From the first paragraph of the preface to the final quote by Julian of Norwich, The Holy Longing was both tender hearted and intellectually stimulating. There was something to underline on 99% of it's 257 pages, and I crammed the margins with notes.
(That great line from the preface was a quote from Tielhard de Chardin, who said that most sincere people who lack belief in God lack Him because they have never heard about Him in a correct way.)
The Holy Longing compels engaged reading. This book contains the best annotation on The Lord's Prayer that I have ever read, and I love his chapter on participating in the Incarnation. As one person said, half in wonder, half in objection, "It can't be true because it is too good to be true!"
As Ronald Rolheiser quotes from the Goethe poem in the first chapter, we are troubled guests on a dark earth. That is the state of everyone at one point or another, often over and over again. We are born with longings and desires, some that can be satisfied here and some which never seem to be. You can tell me that you don't have a spirituality, but as a human being you do have a spirit, with those desires and fears and hopes, and you are doing something about it. From Mother Theresa to Janis Joplin to Princess Diana, no human being- Religious or Irreligious- gets away from being spiritual.
The question is, in those three women's lives, did their spirituality make them whole or did it help tear them apart?
This fascinating first part would make great dialogue with any seeker, and once Mr. Rolheiser starts talking about specific Christian spirituality I don't think they would stop reading. He carries us from the general to the particular so gently that we can all make the journey.
Once he has laid this framework he applies his winsome, conversational tone to the Church as a body of believers, the Paschal Mystery, and social justice and peace…. among other things.
He writes real and he writes with reverence, just like he explains that the body of Christ contains the delightful and the unpalatable, and we are called to be in communion with both.
And I'd recommend this book. Get ready to ask questions. Reading a good book is an experience, and not a passive one.
(Just for example, these are some thoughts that this book inspired: "We live in a grand, detailed, singing world, and it begs us to respond to it. How can we not throw up our arms and embrace the pale blue sky?"
"Like Ravi Zacharias asks, are we promised exactly what we want from the prayer vending machine, or are we promised the presence of Christ?"
"If Christianity did not revolve around sacrifice, crucifixion, and stigmata all pointing to redemption, then all people in pain, depression, abandonment and illness, all those hospital bound and divorced and dying, they'd know we were lying about Divine and human nature." )
Thank you Blogging for Books for my review copy!