Saturday, July 20, 2019

Book Review: "Love is a Radiant Light: The Life & Words of St Charbel"

Hanna Skandar's Love is a Radiant Light (Angelico Press, 2019) is a book to be savored. Saint Charbel Makhlouf (1828 - 1898) first came to my attention while working on the Tending the Temple devotional. A monk of the Labanese Maronite Order, an otherwordly character surrounded the humble man. After his entry into eternal life on Christmas Eve of 1898, supernatural phenomena started being reported around his tomb; and a flood of miracles issued from his intercession. 

What I treasure most about this book is how the bulk of it is made up of Charbel's homilies. He is a man of great brilliance who, like Christ, imparts wisdom in easily- accessible imagery. Originally published in France, William J. Melcher's translation captures the "poetic" beauty of Charbel's words. Reading his homilies, I felt simultaneously convicted of my sin and filled with joyful hope of what God longs to do in and through me. 
If a human being draws his love from God, he is naturally oriented toward others. If the love is from you, it returns to you. The human being whose love emanates from himself, loves himself through others, while thinking that he loves others (p.86).
There is one homily that, although written for Charbel's 19th century confrères, struck me as especially prophetic of our time:
Human beings have more knowledge than wisdom. Their theories have become in their minds like the fog on the mountains and in the valleys; they prevent them from seeing things as they are...Their buildings rise, their morality sinks. Their worldly goods increase, their value diminishes. Their speeches multiply, their prayer grows scarce. ...They have many paths, but they do not lead them to each other's houses. They have multiple means of communication, but they do not help them to communicate with each other. Their beds are spacious and comfortable, but their families are small, broken up, and exhausted. They know how to go faster without being able to wait. They are always running to make a living, forgetting to lead their lives....Human beings sow thorns which, while still tender and new, caress their feet; but once they have hardened they will tear the feet of future generations.You cut the wood, you pile the logs, you light the fire, you feed it so as to throw yourselves into it, and you wonder why you are burned by it! Humanity has gone astray, man is sick, and the world is catching fire. 
God is love; he is the goal and the guide of this lost humanity. Christ is the remedy of the sick man. The water of baptism in the Spirit is what extinguishes the fire raging in the world....Meet one another, look at one another, listen to one another, greet one another, console one another with sturdy, charitable words, go out from yourselves to visit one another, embrace one another in the love of Christ, work in the Lord's field without growing weary or bored (pp.74-75).
That is only a selection from one of his homilies - this book contains 17! This is the perfect book to take to Adoration and keep by your bedside. I find myself instinctively moving from the page to prayer; and it's a thrill to know that Charbel is praying with me. This isn't a book I can read just once though. These words cut to the heart. I will be bringing this to Adoration for quite awhile.

Love is a Radiant Light: The Life and Words of St. Charbel is a striking addition to Angelico Press's impressive list of titles.

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