Our bodies have become a political battle ground. We are rattled with concerns of pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, racism and refugees. And then there are the more subtle issues of divorce, promiscuity, human cloning, and transgenderism just to name a few. If we call ourselves Christians then the way that we understand our skin and bones and the life that dwells therein informs our conversation in nearly every controversial issue of our day.
If we want to be informed or engage in a thoughtful discussion on any of these issues we must first deal with the body, the human form where these issues are played out, and we must examine what it means for Christ’s body to be broken for our bodies.
Is the body simply a collection of cells, like algae? Is it an inert container for a soul? Or is our physicality essential to our spirit? Is it a source of disdain for not being as strong or thin or capable as it should be? Are eating and sleeping and having sex pleasures to delight in or are you eager to be free from the body’s sensuous provocations and base impulses? Is Christ dwelling in us a physical reality? Can He really be found in the flesh of our neighbor or a beggar or a child?
Enter in the 2017 Liturgy of Life Reading List. I have no promises that this reading list will answer all of those questions but I do hope it will give us a start. In 2017 we will look at death, care-giving, family, at sexuality, then at the sacredness in all things as experienced through the act of cooking and eating and finally at how our bodies are connected to other bodies through social justice.
We will do this through the lenses of two Catholics, an Anglican, a Russian Orthodox, a Presbyterian and one of our founding church fathers, from texts that were published as recently as 2012 and as distantly as 329.
I have tried to make book choices that are manageable in length and in difficulty (i.e you don’t have to have a college degree to get through this list) each offering a unique perspective on the body.
As you read along I hope you will be challenged and will end this year with beneficial insights into the realities of body and spirit. So on to the seven reasons,
1. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy (February)
Don’t be intimidated by the name Tolstoy. This book is short and the style is straightforward. Ivan Ilyich will be our introduction to the body. We will be reading this as we approach lent which is traditionally a time of reflection on our own mortality (I got you excited huh? Betcha can’t wait to start thinking more about dying . . . sorry, but I think in the end it will be good for us).
2. Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen (March)
Nouwen packs big ideas into simple stories. This book will take us from death into care giving and help us to explore the meaning and purpose of our physical life and death.
3. What is A Family?, Edith Schaeffer (April and May)
I’ll admit that Schaeffer’s style can be a bit tedious but Schaeffer, in her unique fashion, will help us look at the family through different lenses. She will transition us from thinking about our individual bodies to our bodies in more complex relationships. Family is our initial and most essential connection to the physicality of others. On the surface she gives advice and perspective on family life but she will also build a bridge to the deeper ideas of our bodies being indwelt with Christ and our ability to minister to the people closest to us through Him.
4. At the Heart of the Gospel, Christopher West (June, July and August)
Three months for this one. It has some deep and essential ideas about the sacramentality of the human experience, specifically in the context of sexuality. I figured since we will be reading it over the summer we will probably move at a slower pace. Of all the books on the list I think this one is the most important to read given the issues facing our modern world. If you don’t happen to be Catholic don’t let West’s multiple references to Catholic documents and officials confuse you, he is digging into some great ideas that have value for all of us.
5. The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon (September and October)
In some ways this is the lightest but also the most tedious read especially if you don’t share Farrar’s love of cooking. It is 98% cooking and 2% theology. And yet the 2% wouldn’t mean anything if it wasn’t for the 98%. This book could have been written about any type of work, more than being about cooking (though it really is mostly about cooking) it is about the value of paying attention. When we put forth the energy to work with care, whatever interaction we are having with the world leads us to experience God.
6. On Social Justice, St. Basil the Great (November)
This book was written only 300 years after Christ walked the earth in the days when the Church was still newly established. It is perhaps the founding document on Christian social justice. You will be amazed at how readable and also how applicable this book is to our modern life. If Christ in us then we are truly His hands and our work is to extend Him to the rest of the world.
Well I couldn’t come up with a 7th, but still I’d love to have you reading along.
We will plan on kicking off the first book in the beginning of February and I’ll be posting about twice per month specific to our current read.
To follow along in discussion make sure to check in out our facebook discussion group.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
linking up with some other quick takes today, check them out.