The common heritage of all Christians

Encountering God and Discovering our True Identity: Reflections on the First Readings of Cycles A,
by John Littleton (Columba Books, €12.99/£10.99)

John Littleton, whose name as a teacher and writer will be familiar to many, is the director of the Priory Institute in Tallaght. His aim in this book is to enrich the experience of Mass-goers with insights into the first readings of Year A in the Churchís liturgical cycle, concentrating on the Sunday services and those of feast days. 

These readings from the Old Testament are essentially an experience of the faith, or ought to be for Catholics, though one has to wonder about that. They have a disadvantage in that they present important concepts, but the passages have to be really read in the original context to be fully appreciated.

This is what a good commentary does:  it fills out not only that original context, but its wider relations within Scripture and the teachings of the tradition as these have been developed by reflection and insight over the centuries. Our efforts at understanding can never stay still. To be truly alive they have to grow all the time, and growth implies the paradox of changing while staying the same.

A commentary such as John Littleton supplies is essential for the ordinary reader. Though this book is aimed first of all at a Catholic audience, it has to be borne in mind that the Scriptures are the common heritage of all Christians, and other traditions will find food for thought and inspiration for worship in these pages as well. The identity that a Christian builds up can be directed only in part, a significant part must depend on the development of the personal experience of the divine.