Hannah Matis Perett, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Church History, at Virginia Theological Seminary, recommends the following books as part of the Bishop Payne Library’s monthly series highlighting a faculty member’s ”picks”:
Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).
Around 2006, the poet Christian Wiman almost simultaneously fell in love, rediscovered the faith of his Texan childhood that he had thought long dead, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This beautiful, challenging memoir tracks Wiman’s experience of continuing to try to make language to talk to and about God in the midst of pain.
John Behr, Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2013).
This beautifully written, richly illustrated book can fit in your pocket, but don’t underestimate it on that account! It is a wonderful distillation of a whole constellation of theological ideas with regard to the human person: the fall, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, God’s intentions for the human being, death, creation, and marriage. Written by the dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, it is both deeply biblical and profoundly informed by the patristic tradition.
Richard Rodriguez, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography (New York: Viking, 2013).
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Richard Rodriguez began a quest to understand his own Catholic faith in light of the other great monotheistic traditions of Judaism and Islam. This collection of essays shows Rodriguez describing the changing, increasingly desertified spiritual landscape of the world today and those unexpected, oasis-like places in which people still encounter God.
Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations (New York: Harper, 1960; also published in The Works of Thomas Traherne, Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012).
A classic of the Anglican tradition that is not as known or read as much as it should be, Traherne’s Centuries was once called by C. S. Lewis “almost the most beautiful book in the English language.” Traherne was a seventeenth-century writer, a contemporary of Donne and Herbert, about whom we know almost nothing and whose work was saved practically by accident from destruction. The Centuries are an unabashed celebration of the beauty of creation: good at any time, but particularly wonderful in springtime.