Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Review of the Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister

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The Liturgical Year is an excellent book for those of us who want to know a little bit more about the church year, and what it means for our lives. The book is part of the Ancient Practices Series put together by Thomas Nelson on the Spiritual Disciplines. The book begins by making a case for the use of the Christian Calendar in spiritual formation, and then carefully explains each part of the church year. Interspersed in between the different seasons of the church year are explanations of how different parts of the church year help form different virtues in our character.

I enjoyed reading this book. At first I was anxious about reading The Liturgical Year because I had seen the author on television, and thought she appeared somewhat angry and dour. The book could not be more different. It exudes joy and passion.

Overall, I thought the book balanced intellectual rigor and clear explanation with a very readable treatment of the Christian year. I particularly enjoyed how Chittister integrated "Sunday" into the Christian year. In the "Sunday" section she advocated that each Sunday was infact a use of time (the day of the week) for spiritual formation. Also, by introducing Sunday morning as the foundation of the church year, Ms. Chittister was able to focus all of our liturgy and the liturgical year toward the death and resurrection of Christ. I also enjoyed her discussion about how the Christian year forms us in Christian character, and is not just empty ritual.

As a Protestant, I struggled with the sections that were more Catholic in nature. These included the feast days, the sanctorial cycle, and the marian celebrations. Some of these parts I simply skipped over. Other parts I simply chalked up to cross-denominational education.

Overall the book is well done, and would be especially helpful to Christian ministers and worship leaders.

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