I’ve received a few requests from followers to resume my monthly thirty-song playlists. I had previously thought I’d stick to publishing these during Ordinary Time, since I have longer, thematic playlists for the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent (our current place in the calendar), and Easter—which you can find on my Spotify profile. But I’m happy to oblige! Here’s a new playlist for March:
ESSAY: “Victor Hugo’s Masterpiece of Impossibility” by Caitrin Keiper, Plough: A wonderful essay on how competing vows in the novel and musical Les Misérables reveal the paradox of grace. I’ve been captivated by this story of mercy, forgiveness, and transformation set in revolutionary France ever since I saw the 1998 film adaptation starring Liam Neeson in middle school. The faith-inspired actions of Bishop Myriel at the beginning set the life of the protagonist Jean Valjean, an escaped convict, on a trajectory that is beautiful to watch unfold, and the downfall of the law-obsessed Inspector Javert, who cannot bring himself to accept the grace offered him, is most tragic.
>> Season 2, episode 2, of Gather Round, on the DPP’s Lent 2023 Living Prayer Periodical: On the in-house podcast of Grace Mosaic in Washington, DC, three of my four Daily Prayer Project colleagues and I walk listeners through the latest edition of our prayer periodical, which covers the six weeks of Lent. The conversation starts at 3:46. The Rev. Joel Littlepage, curator of the liturgies and songs, highlights a litany to the Servant-Christ from Andhra Theological College in Hyderabad, India, and a song by Pastor Antonio Rivera González of Mexico (see below). Ashley Williams, who commissions or secures reproduction rights for the practice-based essays and curates the photographs throughout, shares some teasers for “Calling Out to God in Lament” by Nina Barnes and “Intractable Sin, Preemptory Prayer” by Alicia Akins.
As curator of the art on the cover and in the Gallery section, I discuss the marble sculpture Condemned to Death by Chang Dong Ho (장동호) (see more by the artist), the mixed-media piece Gathering Fragments 1 by C. F. John, the photograph Untitled #10, Flushing, NY from the Stranger Fruit series by Jon Henry, and the painted woodcarving Qwi:qwelstom (Halkomelem, a Coast Salish language, for “Balance and Harmony”) by Don Froese.
At 32:44–35:06, our theological editor, the Rev. Russ Whitfield, discusses a theological method that has informed our work at the DPP called triperspectivalism (or multiperspectivalism), which says that we can enrich our perspective, limited on its own, by looking at things from different angles, especially those revealed to us by other people and cultures. For a snippet of the Herman Bavinck quote, see here. What Russ says is SO GOOD! I believe our prayerbooks stand out from other similar projects in that they are deliberately cross-cultural—not because it’s trendy, but because there is so much beauty and wisdom we are missing by not availing ourselves of the many resources of the global church. Our content is also cross-historical.
There are subscription options for individuals (you receive a print edition and a digital download link) and groups (digital access, with bulk-printing options). You can also buy a single copy, but it’s cheaper to purchase a monthly subscription and then cancel after you receive your edition if you don’t wish to continue. We publish six editions a year, each following the same format but filled with new content for the given season.
>> “Lent: Season of Repentance, Renewal . . . and Rebellion” with Esau McCaulley, For the Life of the World: Here the Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley—associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and award-winning author of Reading While Black—talks about the Christian practice of Lent as a collective wisdom passed down through generations of Jesus followers, as well as a spiritual rebellion against mainstream American culture, which has its own established rhythms that shape how we spend our money, when we feast, and what we celebrate.
McCaulley spent the first twenty-one years of his life in the Black Baptist church and the past twenty in a high-liturgical tradition, both of which have been formative for him. One thing he appreciates about liturgy (both the yearly calendar and the elements within a worship service), he says, is how it helps him more fully inhabit the story of Christ. He construes Lent as a season of repentance and grace; he points out the justice practices of Lent; he walks through a Christian understanding of death, and the beautiful practice of stripping the altars on Maundy Thursday; and he’s emphatic about how Lent is a guided season of pursuing the grace to find, or perhaps return to, yourself as God has called you to be. These ideas are expanded upon in his new book, Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal, from IVP’s Fullness of Time series.
>> “Divino compañero del camino” (O Lord, Divine Companion): Written in 1964 by Antonio Rivera of Mexico, this popular Spanish-language song is performed here by Karina Moreno and Joseph Espinoza. It’s based on Luke 24:28–32, from the postresurrection story of the walk to and supper at Emmaus, but its pilgrimage aspect—the idea of Jesus as a companion on our life journey—makes it appropriate for Lent. [HT: The Daily Prayer Project]
>> “Yeshu Ji Mere Paap Kshama Kar Do” (Lord Jesus, Forgive My Sins): A Hindi song of confession with words by the late Shri Jalal Masih and music by his granddaughter, Mercy Sharon Masih. Mercy sings it here with her father, Hanook Masih. For an English translation, click the “CC” button. [HT: Global Christian Worship]
ARTICLE: “The Blood Collages of John Bingley Garland (ca. 1850–60),” Public Domain Review: Peruse the so-called Victorian Blood Book, an eccentricity made by the British politician and fishmonger John Bingley Garland as a wedding gift for his daughter Amy in 1854. It consists of forty-one collages whose sources are engravings by William Blake and various other religious artists, botanical and zoological illustrations, photographs of medieval tombs, and other images from nineteenth-century books, but with one distinguishing decorative addition by Garland’s hand: drops of blood in red India ink, presumably signifying the blood of Christ. The pages also bear extensive handwritten religious commentary.
The Blood Book transferred from the collection of novelist Evelyn Waugh to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin upon Waugh’s death, and they identify it as “the single most curious object in the entire library.” Though modern eyes may see the collages as surreal or even grotesque, Garland’s descendants regarded them as nothing other than “a precious reminder of the love of family and Our Lord,” as they have written. The Harry Ransom Center has digitized the full book.
3 thoughts on “Roundup: Les Mis, blood collages, Esau McCaulley on Lent, and more”
This is amazing! Thank you!
I remember reading about Garland’s blood book when PDR first wrote about it. In my mind, it ranks right up there with Henry Darger’s In The Realms of The Unreal in terms of bizarre-ness —but it is nice to see that Garland’s descendants still cherish the book and find meaning in it, which is of course not the case with Darger’s book.
Discord: William Collen#3001
I find your monthly playlist a real joy.