A journey of the soul through the map of Christian time.
The liturgical year, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent and carrying through the following November, is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ.
What may at first seem to be simply an arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days, or liturgical seasons, this book explains their essential relationship to one another and their ongoing meaning to us today. It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective, from the viewpoint of those who set out not only to follow Jesus but to live and think as Jesus did.
And it proposes to help us to year after year immerse ourselves into the sense and substance of the Christian life until, eventually, we become what we say we arefollowers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. It is an adventure in human growth; it is an exercise in spiritual ripening.
A volume in the eight book classic series, The Ancient Practices, with a foreword by Phyllis Tickle, General Editor.
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About the Author
Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, is a Benedictine nun and an international lecturer. In her more than 50 years as a nun she has authored 40 books, including her most recent, the critically acclaimed The Gift of Years. Sister Joan is the founder and current executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality that located in Erie, PA.
Read an Excerpt
The Liturgical Year
By Joan Chittister
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Joan Chittister
All rights reserved.
THE SPIRALING ADVENTURE OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Life is made up of the turning of the years. We watch our lives go by, a phase, a stage, a year at a time, and we mark the meaning of the year by the way we feel as we spend it. We talk about "the kind of year it's been." As if one year could possibly repeat another, as if all the parts of the year were cut from the same fabric, all its days derived from the same root or developed in the same ways. Instead, every year is a distinct growth point in life, the shedding of another shell of life. Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us. Yet, however much we recognize their separate comings and goings, we, too, often neglect to be prepared for their equally unique effects on our development.
More than that, so often we fail to realize that any given year can be many years in one—the year he got married, the year she graduated from college, the year the child died—each facet of it a separate and discrete reality in itself. No doubt about it: as life inches on, the truth of the spiritual uniqueness of every year becomes more and more apparent. There is no such thing as a universal year, a simple rendering of a common block of time. There are actually a good many ways, not only one, by which to define the years of our lives. So many, in fact, that it's important that we take pains not to confuse one kind of year with another.
Every different kind of year demands different strengths of us, provides different kinds of gifts for us, enables different kinds of sensibilities in us. To confuse one kind of year with another, then, is to assume that they are all equally valuable or that we can possibly achieve all the things we need in life—material or spiritual—in any single one of them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The years of our lives come in more flavors than any single year can possibly encompass. There are, in fact, a good many kinds of years by which we shape our work, our family life, our very selves. To fail to distinguish one kind of year from another is to risk skewing the way we look at life. The way we define our years determines what we think our lives are meant to be about and how we will live because of it. There are fiscal years and school years, planting periods and harvesting periods, calendar years and business years. There are years to mark every stage of life—childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, and old age—and all of those periods are unlike the periods before it. The question is, what kind of year means the most to us spiritually? What in the spiritual life is there to enable us to live all of the other years well, to their fullness, to the elastic limits of our growing souls?
I began writing this book on New Year's Day, the first day of the amount of time it will take for the earth to revolve around the sun again. But the fact that I began to write about the meaning and character of the Christian year on the day the civic year began was a matter of pure coincidence. Ironically enough, the fact that it was the beginning of another calendar year had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter of this book.
I am writing about the Christian year, the liturgical year, the year that puts in relief the full array of Christian mysteries and spiritual cycles for all to see. But unlike the civic year, the Christian year does not begin on January 1. The church year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which normally begins in late November. The point is clear: many periods of time shape us, and most of them do not begin or end at the same time.
This book, then, does not concentrate simply on what it means to grow older as one year succeeds another. This book is about growing wiser, growing holier, growing more embedded in the essentials of life as the years go by rather than simply moving from one time of life to the next. The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.
The truth is, then, that as Christians, January 1 isn't really our "new year" at all. It is not the beginning of the "new year" of our soul's search for wholeness. Instead, January 1 is simply the day that makes it possible for the secular world to mark centuries, to keep track of its earthly ways, to coordinate itself with the ways of the rest of the world, to begin again its cycle of civic events.
Other than that, the Christian year and the civic year go wafting by each other, often unaware, sometimes completely distinct in their measures of value and their indications of what is really important in life and what is not. To be a Christian is to see the deep-down difference between the two. And to celebrate that.
The civic new year is clearly only one of many "years" we all live, for one reason or another, with one emphasis or another, every year of our lives. Depending on who we are and what we do, we can live fiscal years and family years, school years and retirement years, apprentice years and professional years, one after another or even simultaneously, as our lives go by. All of them, though different, say something to us about what's determining in life, what's formative in life, what's meaningful to us in the here and now of life.
The civic new year is, at best, a calendrical device designed to regulate the daily affairs of a people. It enables people to count time together—three weeks until we leave for the next trip, for instance; or to plot future engagements, such as the date on which we will close the deal on the new house, to mark the weekend of the next meeting, or to calculate the time when we can all expect snow again. The civic new year as we know it is a purely solar event, a chart of the planet's journey around the sun. But it is not, except in the most private and personal of ways, the story of the rest of us, the narrative of our spiritual lives. That story begins and ends and begins again annually with the journey of the soul through the liturgical year, the year that marks the major moments in Christian spirituality and so points our own lives in the same direction.
The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until, eventually, we become what we say we are—followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.
It wasn't always that for me. For long years, the liturgical life as I learned it was simply a round of fast days and feast days, arranged by who-knew-whom for the sake of who-knew-what. Some of them delighted me, all of them fascinated me, but few of them had much to say to me in those early days about the purpose of my life. I'm older now; I know better now. I know now that it is possible to grow physically older by the day but, at the same time, stay spiritually juvenile, if our lives are not directed by a schema far beyond the march of our planet around the sun.
Like the rings on a tree, the cycles of Christian feasts are meant to mark the levels of our spiritual growth from one stage to another in the process of human growth. They add layer after layer to the meaning of life, to the sense of what it entails to live beyond the immediate and into the significant dimensions of human existence. The seasons and feasts, the fasts and solemnities, if we are open and alert to them, lead us deeper and deeper into the self, beyond the pull of the present, higher and higher into the One who beckons us on through time to that moment when we will dissolve into God, set free from time to become one with the universe.
The secret lies in coming to understand the Christian year so that it might work its cosmic dimensions of what it means to be alive right into the fiber of our daily lives.
This book sets out to open what may at first seem to be an arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days or liturgical seasons to their essential relationship to one another and their ongoing meaning to us. It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective, from the viewpoint of those who set out not only to follow Jesus but to live as Jesus lived, to think as Jesus thought, to become what Jesus had become by the end of His life.
It is the presentation of the Christian mysteries and their eternal place in life, both in His life and ours as well. It is a book about the journey of the soul through the map of Christian time.
This book will not only explore the major seasons and feasts of the church as they developed in the past but will consider their place in our own spiritual development in the present.
This book is not merely about the past. It is not limited to past events in the life of Christ or historical problems in the lives of ancient saints. It is also about what it takes to live a spiritual life now that is as rich and as meaningful in this day and age as it was for those who preceded us in all the eons of the Christian tradition.
We follow Jesus, we say. But what does that mean? How do we know if that's really true or not? And in what way does such a thing as "the church year" provide both an insight into what it means to follow Christ and the support to do that?
This book is about the role of the church year in bringing each of us to a fuller understanding of the Christian life—and, most of all, it is about explaining precisely what it means to live a Christian life.CHAPTER 2
A LIVING MODEL, A REAL LIFE
Some years ago, commentators reported with a kind of muted disbelief that a U.S. governor had ordered a prisoner on death row removed from terminal treatment at a local hospital and returned on a gurney to the state prison in order to execute him on the appointed date. No flexibility, no mercy, no more physical care. In the same vein, British immigration officers years later removed Ama Sumani, a thirty-nine-year-old mother of two whose visa had lapsed, from treatment in a London hospital in order to deport her to Ghana. In Ghana, the same kind of dialysis was not available at any price. In both cases, the death sentence was clear and cold. At the same time, the spiritual question was equally direct: though legal, was either action really, authentically, truly Christian? What is the spiritual answer to such situations? And how does the Christian decide? Does mercy ever trump law?
If the liturgical year is understood as it is supposed to be—the church's proclamation, lodestar, and participation in the life of Christ—then it is, at very least, the place a Christian can go to begin to determine the answers to questions such as these. Pope Pius XI, ardent thinker and author of thirty encyclicals between 1922 and 1939, called the liturgical year "the principal organ of the ordinary magisterium of the church." The language may seem foreign to many of us now, but the ideas are not. In other words, the liturgical year is one of the teaching dimensions of the church. It is a lesson in life.
From the liturgy we learn both the faith and Scripture, both our ideals and our spiritual tradition. The cycle of Christian mysteries is wise teacher, clear model, and recurring and constant reminder of the Christ-life in our midst. Simply by being itself over and over again, simply by putting before our eyes and filtering into our hearts the living presence of the Jesus who walked from Galilee to Jerusalem doing good, it teaches us to do the same. As Jesus lived, despite either the restrictions or the regulations of His age, so, the liturgical year teaches us, must we.
In the liturgy, then, is the standard of what it means to live a Christian life both as the church and as individuals. The seasons and cycles and solemnities put before us in the liturgical year are more than representations of time past; they are an unending sign—a veritable sacrament of life. It is through them that the Christ-life becomes present in our own lives in the here and now.
It is in the liturgy that we meet the Jesus of history and come to understand the Christ of faith who is with us still.
The point is, at one level, a rather shocking one. Can the spiritual life possibly be that simple? And yet the point becomes even less ambiguous as the years go by: the liturgical year, we come to realize, is the cry of the centuries to every new age neither to forget nor to forsake the vision of the first Christian age or the challenges of this one. It is, in fact, the life of Jesus that really guides the church through time. It is the life of Jesus that judges the conduct of the time. It is the life of Jesus that is the standard of the souls who call themselves Christian in every age, however seductive the errors of the age itself.
In every age, the liturgical year exists to immerse its world in the current as well as the eternal meanings of the Christian life.
Then, after years of repeating the messages of the feasts and probing their meanings for our own lives, we come to a point where we look back over the decades and realize that little by little the slow drip, drip, drip of the Christian ideal has insinuated itself into the deepest parts of our psyches. We, who squirmed through Lent as children and stood only half aware through long Easter readings as young adults, who wore Ash Wednesday's ashes with equal parts of pride and embarrassment as adult sophisticates, become conscious as the years go by of the tendrils of hope and desire, of commitment and conviction such practices have rooted in our hearts. We come to know ourselves to be more than simply an empty self. We come to know ourselves to be Christian.
As the self dissolves into Christ, we come to see ourselves as one people together and, at the same time, distinct persons who have developed clear and common attitudes toward the rest of life. We come to realize that we have gained this perspective almost unconsciously from the life of the just and compassionate Jesus, who slipped quietly into our minds in the course of the relentless repetition of the liturgical year. Now we know why we are bothered by the sight of a man carried from a hospital given to saving lives to a prison dedicated to extinguishing them. We come to understand why we turned away uncomfortable from a television interview with a helpless woman who would soon be taken off dialysis to die in her impoverished country of origin because her visa had run out in the one that had the resources to save her.
The liturgical year is the process of slow, sure immersion in the life of Christ that, in the end, claims us, too, as heralds of that life ourselves.
The continuing proclamation of the Scriptures, the centrality of the Gospels as the foundation of every liturgy, and the ongoing reflection on those readings in homilies year after year do two things: one of them communal, the other personal.
Excerpted from The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister. Copyright © 2009 Joan Chittister. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Note to the Reader, xv,
1. The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life, 1,
2. A Living Model, a Real Life, 9,
3. The Year That Gives Meaning to Every Other Year, 15,
4. The Components of the Liturgical Year, 23,
5. Sunday, 32,
6. Human Time, Liturgical Time, 39,
7. The Place of Worship in Human Life, 44,
8. Calendars, 49,
9. Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting, 58,
10. The Voice of Advent, 63,
11. Joy: The Essence of It All, 70,
12. Christmas: The Coming of the Light, 76,
13. The Christmas Season: Stars to Steer By, 84,
14. Christmastide: The Fullness of the Time, 89,
15. Ordinary Time I: The Wisdom of Enoughness, 95,
16. Asceticism, 100,
17. Lent: A Symphony in Three Parts, 108,
18. Ash Wednesday and the Voices of Lent, 114,
19. Suffering, 123,
20. Holy Week I: Hope to Match the Suffering, 129,
21. Holy Week II: Faith Tested to the End, 134,
22. Holy Thursday, 141,
23. Good Friday, 147,
24. Holy Saturday: The Loss That Is Gain, 152,
25. Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday, 158,
26. Celebration, 165,
27. Paschaltide: The Days of Pentecost, 170,
28. Fidelity, 177,
29. Ordinary Time II: The Wisdom of Routine, 182,
30. Models and Heroes, 189,
31. The Sanctoral Cycle, 195,
32. Marian Feasts, 201,
33. Epilogue, 209,
Study Guide, 213,
About the Author, 231,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Being a student at Asbury has been really enlightening to me in the way of learning about other denominations, particularly Methodism. One thing I have noticed about students at Asbury is their appreciation of the liturgical year. The liturgial year begins with Advent, moves to Christmastide, then some Ordinary Time, Lent, Eastertide, Pentecost, and then more Ordinary Time. With each season there is a different thing to focus on, and much in the way of spiritual contemplation and formation that goes with it. For some reason this has really resonated with me, so when The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister became an option on booksneeze (Thomas Nelson's book review program), I jumped at it. Although the book started out slow and slightly redundant, when Chittister moved into discussing the parts of the Liturgical year, their histories, and the spiritual themes that went along with them, I couldn't put the book down. I actually learned a lot of new things- things that will hopefully help our family to better start some intentional, life-giving traditions as it relates to holidays (Jake and I were waiting until after this book was read to start discussing/brainstorming on what that could look like). Anyway, Chittister does a good job of succinctly explaining the feasts, and helps the reader to understand that the reason for us celebrating these days and weeks is not to impress anyone or to work at some holiness. Instead, it's about pressing into the life of Jesus, learning to think as He thinks and live as He lived. There is a beautiful paragraph on page 179 of the book that I want to leave you with: Liturgical spirituality is about learning to live an ordinary life extraordinarily well. Fidelity to the liturgical life is the cement that keeps us grounded in Jesus, no matter what other elements of life emerge to seduce us as the years go by. It gives us the sense of balance we need to choose between spurious and things sacred. By its very unremitting regularity, it dins the Word of God into our very souls until we can finally hear it. Then, alive in that Word, we find ourselves becoming what we seek. It is fidelity that keeps us on the road when we would most like to simply sit down in the dust and let the world pass us by. Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers, I received this book free to review! Thanks so much, TN!
Just in time for the Advent season I have wrapped up The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister. This book was a little bit of challenge for me because I don't come from a tradition that follows any type of liturgy. Nor do we follow any "church calendar." So thinking about the flow of the year in connection with the life of Christ is new to me. Coming in as an outsider there were some terms that I wish had been better defined, but they are probably quite elementary for those whose traditions follow the liturgical year. There are many great challenges within this short book which is part of the Ancient Practices Series. One of the first, and most powerful to me is this, "The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life." Isn't that what we are searching for, how to make our lives meaningful? I would highly recommend The Liturgical Year for the reader who wants a deeper look into the experience of someone who has followed the liturgical calendar for a number of years. Sister Joan Chittister is a gifted communicator who brings this Christian practice to life. It has certain challenged me to rethink the way I spend the Sabbath, special days in the life of Christ, and time in general.
"The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life" takes the reader on a journey through one year of the liturgical calendar. The book briefly talks about the basics of liturgical life. The adventure starts with Advent and takes the reader step by step through each pinnacle of the Christian year, including Christmas and Easter. It also speaks of ordinary time and Marian feasts. Nothing is left out and it gives a glorious full picture of the joys of the Christian year, and why each day is special in its own way. I am a weekly church goer, and I have tried to understand the various parts of the year, but could never quite grasp the meaning of certain periods of the year. This book opened my eyes to the beauty behind the purpose and reason for each day. I also was pleased that this book was not overly technical with the theology. It was written for the layman. Joan Chittister wants us to understand and appreciate our faith and the gifts it offers. I think she was successful with this book.
The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister is a simple, yet comprehensive guide to the Liturgical Year. As a layperson, I had an easy time reading and understanding the doctrinal and historical content. I was expecting it to be dry and boring, but it wasn't. I highly recommend all Christians, regardless of denomination, take a moment to understand the rich history and perspective one can gain from the Liturgical Year. *This book was given to me for free from Booksneeze in exchange for a book review. My opinions are mine alone.*
This is so far the easiest book to understand in the Ancient Practice Series. It describes, and in depth explains all the Christian dates on the calendar, similar to the Sabbath book, but explains reasoning for different Christian bases, such as Catholics, Judisim, ect. I recommend this book to those who are wanting to further their understanding on the "behind the scenes" of calling yourself a Christian, and who are wanting to learn and understand the meaning behind the holidays, not necessarily where they orignated from, but why they're there & I suppose how to "properly" celebrate them. Its a book worth reviewing, or sending as a gift to a friend or family who is interested in this.
"The Liturgical Year" by Joan Chittister is a lyrical book that delves into the deep spirituality of the Christian liturgical year. What is the "liturgical year"? It is the church year, marked by special days such as Christmas and Easter, and seasons such as Advent and Lent. Chittister, a Benedictine nun, outlines the deeper meaning of the various seasons and feasts, and provides some historical context and whys for these special times on the Christian calendar. I was drawn to this book because I wanted to learn more about the liturgical tradition - I grew up in it, being raised Episcopalian, but I really didn't have as much of a grasp on the meanings of the various seasons as I should have. OK, I got Easter and Christmas. But what's "Pentecost" all about? What's the deeper meaning behind Lent other than you give something up for 40 days? (OK, I knew this has something to do with Jesus's trial in the desert, but I still wanted to know more.) You can learn a lot about the liturgical year by reading this book; Chittister is extremely knowledgeable and has a firm grasp of not just the metaphorical underpinnings, but the history behind the church calendar. I also found it interesting to hear an argument by a Catholic nun that it is not so important what actual date Jesus was born on - that it was the "event" that was important. (Chittister is aware that the date of Christmas is quite arbitrary, and even points to the different dates among the various church branches - negating the argument by some atheists that Christians are blithely unaware of the origins of the Christmas holiday.) With all this, the book suffers perhaps by one thing - it is so well-written and so scholarly, that it does not back up for those who maybe didn't go to Catholic Sunday school and may not know the basics about the various church holidays. I was personally hoping the book would break it down for me and give me the elementary school version...and having an outline of the actual calendar would have helped. But otherwise, this is a beautiful book and should be something that Christians of all denominations read just to get a sense of the history and beauty of the liturgical year. ------------------------------------------------------- Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Brilliant! Inspiring! Joan Chittister is a spiritual giant and a gifted communicator. If you are interested in learning more about how the annual celebrations of the liturgical calendar can help you grow in your faith and live in a more Christlike way, then get a copy of this book. It receives my highest recommendation. I am so grateful that the publisher of this book provided me with a free copy for my unbiased review.
The Liturgical Year is a collection of devotional thoughts centered around the annual liturgy followed by the church throughout millennia. It is an attempt to draw believers back to the year that begins at Advent rather than the first of January.While I found some of the historical work on the origin of the various festivals interesting, this book was just too aimless to engage me. On the small scale, I found myself rereading paragraphs and pages because I couldn¿t remember or figure out just what she was trying to say. On a larger scale, even the table of contents lacked structure! I expected more internal logic from a book that is based around festivals on a calendar. This certainly cannot be used as a reference work.That said, Chittister¿s style of writing is beautiful at times. She brings a poetic flair to her prose that makes for great call-out boxes in the text. In the end, though, lack of substance overwhelmed the beauty of her style.Of all the Thomas Nelson books I¿ve reviewed, this was the one I anticipated the most and appreciated the least.Disclaimer: I received this book as a member of Thomas Nelson¿s Book Review Blogger program.
I am preparing to be a deacon in the Catholic Church. This year, while taking the class Christian Spirituality, I had the opportunity to read two of Joan’s books. She is by far one of my favorite writers in Catholicism and everything that have to do with our faith. She has the charisma and her words speak the truth with the love of God. Once I start reading I can’t stop. She connects you like no other. God Bless her! This book is a must have and a must read if you want to live The Liturgy to the highest level.
I have put off writing this review for the past couple of weeks. I really tried to like this book but could not get into the book. It is crazy because the topic is something that I was very interested in. I wanted to learn about the Liturgical year, but the writing was rough and geared for an older reader. I believe it was just me and would challenge someone to take a chance, but it is filled with very dry writing and is written from a scholarly point of view, and not from a regular persons point of view. I thought the authors could have hit a home run if they brought the Liturgical year from history and made it come alive to a new generation that desires to see more in the traditions of the church. Outside of that this book falls very short to the potential of what it could have been. It does go through the year, but I believe is written for an older reader and you will need to bring to the table and very large base of knowledge to grow through this book. You can purchase the book Here: Barnes and Noble
The Liturgical Year is a part of the 8 book "The Ancient Practices Series" from Thomas Nelson. It is also now the second one I have read in this series, and I must say that I enjoyed this a good bit more than the other(Fasting by Douglas Leblanc). I believe this may mainly be due to the topics, however. This one definitely lends more towards Chittister's style of writing from what I've heard quoted before(this was actually the first book of hers that I've read, though). In The Liturgical Year, Chittister takes us through a year in the church calendar. Through this time we get different reflections of these periods as well as some history on the origin of these celebrations. I would have wished for more of the latter, but am still very appreciative of her different reflections on these times. Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun and prolific author, so it really is a treat to get her thoughts on these times for both of these reasons. Life in the monastery has a very different approach to time than the rest of the world, so these special days within the Christian calendar have a poignancy that most of us often miss. Our days often do not change that much on these days of remembrance, yet after reading through this it definitely seems as if it should. Our lives are often so involved that we fail to really slow down and ponder our remarkable history and the moments that are worth remembering. I'm not sure what my next steps will be in response to this, but I will certainly attempt to be more intentional in trying to understand and orient myself to the year. Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life as a part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program.
"The purpose of the liturgical year is to bring to life in us and around us, little by little, one layer of insight after another until we grow to full stature in the spiritual life." pg. 21 The Liturgical Year, what is it? What are its components? In her book, Sister Joan Chittister lays out the year beginning with Advent and continuing through Lent, Easter, and more, explaining the importance of each to the Christian walk. The chapters are short, making it easy to make time to pick up the book and read one at a time - creating something to meditate upon. With each explanation, the reader is drawn to the truths that lead to a fuller, deeper Christian walk. I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to using it as a study text to accompany my Bible. While I have been in church all my life and have many study books, it is nice to have the liturgical year put together within easy reach. This book is a great resource not only for personal devotional study, but for group study as well. I received this book as part of the Book Sneeze program, and thank them for the opportunity to review it.
"The Liturgical Year" is part of the Ancient Practices series (see my friend Beth's recommendation about another Ancient Practices book here), and is a terrific addition to it. Whether you are looking for an informative read to learn more about the purpose of the Christian Liturgy, or desiring a devotional study, this book fits the bill. Chittister, a Benedictine Nun, is an excellent writer with a strong understanding of the historical aspects of the church year. However, she also writes thoughtfully, answering questions the reader might be asking about "How does this all apply to me?" The book begins by providing a brief historical account of different world calendars and how the liturgical calendar fits in, emphasizing the importance of the cyclical nature of the liturgical year and explaining the components of the year itself (e.g. Sunday/Sabbath, Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter). Soon she delves into detail about the different elements, spending more time on the more important events in the Christian year, such as Advent/Christmastide and Lent/Easter. Each event is explained from a historical perspective and a devotional perspective. While sometimes the text is somewhat wordy, and there are weird "quotes" throughout the pages that are highlighted - but are essentially what you just read in the paragraph, the book is insightful and enjoyable.The chapters are relatively short and if you read one per day, you would finish the book in just over a month of devotional readings. For me, the first half of the book was especially powerful and poignant. The chapter on Advent is entitled "Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting" and it was interesting that I ended up reading it actually during Advent. This meant that God had my attention because every sermon was about waiting and hope, and so was this chapter. She says, "the year opens with Advent, the season that teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious.It trains us to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored" (p. 59). In this chapter she argues that learning to wait expectantly and patiently is a key element to spiritual maturity. As I was reminded of the stories of Simeon and Anna during this Advent season, I realized that in order to be more spiritually mature, I must also learn to wait in hopefulness and watchfulness for what God has for me. Later, in the chapter on Ordinary Time (which happens twice, first between Epiphany and Lent, and then between Easter and Advent), she teaches about the problem of self-indulgence and the wisdom in asceticism (or withholding from the self certain pleasures). I was reminded how important it is to train my body to submit to my mind and spirit. All in all, its a great read and I give it 4.5 Thomas Kincaide calendars out of 5. It may be a little cerebral for some people, but if you are willing to go with her down the road, it is both informative and completely emotionally engaging.