The Eastern Christian liturgical tradition of Lent has long included the chanting of the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120–134) as “entrance songs” of not only the special penance service known as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, but also of the season of repentance. Ruckhaus’ commentary in As Though We Were Dreaming provides theological insight and exegetical breadth to this group of Psalms. Even more so, Ruckhaus drives the reader to engage the Songs of Ascents and participate in the descent and ascent of meaningful and life-changing repentance.
The commentary here does more than just compare the struggle of the ancient Jews reflected in the Songs of Ascents with that of the early Christian community and our own experience. Ruckhaus insists on a “gutteral connection” between the anxiety and hope of reconstituting the people of God after the disaster of the exile and that of the passion of Jesus. “The gospel story is already genetically encoded in the story of Israel.”
The liturgical incorporation of the Songs of Ascents in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts “grounds” the Church’s participation in the Great Story. We don’t borrow the ancient psalms of the Jews’ struggle to reconstitute a kingdom of God; we share in that struggle.
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For anyone interested in the overcoming of conventional dichotomies in theology, Ruckhaus’ book is essential reading. With a ‘Brueggemanesque’ postmodern approach, the author refreshingly brings together liturgy and economic justice, critical scholarship and personal experience, Israelite religion and Christian worship, and literary analysis and theological vision. Ruckhaus’ interpretation of the Byzantine Lenten ‘psalms of ascent’ is rooted in both the concreteness of human experience and openness to the real presence of the Other other.
—The Rev’d Chrysostom Frank, professor, St. John Vianney Seminary; pastor, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, Denver, CO
Keith Ruckhaus is a writer and editor in Littleton, Colorado. He studied at Denver Seminary, and later received his ThM and PhD in Old Testament from the University of South Africa. Ruckhaus is an active member of the SS Cyril and Methodius Russian Byzantine Catholic community in Denver, Colorado, and the author of When God Stops Working.