A Commentary on the Songs of Ascents for Lent
The Eastern Christian liturgical tradition of Lent has long included the chanting of the Songs of Ascents (Pss 120—134) as “entrance songs” of not only the special penance service known as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, but also of the season of repentance.
Ruckhaus’ commentary in As Though We Were Dreaming provides theological insight and exegetical breadth to this grouping of psalms. Even more so, Ruckhaus drives the reader to engage the Songs of Ascents and participate in the descent and ascent of meaningful and life-changing repentance.
The commentary here does more than just compare the struggle of the ancient Jews reflected in the Songs of Ascents with that of the early Christian community and our own experience.
Ruckhaus insists on a “gutteral connection” between the anxiety and hope of reconstituting the people of God after the disaster of the exile and that of the passion of Jesus. “The gospel story is already genetically encoded in the story of Israel.”
The liturgical incorporation of the Songs of Ascents in the Liturgy of the Presanctified gifts “grounds” the Church’s participation in the Great Story. “We don’t borrow the ancient psalms of the Jew’s struggle to reconstitute a kingdom of God; we share in that struggle.
For anyone interested in the overcoming of conventional dichotomies in theology, Ruckhaus' book is essential reading. With a "Brueggemanesque" postmodern approach, the author refreshingly brings together liturgy and economic justice, critical scholarship and personal experience, Israelite religion and Christian worship, and literary analysis and theological vision. Ruckhaus' interpretation of the Byzantine Lenten "psalms of ascents" is rooted in both the concreteness of human experience and openness to the real presence of the Other other.
The Rev'd Chrystostom Frank - Professor St. John Vianney Seminary: Pastor St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, Denver, Colorado
A Biblical Reflection on Sabbath Rest
Perhaps there is some idea of rest that many of us need to be reintroduced to or reminded of in a new way. I have found this study of Sabbath rest to have slowly seeped into my being. There is something profound and fundamental to be understood about God and our relationship with him in Sabbath rest. I still find it quite the struggle to experience a rest in God on a regular basis, but I am also finding that I am clearer than before on what to look for and what is important about God’s rest. For some, it may be helpful to affirm that there is a resting place in God. God wants it for you, and you need not feel ashamed or guilty that He wants you to take a break. Ultimately, Shabbat is about taking a break from a world that now says, “Don’t stop till you get enough,” and entering God’s world that says, “Enough! It is finished, and it is good.” From the introduction.
Christians today are desperate for biblical answers to the exhaustion that so many of us suffer from the pace and demands of modern life. Keith brings words of liberation and challenge to us all, articulating in this thoughtful exposition of scripture a higher demand than the clamor of culture. Savor in these pages the life-giving word of God's command that we find and make time for rest.
Dave Cheadle, Author and Pastor, Denver, Colorado
Graduate Studies Completed from University of South Africa