One of the singular services of magazines like Commonweal are the book reviews, alerting us to worthwhile volumes we might otherwise miss. And when the reviewer is someone whom we have learned to trust, whose authority has impressed itself on us, then one pays particular heed. So, in the February 24th issue (subscribers only), I at once turned to Luke Timothy Johnson’s long review of the volumes that have already appeared of the Brazos Biblical Commentaries Series. Among the critical comments made by Johnson, this favorable appraisal caught my eye:
By far the finest entry on the New Testament, and one of the Brazos commentaries I will gladly recommend to students, is Joseph Mangina’s reading of the Book of Revelation. Displaying both historical and linguistic competence, as well as a deep familiarity with critical scholarship on this difficult composition, he writes engagingly and well, invoking with substantial nuance a wide spectrum of literary, artistic, and liturgical readings of Revelation.
Taking Johnson at his word, I purchased the volume and found it makes for wonderful Lenten meditation. Here is a portion of Mangina’s reflection on the Letter to the church at Ephesus from chapter two of Revelation:
what will save the church is Christ, whose self-giving cannot but call forth a similar response on the part of his people. Evidently, the church in Ephesus once manifested this love, but its passion has cooled, with the inevitable result that it has turned away from Christ toward other concerns. This is why it is urgent that they repent, turning back to “the love you had at first.”
The alternative to such repentance is stark: Christ threatens to remove this church’s lampstand from its place … the church’s calling is to be a shining lamp in the world, the light of Christ, and if it no longer loves him, how can it fulfill this mission?