Sunday, November 18, 2018

Book Review: "The Radiance of Her Face" by Dom Xavier Perrin, O.S.B.

You wouldn't think that a book 93-pages in length would take me four weeks to finish, but The Radiance of Her Face: A Triptych in Honor of Mary Immaculate is a book of such beauty and depth that I was forced to proceed slowly. It was my companion during Adoration. Since finishing the book, I have allowed another eight weeks to elapse, in the futile hope that I would be able to say something meaningful about this book. I am announcing my surrender.

This is theology done on one's knees. With sincere, palpable love, Dom Perrin engages in the exegesis of Scripture, Tradition, papal encyclicals, and the lives of saints, to carry us to new heights in our contemplation of Christ's work in the Immaculate...and the work He wishes to accomplish in each of us. An example from Dom Perrin's contemplation of the Annunciation:
The angel, who habitually contemplates the face of God, immediately recognizes in Mary an outstanding resemblance to the One Who created them both. Is he, perhaps, taken aback, astonished to encounter among men a person so divine? Yet the most astonished one is Mary herself. She is troubled, greatly troubled, and, says the text: "she considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be." 
     On the one hand, thoroughly immersed in God, she is unaware of herself...she is hidden from her own eyes....She is entirely at the service of her neighbor, incapable of comparing herself with others, for she is totally incapable of turning in upon herself. She is completely humble, for she is perfectly placed, with regard to God, in free, glad and total dependence on Him. She is so humble that people do not notice her, do not offer her any compliments, do not think anything of her or look at her. She possesses something of God's own invisibility, which is the invisibility of Love in its pure state, inaccessible to the creature unless God lifts it up and transforms it in order to make it capable of loving as God loves, of knowing as He knows, of participating in His transcendent purity. (pp. 9-10)
This thought - that Mary's immaculate conception drew her gaze outward, transfixed upon the Beloved - will stay with me for the rest of my life.

In one section of the work, I recall Dom Perrin quoting from St. Maximilian Kolbe. He recognizes that the saint's theology, his "strong expressions," can prove "shocking" to some readers. I admit to feelings of apprehension when reading portions of St. Maximilian's theology, but it did nothing to diminish my awe of Dom Perrin's work. The Radiance of Her Face (Angelico Press, 2017) is a treasure, a book that deserves to be read for generations to come. It can be read profitably at any time of year, but it would make a perfect companion during Advent, and especially in the days leading up to the December 8th solemnity.