Advent is a time of preparation and there is no shortage of advice on how to be ready for Christmas. But with these suggestions for Advent reading, I want to take you down a slightly unusual path for the season.

These four books have little to do with Christmas, but everything to do with our relationship to God. These titles also have something else in common: they bring together visual art and prose to inspire deep meditation on our faith and our place in the world.

The first — In the Beginning: Illustrated Stories from the Old Testament — is a spectacular work of literary art, suitable for any coffee table. From Genesis to the Book of Daniel, it recounts 35 stories in a delightfully contemporary way, combining spirited illustrations with spare, eloquent prose. Acclaimed illustrator Serge Bloch expertly captures beloved tales, conveying extraordinary breadth of emotion and action in his seemingly simple drawings, often with a dash of humour. Poet and biblical expert Frederic Boyer re-reads these Old Testament stories for those who may not have the biblical literacy of past generations. These are universal stories of love, anger, betrayal, faith, and courage that will engage readers of all ages and faiths.

Next is a particularly Canadian choice. In Northern Light: A Canadian Prayer Book, author/photographer Les Miller captures iconic scenes from Canada’s vast and beautiful landscape, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and the Far North. With each scene, he has composed a prayer that, when used along with the photo in lectio divina, inspire prayerful reflection and communion with creation.

To help readers more thoroughly enjoy this book, Les has kindly created several videos. You can find them here:

An Introduction to Northern Light

A Visio Divina: Toronto at Night

A Visio Divina: Grace in the Land

Ways of Praying Northern Light

In a slightly different vein, Capuchin Franciscan Brother Ignatius Feaver gives us Holy Seeing: A Visual Invitation to Prayer. This slim volume combines Brother Ignatius’ elegant and spare sketchings of nature with his own spiritual reflections. For inspiration, Brother Ignatius draws on more than 50 years of spiritual journeys, having travelled around the world to conduct workshops and retreats in Franciscan spirituality.

Finally, any discussion of illustrated books has to include something for children. Amazing Friendships Between Animals and Saints is a delightful surprise. Writer Greg Kennedy, SJ teams up with artist Kerry Lyn Wilson to retell traditional stories about particular holy women and men who have had heart-warming friendships with animals. The colourful and intricate illustrations reinforce a sense of communion between all living things, as well as the richness of creation. While many of us might be familiar with the love for animals of St. Francis, readers will find a few others that will be little known.

This book also will help instill in children a greater compassion for all of creation. Teachers will find some additional free resources if they wish to create lessons on these themes, while parents can get advice to spark conversations with their children in the comfort of their own living rooms. You’ll find those downloadable resources here.

And watch out for that magpie.

Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director, Novalis

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