My hands have held thousands of books over the course of my lifetime. I like the feel of them and the gentle turning of pages. It matches the rhythm of reading. There is a red indentation on my right index finger from holding a pen so firmly as I write thousands of reviews. This scar is a mark of my devotion to literature and to the quest for meaning. At the end of the day, my hands hang easily at my sides, eager to rest a while before the start of another day.
These thoughts about my hands were prompted by Jon Sweeney's fluid and fine book charting 21 practices of embodied prayer from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism. The author is Associate Publisher of SkyLight Paths Publishing. He challenges us: "Imagine the many emotions your hands already express: They can invite or beckon, repel or reject, hide or reveal, console or protect; they can embrace. When we pray with our hands we are enfleshing the sacred not just talking to God, or focusing our minds. In our hands, prayer becomes visible."
In tandem with clear and crisp photographs by Jennifer J. Wilson, Sweeney shows us hands lighting Sabbath candles, using a rosary, receiving Holy Communion, making the sign of the cross, passing the peace, washing feet, making an altar, praying with icons, and much more. The text is spiced with scintillating quotations from Rumi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Gandhi, John O'Donohue, and others. As Hafiz notes: "There is an astonishing vastness / of movement and life / emanating sound and light / from my folded hands." Yes, and after completing this exquisite devotional work you will want to put your hands to divine work.