Lent is such an idea time for more serious reading, don’t you think?
This past weekend I started up a couple new books and began rereading a long-lost favorite. It’s so nice to have new books around, they’re kind of distracting and – while only two of them actually fit in my purse, they all end up in the car with me where-ever I go, just in case I have a moment to sit down with one of them.
Full Moon Feast, by Jessica Prentice, was recommended to me by Sara B, in the comments here when I first started exploring traditional diets and fermented foods. I’ve had it on my list of books to read ever since and only just now scooped it up. It’s a fantastic Lenten companion because of the emphasis on seasonal eating – slow, local foods, and the earth’s own shift from feast to fast to feast again. We’re in a fasting season and the author’s words of patience and calm anticipation are helping me appreciate the nourishing, late-winter feel of Lenten meals.
The rituals of Lent revolve around prayer and almsgiving as well as fasting, and Prentice’s words bring all those disciplines into the world of food. She reminds us just how important the quality of life of farmers and migrant workers is in our food culture. How devastating the huge agri-businesses are for the people growing and harvesting the food, as well as for the environment. And while we are not in a place to give alms in any large sense right now, we can choose to buy from local farmers, buy in season, and use our own, home-grown produce and meats as much as possible. (though obviously meats have to wait until after Lent. Prentice also highlights the value of prayer in our relationship to food. Not in the same way I might, but by building rituals of intentional, grateful, hospitable eating into daily life she is giving her readers an opportunity to “pray without ceasing” through a consistent attitude graceful receptivity. I am only at the second chapter, The Sap Moon, and I already feel so at home with the author’s image-laden, poetic style and gentle reflections. It’s a beautiful book.
Woman and the Salvation of the World, by Paul Evdokimov, is my other entirely new book this month. It was recommended to me in Michael Martin’s The Submerged Reality and I’m fascinated even as I slowly work through the introduction. It’s not an ideal book for reading while small children play “The Floor is Lava” all around you, but Evdokimov’s writing is exciting enough to make it worth weathering the distractions. The writing itself is delightfully readable – if you’ve wandered through John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or Tolstoy’s final chapters of War and Peace you won’t find any trouble with the text. But if you happen to be a bridge between two safe spaces in a sea of lava..you might have to go over a few paragraphs more than once. Evdokimov’s book reminds me of John Paul II in a lot of its emphases and in its general presentation of the complementarity of men and women. He writes as an Orthodox Christian and his book is overflowing with the wisdom of the early Church Fathers, something the western Church sometimes tends to neglect in favor of later thinkers. I’m excited to see just how much his book continues to remind me of John Paul II as well as his presentation of Matriarchy, Patriarchy, and Feminism.
And my long-lost favorite: The Desert Fathers, selected and translated by the amazing Helen Waddell. I love the desert Abbas and Ammas.. I love the wisdom and gentleness of these solitary ones. I love most of all St. Macarius who helped robbers when he caught them stealing his few belongings and sent them on their way with his blessing and all his possessions. This book gives me so many little icons of holiness to meditate on this season and so much guidance in the turmoils of our place and time. It’s my favorite book to settle down with in the mornings, while I wait for the coffee to steep.
What are you reading this season, and how is it forming you? I’d love to know!