The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister (The Ancient Practices Series)

I am reposting this 2009 review because the Kindle Editionn is on sale for $1.99
I grew up as a low church baptist.  We didn’t pay attention to the liturgical year, we didn’t use the Lectionary.  I have absorbed some things about the church year through my time at Wheaton College and seminary.  Some friends have paid more attention to the liturgical year and my wife and I have paid attention to Lent on and off since we went to Israel for Easter in 2001.  But this book was a good formal introduction to not only what the liturgical year is, but why it is.  The author describes it this way:

“The church year is not the marking of one lucelent, passing moment in the midst of eleven long months of dark nothingness all the rest of the year. It is month after month, every year of our lives, being taken back to the empty cross and the empty tomb, one way or another, in order to shape our own life in the light of them.” (From the 1st chapter.)

The author is a catholic nun, and writes using the Roman Catholic system as her primary focus.  She also talks about some of the differences between Eastern and Western calendars and where the differences arose.  It is not technical, fairly conversational and quite understandable to an outsider.  It was a quick read, I read it is in two evenings.

Even before reading this book I have been wondering how to incorporate some these ideas into my life.  On any given Sunday more than half of the Christian world is following a liturgical calendar.  It is one way to feel a part of the larger church.  This is one reason that I like to participate in communion (and think we should do it more often.)

I go to a contemporary church (read very large).  I love my church but there is no way that it is going to take on a traditional liturgical year.  We have our own of liturgical year (the Sunday we talk about church vision, the Sunday we talk about being a volunteer, the Sunday we talk about getting into small groups, the Christmas serves the community season).  But the church will not be changing its format anytime soon to pay more attention to the liturgical year.  It probably is at the small group level that some of these ideas can be added.

There were a couple of annoying book issues. One is the bold on-page quotes. I just don’t like quotes from a book highlighted when it is already on the page. I don’t read to look for the highlighted section, I am reading the book. And to highlight a quote, away from where the quote actually is on the page is distracting and annoying. There was also a couple places where I am just not sure the right word was chosen. It feels like a bad spell check. There was one place that described Jesus after the resurrection and it used the word “Translucent”. I am pretty sure what they meant was “Transcendent”. Jesus wasn’t transparent when he was resurrected, he was a whole, physical body. The theology of the book does not suggest Jesus was a ghost, so that word choice just seems like a mistake.

Overall I would recommend the book.  It is part of a series of books trying to rediscover some of the Ancient Practices of the Church.  All but one of the books are now out.  I ordered one on Prayer and will probably get Scot McKnight’s book on Fasting.

This book was provided free as part of the Thomas Nelson Blogger program.

The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister (The Ancient Practices Series) Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition

Reviewed from the same series

          Sabbath: The Ancient Practice Series by Dan Allender        

          Tithing by Douglas LeBlanc: The Ancient Practice Series        

          In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson – a book about fixed hour prayer    

          Fasting by Scot McKnight            


Thanks for the review of this book, Adam. I’ve read Scot McKnight’s book on fasting and thought it was an excellent approach to the topic. I had considered reading this book, but probably will not do so after reading your review, simply for the fact that it doesn’t sound too ground-breaking.

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Adam Shields’ Reviews of Books on Prayer : Phil's BlogsFebruary 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

[…] that I have read.  Two previous books, The Sacred Meal (my review) and The Liturgical Year (my review) were provided free through the Thomas Nelson Blogger Review Program (now called BookSneeze for […]

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