Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary. .
Fish and family, mountain and city, body, light and treasure. These are, like melodic lines in a symphony, motifs resounding throughout Scripture. They form the basic grammar of what C. S. Lewis described as "the language which religion naturally speaks." Increasingly, however, this imagery is a foreign language to many people. With this book, author Gail Ramshaw has done the church valuable service, creating a "primer" for forty images that appear in the Revised Common Lectionary.
Ramshaw's presentations are scholarly and searching, going beyond the "romance" of evocative symbols to analyze their liturgical use. Beginning with historical perspective on the origins and development of the lectionary, the balance of the text explores individual images in great depth. Insightful work under headings such as "Sacrifice" provides the raw material necessary to make informed choices about imagery that has become controversial. The "Family" entry is an example that shines. Ramshaw first attends to historical distinctions between contemporary and ancient families. Then, she demonstrates that sister/brother, father/mother (and related images of adoption and inheritance) function as metaphors in both Testaments. This is invaluable background with which to approach Father-Son images for God and Jesus in a pastoral context.
Forty images comprise the book; dominant images gather clusters of related themes into their orbit. The entry "Outsider" includes alien, foreigner, leper, and uncircumcised in its text. Such breadth makes it possible for the author to demonstrate how a central motif captures new ideas. But at times that very breadth clutters the entry, diluting its focus. The "Body" heading, for example, makes for a dizzying interpretive tour of bread-as-Body in the theology of the Eucharist.
A review of this book is incomplete without mention of its exquisite design. The imagination is awakened by multiple layers of material, which turn the images at different angles: devotions, hymns, and liturgical fragments are included in each entry. The investment in design features is more than cosmetic; it affects the way the reader will experience the text, making this a book to cherish.
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|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2003|
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