Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The poems in the collection reflect the Catholic sacramental vision, seeing signs of the eternal in ordinary life. The seven sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Confession, and Anointing of the Sick. Images from ordinary life are conferred with meaning by association with the sacraments, especially Baptism, Eucharist, and Confession. The physical act of taking a shower may suggest a rebirth; revealing sins and insecurities suggests a revitalization of faith and a personal renewal; a variety of symbolic communions suggest reaffirmation of the bond between human and divine. The book’s title and the poems suggest a vigorous self-examination at mid-life that brings a kind of closure and redirection. The situation may recall Dante’s beginning to the Inferno (c. 1320), at which point another middle-aged traveler seeks to find his place in the scheme of things:

Midway in the journey of our lifeI came to myself in a dark wood,for the straight way was lost.

Like Dante’s journey, Gioia’s brings him to realizations about self, world, and God.

Gioia’s work expresses an unusual perspective on divine mystery, which glimmers through the ordinary from time to time when least expected. The sense of possibility, which is often glimpsed in the work, is a form of rebirth....

(The entire section is 544 words.)