The Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh, launched a new Lent book written by the Very Rev John Mann, Dean of Belfast, at St Anne’s Cathedral on Monday February 17.
The new book, published in hardback by The Columba Press, is a series of 47 daily reflections (including Sundays and continuing right up to Easter Day) based on selected individual verses from St John’s Gospel.
The new publication is the result of a process initiated by the Church of Ireland Literature Committee in 2012 which issued an open call for authors to produce a Lent book with the potential to be both an aid to personal devotion and also a resource for group discussion during the penitential season. ‘Lent with St John’s Gospel’ fulfils this aim with daily reflections also arranged in weekly sections for group discussion in parishes or homes.
Speaking at the launch, Archbishop Richard Clarke said that he was delighted to commend the book ‘warmly and sincerely’ as an excellent daily devotional Lent resource which combined Dean Mann’s characteristics of ‘penetrating intellect with a spirituality of great depth’.
Archbishop Clarke continued by saying: “We often have a favourite gospel and unashamedly I return again and again to John’s gospel, for its deceptive simplicity, use of metaphor, simile and image and because it brings us deeper and deeper into the person of our Lord. St John’s gospel can be read at many levels and it is endless in its depth – one never gets to the bottom of it – but in it when we encounter Christ we are given a direct choice: there is no other way, our encounter with Christ is going to change us.”
Dr Kenneth Milne, Chairman of the Church of Ireland Literature Committee, outlined the role of its work, relaying that one of its purposes was to identify gaps where the Church should be publishing useful material; one such gap was in the provision of devotional literature, articulating ‘what the Church believes’.
For this reason the committee set in train the process by which ‘Lent with St John’s Gospel’ by Dean Mann came about. Dr Milne complimented Dean Mann on his contribution to the Church’s witness in this area and the publisher on the ‘handsome publication of the new book,’ concluding by saying how much ‘the Church cherishes its relationship with Columba Press.’
Dean Mann concluded the launch proceedings by thanking the Literature Committee, Columba Press, the Archbishop of Armagh and everyone for attending. Prior to the event he said: “Lent is a very special time in the Christian Year. Some may approach it with a sigh and others with joy, but one way or another it is an opportunity to try and restore equilibrium in all of the balances that we try to maintain between, for example: work and rest, activity and inactivity, prayer and action.
“Lent may be seen as an encouragement to do more or a chance to re–find a spiritual discipline – but I feel, and it is reflected in the book, that though Lent may allow space for both of these things, it is increasingly important to see it as a time of gently directed thought, of which the element of reflection in devotion is no small part.
“St John’s Gospel, as my source of daily Biblical texts, I chose for this reason and in order to bring the focus of our Lenten thoughts on a distinct area of the Scriptures. I do hope that those who share the reading of this book with me over the course of Lent 2014 may find something of help.”
‘Lent with St John’s Gospel’ is available at St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast and through The Book Well (www.thebookwell.co.uk E. firstname.lastname@example.org T. +44(0) 7581143596) and the Columba Press (www.columba.ie).