The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous English monk’s sublime expression of what separates God from humanity. Originally written in the 14th century, this beautiful contemplative resource has been embraced for hundreds of years for its simple, engaging style and spiritual truths. As the unknown author assures us, “if you are to experience Him or to see Him at all, insofar as it is possible here, it must always be in this cloud.”

 

Julian of Norwich.  Revelations of divine love.  240 J94r

One of the first published woman authors, Julian of Norwich produced in Revelations of Divine Love a remarkable work of revelatory insight, that stands alongside The Cloud of Unknowing and Piers Plowman as a classic of Medieval religious literature.  After fervently praying for a greater understanding of Christ's passion, Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century anchorite and mystic, experienced a series of divine revelations. Through these 'showings', Christ's sufferings were revealed to her with extraordinary intensity, but she also received assurance of God's unwavering love for man and his infinite capacity for forgiveness. Written in a vigorous English vernacular, the Revelations are one of the most original works of medieval mysticism and have had a lasting influence on Christian thought.

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