Can you drink the cup? (by Henri Nouwen)

I've read quite a few books by Henri Nouwen, in the past three years. He was a Catholic priest who spent the last years of his life working in a community for the disabled. During his life he struggled, sometimes, with depression; he writes honestly about this, and other problems he experienced, and his writing is usually quite thought-provoking.

'Can you drink the cup?' is a short book, just over 120 pages in a small format. It basically examines the question in the title: the one which Jesus asked some of his disciples, near the end of his life. He looks at questions such as: What does it mean to 'drink the cup'? How does the imagery of drinking work as a metaphor for the Christian life?

There are three main sections to this book, which focus on three different aspects of (literally) drinking a cup, ie holding the cup, lifting it, and then finally taking a sip. With anecdotes and personal experience, and the authors own thoughts, he writes with his usual clear style and brings to life some of Jesus' teaching.

I have to admit I found it a little slow-moving, and not as obviously inspiring as some of Nouwen's other books. Perhaps I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to read it, although I did so over several days. I re-read some sections a day later, wondering if I had missed something, but I don't think I did.

Still, it felt like a book to return to in a few years, and will probably find something completely different in it when I do.

Recommended on the whole, but the new prices seem very high for such a short book; look out for it second-hand, or as part of a bigger volume that holds several of Henri Nouwen's books.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 26th May 2009

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