Friday, December 27, 2019

Books, Books, Books: Part One

My family and friends know me very well indeed. I have a stack of wonderful books to read in the new year. With two exceptions--the first two books--these are the books I've received as gifts for my birthday and Christmas and the approximate order in which I plan to read them. I've received so many books that I've divvied them up into two posts, today and tomorrow.

But first I want to finish Margaret Barker's Christmas: The Original Story which I purchased from Eighth Day Books earlier this month:

The story of Christmas is loved by all Christians, and its cultural influence is felt far and wide, not only in the art and literature of the Church but also in the Qur’an. Much of the original story, however, is not found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and so some of the detail in Christian art and literature is not always understood.

Margaret Barker uses her knowledge of temple tradition and Jewish culture in the time of Jesus to set the story in its original cultural and literary context. By examining the widely used Infancy Gospel of James, and by uncovering layers of allusion in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, she reveals what the Christmas story originally meant. She then goes on to show how this understanding can be found in later texts such as the Arabic Infancy Gospel and legends known in mediaeval Europe.

This is first book I've read by Barker, a Methodist Preacher:

Margaret Barker has developed an approach to Biblical Studies now known as Temple Theology. Margaret Barker read theology at the University of Cambridge, England, and went on to pursue her research independently. She was elected President of the Society for Old Testament Study in 1998, and edited the Society’s second Monograph Series, published by Ashgate. She has so far written 17 books, which form a sequence, later volumes building on her earlier conclusions.

BTW, Eighth Day Books is holding their annual after Christmas sale: 35% off used books! If you're in Wichita, this is place to be:

We invite you to visit us after Christmas to pick up a few used book bargains. Every "pre-owned" title on the shelf is 35% off through New Year's Eve. Don't miss the opportunity to browse this curated inventory of used books-our best selection ever!

We are open regular hours right after Christmas: 10-8 on Thursday & Friday, 10-6 on Saturday. The sale continues Monday and Tuesday until New Year's Eve. We look forward to wishing you a joyous New Year full of inspired-and inspiring-reading.

After finishing Christmas: The Original Story by the end of Christmas-tide I want to dive into Gareth Russell's latest great work: The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era, sent to me by the publisher through the author's generosity!

I'll post a review once I've come up for air!! The story of the Titanic has fascinated me for years; I've watched all the movies and read other classic accounts and am looking forward to Russell's Belfast-based view. The book has been very well reviewed!

Then I'll wade through George Weigel's latest, The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform from Basic Books:

A powerful new interpretation of Catholicism’s dramatic encounter with modernity, by one of America’s leading intellectuals

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, both secular and Catholic leaders assumed that the Church and the modern world were locked in a battle to the death. The triumph of modernity would not only finish the Church as a consequential player in world history; it would also lead to the death of religious conviction. But today, the Catholic Church is far more vital and consequential than it was 150 years ago. Ironically, in confronting modernity, the Catholic Church rediscovered its evangelical essence. In the process, Catholicism developed intellectual tools capable of rescuing the imperiled modern project.

A richly rendered, deeply learned, and powerfully argued account of two centuries of profound change in the church and the world, The Irony of Modern Catholic History reveals how Catholicism offers twenty-first century essential truths for our survival and flourishing.

I received another book that will be fun to dip into throughout the year: Saints are Not Sad: Short Biographies of Joyful Saints, assembled by Frank J. Sheed and published anew by Ignatius Press:

"The only tragedy is not to be a saint", wrote the French novelist Léon Bloy. And St. Francis de Sales said that "A sad saint would be a sorry saint." But what is a saint? One way to answer is to analyze sanctity, theologically and psychologically. Another way, which is the path Frank Sheed chose in creating this volume, is to show you a saint-or rather, since no two saints are alike-to show you a number of saints. In this book, you are shown forty saints.

The saints Sheed chose for this collection are from various time periods: six before A.D. 500, seventeen from then to the Reformation, and seventeen from the Reformation to the middle of the twentieth century. Many are well known, like St. Anthony, Francis, Augustine, Patrick and Bernadette, while others are lesser known, for example, Columcille and Malachy.

The same can be said for the various authors of these short biographies. Among them are the famous like Hilaire Belloc, Alban Goodier and G.K. Chesterton, as well as priests and laymen whose names may no longer be familiar but whose writing still brings to life men and women whose closeness to God gave them purpose, strength, and yes, joy.

That's all for today, folks! More tomorrow when I find a new metaphor!

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