Reading The Season: The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

Striving to maintain some inner quiet, I casually took from the shelf a book by Madeleine L’Engle. Pure serendipity.  It’s one of The Crosswicks Journals, which I’ve shoved to the back of my mind for years, albeit they’ve been my all time favorite reads.  But how apt it is to flip through The Irrational Season, the third installment of The Crosswicks Journals, at this Christmas time.  Oh what joy to discover Madeleine L’Engle all over again.

Famous for her Newbery Award winning young adult novel A Wrinkle In Time, L’Engle was a prolific writer who had 63 publications to her credits.  Her works span from young adults to adults, fiction, science fiction, memoir, journals and poetry, with non-fiction books on faith, art, family, and humanity.  Yes, I say humanity, because L’Engle’s essays depict her strive to be human, and how her faith has defined the essence in her quest.

The Irrational Season comprises L’Engle’s ruminations on the significant events in the liturgical calendar.  And of course, it is Advent and Christmas that I dwell upon for my seasonal read.  This time, my reading has stirred in me a deeper appreciation of her insight and eloquence.

Art is for me the great integrater, and I understand Christianity as I understand art.  I understand Christmas as I understand Bach’s Sleepers Awake or Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; as I understand Braque’s clowns, Blake’s poetry.  And I understand it when I am able to pray with the mind in the heart… I am joyfully able to affirm the irrationality of Christmas.

…  Christmas evoked in me that response with makes me continue to struggle to understand, with the mind in the heart, the love of God for his creation, a love which expressed itself in the Incarnation.  That tiny, helpless baby whose birth we honor contained the Power behind the universe, helpless, at the mercy of its own creation.

Cribb’d, cabined, and confined within the contours of a human infant.  The infinite defined by the finite?  The Creator of all life thirsty and abandoned?  Why would he do such a thing?  Aren’t there easier and better ways for God to redeem his fallen creatures?

And yet, in His most inscrutable, incomprehensible move, the One who called forth the universe from nothing, the Light and the Word, became flesh and drew near to us, to partake life as mortals knew it, and at the end, willingly go through an excruciating experience no mortals had ever known.  Impossible!  Utterly irrational!  And yet L’Engle embraces such an unimaginable scenario:

I live by the impossible… How dull the world would be if we limited ourselves to the possible.

And how grateful we ought to be, that such an accepting spirit pervaded in Mary’s heart and mind as well…

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d had been no room for the child.



But now is the hour
When I remember
An infant’s power
On a cold December.
Midnight is dawning
And the birth of wonder.


‘Reading The Season’ Posts over a Decade:

2020: Jack by Marilynne Robinson

2019: ‘A Hidden Life’ – A Film for the Season

2018: A Verse from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season

2017: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

2016: Silence by Shusaku Endo

2015: The Book of Ruth

2014: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

2012: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

2011: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle 

2010: A Widening Light by Luci Shaw

2009: The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

2008: The Bible and the New York Times by Fleming Rutledge 

2008: A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis


Photos: Except the book cover, all photos taken in Israel by Arti of Ripple Effects, November, 07. All Rights Reserved.

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

9 thoughts on “Reading The Season: The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle”

  1. So irrational and so hard to understand but so amazing. Your post sparked something in my spirit…thank you Arti
    Jesus, Lord at thy birth…


    I’m just so impressed with Madeleine L’Engle’s book titles. Like Two-Part Invention for a book on marriage, A Circle of Quiet for a journal… and most apt for this time of the year, The Irrational Season. Yes, and we’re all beneficiaries of such irrationality.



  2. Madeleine L’Engle has been one of my favorite authors since I was a child. I think I’ve read every one of her books, but it’s been a while since I’ve picked one up. Thanks for the reminder to do so.


    It’s amazing that you’ve read all of her books! Yes, she’s quite a creative and inspiring writer. I’m not into fantasy and science fiction, so I’ve mainly read her journals and non-fiction work on art and faith. I need to read more of her books in the coming year… just to catch up!



  3. I’ve never read any L’Engle — how silly is that! I just missed her as a kid, somehow (which is amazing given my religious background), and the time has never seemed right as an adult. Maybe some day it will?


    I know what you mean… there are just so many books out there that if I’d missed one I’d probably won’t come back for it. I haven’t read any of ME’s books for a long while and this time just stirred up in me the desire to discover her more.



  4. I just responded to your comment which included her in my blog, so I won’t repeat myself here, but I do love Madeleine. If I may be so boastful, I have a photograph of us that my husband took when she gave a talk at Wheaton College. She was so very wise, so very insightful, not only in her thoughts of family and marriage, but in matters of faith.

    Have you read The Love Letters? That is one of my favorite works of hers, of which I know no one to have read! I’d love to talk about it with you. How about The Other Side of The Sun? Madeleine redefined love for me, and I have been in awe of her since I was in seventh grade. Um, that would be about 30+ years ago. 😉


    This is really something to have read all of her works! I must admit, I’ve only read a few of her books, just love the Crosswicks Journals… isn’t it an ingenious name Two-Part Invention on marriage? I also love Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. I’m afraid I haven’t read the ones you mentioned. But the coming year will see me exploring more of ME. You’re one devoted ME reader, maybe advice on which ones you think I shouldn’t miss?

    It is sad that she passed away two years ago, if not, I’d love to have the chance to listen to her talk and yes, take a picture with her too! And oh, I’d love to hear you talk about Wheaton College as well…



  5. I could chat about this author all day, as you know – but I have relatives showing up shortly and I’d best attend to real-life matters!

    I did want to bring along a quotation which I’ve currently posted as an epigraph in my other blog – it’s related, and wonderful:

    The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything BUT his reason. ~ G.K. Chesterton

    Merry Christmas Day to you, and every good wish for twelve days of blessings!


    Yes, G.K.C. had some of the most brilliant quotes. Thanks for this one. Have a Merry Christmas, twelve days and beyond!



  6. Oh, The Crosswicks Journals are wonderful! I’ve not gotten very far in this one; you have inspired me to complete it, as you inspire so much. Thank you for that.

    Merry Christmas, Arti! Enjoy the special time with your son(they come and go so quickly, these semi-adult children of ours).


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