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Dawn without darkness

Helen Gallivan, Dawn without Darkness: Biblical Companions for a Modern Journey, Veritas, Dublin, 2007.

MThis book offers its readers an attractive and fruitful convergence between personal and biblical horizons. Helen Gallivan begins with an eloquent account of the birth of her daughter just before Christmas. She links this experience with the larger journey of Advent and with a meditation on the rebirth promised by the prophet Ezechiel in his celebrated image of the dry bones finding life. The book ends with another autobiographical chapter on the death of her mother after a protracted illness. But these sombre pages find larger perspective through the Gospel figure of Simon of Cyrene, carrying the cross with or for Jesus. It was a burden that nobody would ever seek but which offered, surprisingly, a life-transforming vision. In this light Helen Gallivan too came to see her mother’s death, in spite of all the pain, as entering a “dawn without darkness” (hence the title of the book).

The other seven chapters of this book invite the reader to visit various moments of life in companionship with famous Biblical stories. Thus the experience of being in a desert finds deeper meaning through the parallel events of Abraham, Moses and Christ. Other biblical figures include Jonah, Hannah, Jacob, David and Job. In each case Helen Gallivan writes with down to earth psychological and spiritual sensitivity, seeking to connect these biblical paradigms with our everyday struggles. She carries her biblical scholarship lightly, making the ancient texts real as sources of reflection. She also enlivens her own text with the insights of other authors, ranging from Meister Eckhart to Merton, from the poetry of Rilke to that of Mary Oliver. Throughout these pages the author invites us to an honesty about our shadows and battle-zones: “if we are to mend something that is broken, we must first be able to look at the break”. But the main hope of this book is to suggest prayerful bridges between our sometimes painful adventures and the work of God as revealed in scripture.

“Only connect” was the epitaph that E. M. Forster gave to one of his novels. This book will help many people to make connections between their experiences, the biblical narrative, and the call of God in their lives.

Michael Paul Gallagher SJ

Publisher (Veritas) AmazonDawn without darkness

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