Light When It Comes: Trusting Joy, Facing Darkness and Seeing God in Everything by Chris Anderson, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2016, 160 pp., ISBN 978-0-8028-7399-6, $16.99 (paperback).
In his blog, Chris Anderson describes himself as a believer, a walker in the woods, a Catholic deacon, an English professor at Oregon State University, and a writer. All these attributes are clearly evident in his Light When It Comes. Anderson hopes the book will help its readers recall and embrace the moments of joy and of darkness in their lives, moments that call us to believe in a presence and beauty beyond ourselves. Anderson seeks to accomplish this by relating illustrative humorous anecdotes and serious vignettes from his own life, interspersed with Biblical stories and scenes and with quotations from religious writers, both past and present.
Anderson organizes the book into the three sections found in its subtitle: Trusting Joy, Facing Darkness, and Seeing God in Everything. These, in turn, are based on the steps outlined in St. Ignatius’ Examen prayer, a meditation that helps the faithful recall and re-examine their lives. Throughout Anderson calls us to remember our moments of light and of darkness and to hold them fast together in our hearts, for the darkness teaches us to recognize the light when it comes as a moment of pure grace, however fleeting,
“Learning to Serve” is perhaps the most memorable chapter in the book, a chapter that Anderson interestingly places within the Facing Darkness section. Here Anderson reflects on his experience as a deacon in the Catholic Church. He movingly describes the inherent tension between being cast in the humbling but joyful sacramental role of Christ the servant versus the submissive role of supporting cast. But he says we are all called to be deacons, to live in this tension, and to trust in those rare moments of joy.
In reading Light When It Comes, one is reminded of Mary Oliver’s three instructions for living: “pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it” (from her poem “Sometimes”). For this is exactly what Anderson has done. The book includes opening remarks by Brian Doyle, helpful notes on the Examen, and an eclectic list of relevant readings, from works on the Examen and Ignatius to poetry by William Stafford, from whom the book draws its title. It is highly recommended for parish libraries and for all readers who seek to see the presence of God in all that they experience.
Review by FLNC’s network member, Rafael Ubico. This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of Catholic Library World. Digital copy of this article has been made available online by the Faith Libraries of Northern Colorado. www.FLNCnetwork.org