The Listening Heart: Hymns with Biblical Reflections by Genevieve Glen, OSB. Pordand, OR OCP Publications, 2006. 168 pp. No ISBN. U.S. $20.00.
OCP has produced two previous collections of hymns by Sister Genevieve, prioress of the Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO. This volume contains 35 texts, all, as the subtide suggests, scripturally based. The poems are rich and varied, overflowing with detailed images. Sister Genevieve describes features of the natural world with a geologist's precision. She substitutes narrators for a fresh telling of a familiar story, such as the first-person account by one of the disciples who fished all night. And she fills in the gaps in the biblical record, as with a nine-stanza text about Joseph, who rates barely more than that number of verses in the Gospels.
The poetic delights in the texts alone would recommend this collection. But there is so much more. For every text the scripture references, a commentary, suggested uses and a musical setting are presented. Four pages are given to each set. First, the text appears printed as a poem, its meter and copyright data in a footnote. Opposite are listed the scripture references, commentary and suggested use. Turn the page to find the musical setting on one or two pages, the text interlined. The layout suggests the choices for using this book, as either a private or group devotional guide or as a songbook. One can experience the text either as a poem complete and distinct or as song lyrics. The two opportunities never present themselves to the eye at the same time, so the choice is valid.
The scripture references for each poem are numerous. A single image such as "wings" rates a mini-concordance. Specific citations are identified as pertinent to a particular stanza. Such an extensive list of scriptural references bespeaks the author's familiarity with biblical imagery and a fluency in transferring it to poetry. It prompts the reader to identify and explore those references and wonder: Could I find others? And so it encourages deeper search of scripture, always a good thing. …