On the Cross Road: Lenten Meditations on Jesusí
Journey to the Cross.
The book is a Devotional Guide of a special kind. The Guide speaks of the authorís ardour and passion to impart the habit of lectio divina and the observance of Lent to believers who are serious about their spiritual formation. His definition of spiritual formation gives much food for thought and space for self-searching,
I believe the Christianís spiritual formation is a life-long journey Ė a process of deconstruction and reformation. At the heart, it is the journey from "I" as the centre to Christ the centre.
In response, one may ask, "Where am I in this process of my life-long journey of transformation?
The process of "deconstruction" can be painstaking and nerve wrecking to the "will" but it is the call from the Lord to "deny oneself." To remain faithful and to stay focused in the Christian journey can be a trying discipline but Ser Choon has "skillfully" weaved the practice of lectio divina into the observance of Lent in the Christian calendar to "walk" the spiritual journey. Lectio divina is an "ancient way of reading and praying the Scripture" and Lent is a "time of prayer, fasting, confession and repentance, ending with rejoicing on Easter Sunday" (p. 1). The early church observed the Lent to remember the "events of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus by preparing themselves over a 40-day period ending just before Easter" (p. 1).
Ser Choon is inviting us to join him on the "Lent" pilgrimage that traditionally begins with Ash Wednesday when "ashes are applied on the foreheads, marking the start of a time of examination, reflection and meditation" (p. 1). The book is the authorís lectio for Lent based on Jesusí journey to Jerusalem to accomplish His mission, that is, "to die." The authorís purpose and emphasis is not to "talk about" the pilgrimage but to "walk the talk."
The journey consists of 41 days of scripture readings and prayer based on the Gospel according to Luke. The readings come with a few variations. From Day 1 through 17, the attention centers on reading and praying through one narrative per day from the Gospel. The focus makes a shift to spending a few days on one narrative (Days 18-21). On Sundays, the readerís concentration is directed to the Trinity, the Triune God.
The design of each devotional exercise captures the four phases of lectio, namely, "Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation." The phases are not sequential but intertwined. The clever constructing of the phases in each exercise makes it a challenge to tear them apart. Unlike other devotional daily guide that contains a bible passage and a sequence of questions to meditate on and pray about, the lectio manner of doing devotions demands more than reading and looking for answers. It encourages the reader to stay with the text, "dialogue" with the text and the "aha!" discovery of what the Lord is saying. In each of the daily readings, Ser Choon facilitates this devotional movement with an exegetical summary of the passage, writings from the early church fathers and Christian novels, personal encounters and observations and quotable quotes. The approach varies but his effective use of questions is a great help to meditation and contemplation,
Jesus knew the rhythm of work and rest. There is a time to be with and a time to be away from . . . No matter how busy we are, there always is time. We all live in Godís time. Each new day is Godís new gift of time. Within this framework of time, there must be the rhythm of work and rest (p. 3).
Is this idealistic or real? . . . Are we familiar with these tensions in our work and ministries? The early Christians struggled with these tensions as well. They called it the active and contemplative life. Even Jesus faced this tension. How did He resolve it?
For Jesus, there is indeed a time to
work and a time to rest: a time to be busy about the Fatherís
business and a time to be with the Father. For Christ, this was
normal. Should this not be the normal Christian life for us as
well? (p. 4).
Creativity enhances the layout of content that
brings out the clarity and enjoyment of using these daily readings
coupled with the sense of being present at the biblical scene. In
the passage on Luke 10:38-42 (Day 19), for example, the reading is
Silence and solitude are closely linked in this passage. Can we find places for silence and solitude in urban Singapore? It is possible! (p. 51).
The author is not a neophyte in the area of Christian spirituality and spiritual formation. He has a Master of Divinity (Singapore), a Master in Christian Studies and a Master of Theology in Spiritual Theology under Dr James Houston at Regent College (Vancouver, Canada). His ministry experiences include pastoring a church, mission mobilization, serving as Dean of Students and teaching courses on Christian Spirituality in theological institutions. Prior to full-time Christian ministry, Ser Choon was a Human Resource Development officer involved in management and motivation training. Currently, he is the Retreat Director of Trinity Life Centre and an Adjunct Faculty member at BGST.
**Chong Ser Choonís course on "Spirituality Retreat Experience: Nature, Purpose & Dynamics" will commence on Nov 8, 2006.
*His book is on sale at the BGST Library.