Where the Eye Alights, Marilyn McEntyre. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2021.
Summary: A collection of forty Lenten meditations drawn from words or phrases from scripture and poetry, inviting us to pause and attend.
“Lent is a time of permission. Many of us find it hard to give ourselves permission to pause, to sit still, to reflect or to meditate or pray in the midst of daily occupations–most of them very likely worthy in themselves–that fill our waking minds and propel us out of bed and on to the next thing. We need the explicit invitation the liturgical year provides to change pace, to curtail our busyness a bit, to make our times with self and God a little more spacious, a little more leisurely, and see what comes. The reflections I offer here come from a very simple practice of daily meditation on whatever has come to mind in the quiet of early morning.”Marilyn McEntyre, p. v.
These opening words, in McEntyre’s Preface to the forty meditations in this book, gave me permission to pause and sit with her as she reflected upon the things on which her eyes alighted. For McEntyre, who loves words and their careful use, it is words and phrases upon which her eyes alight and which she invites us to join her in considering. Most come from scripture, some from poetry. Her reflections sometimes help us see the strange in the familiar. Isn’t it strange, for example that Isaiah 30:15 pairs “repentance and rest”? For most of us, repentance does not seem very restful. McEntyre observes:
“And repentance, to return to Isaiah, allows you to rest. I think of the many times I’ve heard–and said–some version of ‘I’m wrestling with…” “I’m struggling with…” “I’m working on…” changing a habit, coming to terms with self defeating patterns, releasing resentments or guilt or old confusions. Repentance allows us to rest in forgiveness, regroup, and rather than wrestling, float for a while, upheld while we learn to swim in the current, or walk unburdened, or do a dance of deliverance, day by day releasing the past and entering fully, with an open heart, into the present where an open heart is waiting to receive us.”Marilyn McEntyre, p. 11.
Another reflection draws upon a Christian Wiman poem title “Every Riven Thing.” She reflects on the rivenness of our lives amid our own griefs and fraught politics: “We live among–and are–what is riven, cracked, and split, having to revise our understanding of ‘healing’ and ‘wholeness’ as we age into inevitable learning that those words don’t mean a fairy-tale ending, or closure, or even a denouement at the end of the last act.”
Thus she draws us into the reflections of Lent when we remember we are dust (another reflection). We consider what it means to be a people prepared, the loving listening of obedience, and the moments of epiphany that come as each of us wait and watch. She invites us to consider prayer as a place and in the movements of prayer open ourselves to the Spirit’s coming upon us. The reading for Good Friday guides us through the Stations of the Cross, providing guided prayers for each station and may be used at any time one prays the stations.
Each of the reflections are two to four pages long. Since the Sundays of Lent are not included in the forty days of Lent, there are no reflections for Sundays (although I’m sure some of us would use Sunday as a makeup day!). A marginal note indicates the week and day of each reflection. An attached ribbon is included in the book for marking one’s place.
I’ve come to love the combination of elegant attention to words and perceptive attention to life I find in each of McEntyre’s books. I recognize this review comes after Lent. While most appropriate for Lent, this book may be used for devotional reading at any time, or taken for reflection if you are accustomed to take personal retreats. If nothing else, if you purchase it now, you will not have to cast about wondering what you might read next year. Just keep it some place “where the eye alights.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.