One of the tasks of good writing is to subvert our perceptions; to see nothing as ordinary, and ordinariness as the door at the back of the wardrobe. Stephen Cherry does this in spades.
Following Barefoot Disciple and Barefoot Prayers, in Barefoot Ways: Praying through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (SPCK, £9.99), the Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, offers a prayer, poem or meditation for each of the days of those seasons. All are profound: many frame an insight that catches the breath. As he writes in ‘Seeing’, the entry for January 5th, ‘The question of what we see is an important and spiritual one. It’s not quite the same as what we choose to look at – where we direct our attention – though that matters too.’
And what he ‘sees’ on many of the 64 days is so often unexpected. In ‘Beatitudes for the New Year’ I was startled to read the counter-intuitive
Let me be happy when others take the trouble to belittle or defame me, ridicule or bad-mouth me. The ‘Examen for the Year’s End’ contains a plea to be grateful for those who, by giving me some unwittingly difficult word wounded and saved me.
Colours lead our thoughts beyond the grayscale of winter: ‘We thank you’, on January 10th, ‘for the green of Islam’, on the 11th ‘All that is blue out there, and all that is blue within,’ and on the 12th the ‘Warning and delight’ of red.
On January 18th the prayers is for ‘Difficult People’ and thought-provokingly ends ‘Jesus Christ our Lord, the most difficult person of all’.
For every day of the Church’s four winter Seasons a new or different thought; a challenge; an inspiration. At the end is Candlemas and the sword prepared for Mary; but the final prayer is for grace and light – and Spring appears.
Reviewed by Julia Taylor
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