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Ordinary Encounters with the Holy One

Review by Dominique Peridans

Expectant: Advent Meditations
By Anne E. Kitch
Church Publishing, pp. 64, $7.95

As the title of her book and its introduction so clearly suggest, the Rev. Anne E. Kitch captures the heart of the experience of believers in Christ, in the season of sacred preparation preceding Christmas. “For me, the primary stance of Advent is one of expectation: it is a season of waiting and paradox.” The original, fitting disposition of the heart in those who look to the adventus — that is, to the coming, the approach, the arrival of the Lord in the mystery of the Incarnation — is indeed that of expectation. Hearts animated by the gift of hope expect. And of course, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1).

The expectation, rooted in faith and in hope, that Kitch invites and explores does not ignore the seeming paradox — better, the mysterious reality — of our pilgrimage as Christians: “already but not yet,” a theological paradigm articulated more fully by Princeton theologian Geerhardus Vos (d. 1949) early in the 20th century.

Kitch invites the reader to ask, with her, the poignant question: “What is it like to hold myself expectant, to remain in the tension of looking forward to that which has not yet come and, at the same time, that which has already come?” It is a profound question regarding our actual relationship with our Incarnate Lord, more present than we can imagine, yet adventus, coming, and thus promising fulfillment and fullness of relationship. “How can I explore this in-between space?” Kitch asks. And further, given the nature of the Incarnation, God enfleshed, and thus engaging humanity in the stuff of everyday life, she asks, “What ordinary encounters might bring me through the threshold to an extraordinary encounter with the holy?”

What follows, based on psalm verses and a few collects, are meditations, descriptions of daily life — the sound of tires and laughter, wool sweaters and computer issues, snowflakes and wrong car keys.  The meditations are accessible in their simplicity and beauty, in which the extraordinary emerges in the ordinary, the holy emerges in the mundane, in which our Lord, as always promised, comes. Kitch’s gentle meditations are wonderfully inviting, especially perhaps for those who, at times, feel overwhelmed by the greatness of God or who struggle to find the presence of God, inviting us into relationship.

Kitch’s trust in the Word made flesh, our flesh, is evident and reassuring and inspiring. She invites the assurance of faith, but it is a faith open to God’s many surprises. Acknowledging her own struggles in the spiritual life, Kitch offers the reader an experienced, steady hand, both humble and helpful. And she offers a tool that, as she describes it, can be coupled with the Daily Office and the psalms of the day, for those who may wish to inscribe themselves into the larger prayer of the Church, as the bride of Christ responding with one voice to her Bridegroom.

The Rev. Dominique Peridans is the rector of the Church of the Ascension & Saint Agnes, Washington, DC.




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