Sunday, April 22, 2007

Book Review: An Anthology of Christian Devotion: Holy Communion

Massey H. Shepherd, Jr. is a beloved Professor who wrote a number of books and taught many seminary students at the Graduate Theological Union and its Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. I know this as I know some bare bone facts of this man of faith, this Reverend who was influential and I understand a contributor to the modern Book of Common Prayer which Episcopalians use in worship on Sundays and daily life. But I don’t have to write an advertisement for the compiler of “An Anthology of Christian Devotion: Holy Communion,” a book I bought used since it is out of print.

My copy was owned by R.J. Brown, a name on the inside front page of the book, published by The Seabury Press, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1959. I feel like I have a special book, and for my library a collector’s item that I read numerous times in the week. Usually I do so in the evening. I share R.J. Brown’s interest in the book So I imagine. I imagine so for the reason that I bought the book was to get a look at the writings that interested the compiler, so as to gain insight into The Book of Common Prayer. Does this book do this for me? Yes. But more so, the book is a friend and opens my eyes to poetry and short readings from people who had a deep love of the Lord, devotion in their religious life, and a commitment to Christianity.

Quote from the book:
“It must be His voice thou hearest when He says, ‘Come hither, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,’ hence His voice that invites thee: and it must be His voice thou hearest when He says, “This is my Body,’…” Soren Kierkegard

Another reason I chose this book was to enter into and gain in a kind of dialogue about Eucharist. That is the subject about which the title says these devotions give its attention. It isn’t so frequent a thing that I talk with people about Communion, and what it means to us. Today I did so with a woman who is 97, and it was a conversation that came from the Holy Spirit since we had our conversation right after taking Communion together. With this book, one can have that introduction and conversation about Eucharist with this writer, who has passed away and ,as I know and enjoy, left these writings for the edification of readers. It is a joy.

Quote from the book:
“For a bond of love,/a sufficient account of our offering,/the armour of patience,/a stirring up of thanksgiving/confidence in prayer,/mutual indwelling,/a pledge of resurrection,/an acceptable defense at the judgment,/a covenant of our inheritance,/a figure of perfection…” “Before Receiving” by Lancelot Andrews.

The fullness of such a quote from a lovely statement made in poetry is itself a meal. Of course, it tells us about Holy Communion. The poem is longer, but not too long for my taste, so that like the other readings, they do not tire the reader. They refresh one.

If you as a reader of this review wonder what my friend and I said about Eucharist, this quotation above titled “Before Receiving” sums it up—but oh, so eloquently. The book is an eloquent one, and certainly a source of taste--as in taste what we bring to you and have learned for devotion and understanding of our God. There you have my statement about the readings, so there you have also high praise for this compilation of readings about Holy Communion. Certainly one will find it worthwhile to read prior to Sunday Communion, for you will be pleased to share in its depth and sometimes apparent truths known. Here one may gain insight into what was on the mind of Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., too.

Quote from the book:
“Holy and righteous Father, in commemorating here the one perfect sacrifice offered once for all on the cross by our Lord Jesus Christ, in joyful expectation of his coming, we offer ourselves to thee as a living and holy sacrifice….” “Liturgy of the Reformed Church of France," 1946.

--Peter Menkin, Easter 2007

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