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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2009
A few months ago I signed up to review books for Thomas Nelson. It's not prestigious or anything--anyone with a blog can do it. I thought I'd enjoy it because in exchange for a review I get a free book. Nothing motivates me like free books.

This last book I read (The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister) was totally outside my paradigm. I'd heard of liturgy, but I really didn't know what it involved, what it looked like, or why people did it. After reading this book, I'm fascinated.

According to Chittister, "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."

She had me at "attune."

This book is a powerful explanation of the why of liturgy. It mines layer upon layer of meaning in even the most simple acts. Chittister won't let Christmas be about gifts or Easter about a historical event--she repeatedly emphasizes the importance of seeing Jesus' immediate presence and impending return in every commemoration of the past.

I love this book because it emphasizes the importance of living in concert with the life of Jesus, of allowing Jesus' life to inform and transform mine. I love, too, the idea of experiencing the full spectrum of life with Christ--uncontainable joy at Easter, deep sorrow on Good Friday, anticipation at Christmas, selflessness at Lent.

I like the idea of on-purpose emotion, of crafted experiences. I've often wondered if in an effort to avoid being emotion-driven (in the churches I attend regularly), we've stripped the life of Christ of much of its power. By refusing to craft emotional experiences in our worship services aren't we missing something? Anyway, that's definitely a tangent. :)

Chittister writes beautifully. Every other sentence demands a highlighter. Consider these quotes:

* "In the liturgical year we walk with Jesus through all the details of His life--and He walks with us in ours."

* "For Christians, Sundays arrive like moments out of time, bringing in their invisible mist, the sight of another way to be human."

* "We must do more than simply go through the Advent calendar; we must develop in us an Advent heart."

As good as her writing is, this tendency toward the abstract and toward sentences that stand alone as well as they do in context actually bogs down the book. You never really feel like you're hearing a story or like you're on a journey. It's more like riding the subway than riding a train--if that makes sense.

My other big beef with this book is that it's being marketed to a diverse "Christian" audience and yet the author assumes a rudimentary understanding of liturgy from her reader. Most Evangelicals have little to no familiarity with the concept. I wanted an appendix with the actual calendar or a list of feast days and their significances.

Overall, the book was not very practical. It told me why to observe the liturgy and even how on an intellectual level, but it didn't tell me how in a practical, get my hands dirty way. I don't really know what observing the Advent would look like. Would I buy gifts? Would I read certain scriptures? I definitely would have benefited from specifics.

Still, I'm so glad I read this. And, as I gear up for Christmas, I have a lot to think about.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2009
ancient practices: yes, please
My newest review in the Thomas Nelson Blogger Book Review program is by a Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister. It is called The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life and it is from "The Ancient Practices Series" which encourages Christians to draw upon the

It is not that I agree with Chittister at every detail, but that I strongly believe modern Christianity yearns for connection with the long tradition of faith and the freedom that is found in liturgy. Our church is fragmented and segregated by a pervasive pragmatism and hyperactive stimulus. We need the devotion and discipline Chittister outlines in this book.

When we participate in the practices of the liturgical year, our hearts participate in the life of Christ. We are connected more deeply with all who have heard His voice throughout the ages. A wholehearted, yearly revisiting of this cycle renews us, increases our faith and brings us face to face with the love of Christ and can make us more like him.

The framework of the liturgical year can actually bring us to the place in which we can meet Christ. Chittister gets this right. Exactly right. You will not find many specific ideas and methods, but that's not the point. If you're like me and were raised in a tradition that had little use for the richness of historical Christian faith, this book is for you. You need it, even if you don't think you do.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Having read several of the books in "The Ancient Practices Series" edited by Phyllis Tickle, I was excited to get my hands on this latest offering. "The Liturgical Year" focuses, as the title suggests, on the feasts and seasons that make up our liturgical year. Sr. Joan Chittister, a Benedictine, was an interesting choice for the author of this book in this particular series. Overall, this series has had a decidedly evangelical bent and sought to present the ancient practices from a variety of religious traditions. This offering is 100% Catholic which I am sure aggravated many readers of this series. As a Catholic myself, I was thrilled.

Sr. Joan has a mixed reputation among Catholics. Many love her. Many hate her. Some of the books she has written have made my blood boil. Others have been very insightful. This falls into the latter category. It is a well-written introduction to the reasons for our liturgical year and the benefit found in following the seasons of joy and sorrow. Each year that we repeat the process finds us in a different place, with new insights and new wisdom and new challenges to be faced. The liturgical calendar invites us to once again experience Jesus' life and glean the lessons appropriate for us at that moment. "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 main focus of the liturgical year is the Easter experience. Yet the liturgical year contains four major kinds of celebrations. The first celebration is Sunday, the weekly remembrance of the Resurrection. Second, we celebrate two major seasons - Advent, before Christmas, and Lent, before Easter. Third, the sanctorial cycle commemorates the holy lives of those that have come before. Lastly, Ordinary Time which lasts after Christmas until the start of Lent, and then again after the Easter season until Advent bears witness to the "ongoing presence of Christ in the human community today." Chittister explores each of these four celebrations, both from a historical and a spiritual perspective. She examines the importance of balancing joy and sorrow, fasting and celebration, as well as embracing the "normal" state of Ordinary Time.

She also dedicates a chapter to the Marian feasts which celebrate the Mother of God. "The feasts of Mary in the liturgical year are a virtual catalog of the works of God in humanity in the Incarnation of the divine in our midst. She is, the ancient prayer reminds us all, 'blessed among women.' She is simply a woman like ourselves whose acceptance of the will of God changed the trajectory of humanity. The implications for the rest of us are awesome. The implications for women as women are particularly impacting."

I can't imagine life without following the liturgical year. It is so much a part of who I am as a Catholic. As Chittister states in her conclusion, "The liturgical year is the experience, in the present, of the mysteries of the past and their promise that the reign of God will, someday, eventually, be fulfilled in the future. It is in the liturgical year where we come to realize that time, life, the real world, is where we encounter God. And that is the essential, the engendering, the ultimate adventure of life." I would recommend "The Liturgical Year" to anyone who wanted a better understanding of why we Catholics celebrate the year the way that we do.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2009
The Liturgical Year-the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life by Joan Chillister
I was eagerly anticipating this book, the second from Thomas Nelson Publishers for Book Review by bloggers. I have a thirst for knowledge about the church and the liturgical year because I grew up in a baptist church and only recently began incorporating practices from the churches calendar into my life. I was somewhat disappointed with this book however.

It is written by Joan Chittister who is a nun, a member of the Benedictine sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania. She is also a lecturer and has authored many award winning books. I found this book to be very textbook like and didn't find many practical ways to put into practice the liturgy she writes about. I think that was what my heart was seeking.

Advent will be here very soon. I relish the idea of waiting for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Chittister said " The real power of the liturgical year is its spiritual capacity to touch and plumb the depths of the human experience, to stir the human heart." I think the advent season is where this begins. The beauty of advent is that it is a season of JOY.

Most of us celebrate Christmas, without giving any thought to the church calendar or how it fits into it. I have been studying the names of God so I found this quote on page 83 to be especially meaningful " He is Wisdom, Adonnai, Flower of Jesse's Stem, Key of David, Radiant Dawn, God of All the Earth, Emmanuel-God with Us."

One chapter that I did learn from was Chapter 16- Asceticism. The vestments at church are not something I am familiar with. This was interesting. The idea of Lent and how you can grow spiritually is very intriguing and challenging.

This is a very easy & quick read. I wish it were a little more informative. But it has whetted my spiritual appetite to seek out more info, I guess that is a good thing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2009
How do you solve a problem like liturgy?

How do you explain to someone in the modern world the value of living a liturgical life without sounding pious?

Meet Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, Benedictine nun, international speaker, author of "The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life." and you answer both of those questions. Joan is well educated and everything but pious. She is humble and very transparent. She is able to answer those questions because she asked them herself and lived to talk about. Joan writes from the heart.

I have to admit that once I started reading The Liturgical Year, my own inadequate knowledge of real liturgy hit me square between the eyes. That was shocking to me because Missouri Synod Lutherans ARE Liturgical. Even so,I realize that I am the perfect person to review this book.

I'm not Catholic, I'm Lutheran. I'm part of a church plant and I prefer Praise and Worship to Liturgy. This book and the author's gentle and pursuasive argument for the spiritual adventures found within the full liturgical year, brought me back again and again to the same question:

Am I missing something in my worship?

Being a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, there are parts of her book that I do not understand or agree with. However, I'm giving this book 5 stars. Why? It made me hungry for more. This book resonates within my own spirit therefor, my husband and I are making the personal sacrifice of attending a High Liturgy LCMS Congregation for early service for one full Liturgical year, (we started the first weekend in Advent) so that we can learn more. My husband, the praise and worship leader at the mission start, wants to learn more as well. This extra worship service is on top of our regular church services across town. We will attend both churches for one full year.

Let the adventure begin.

I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program. If you would like more information about this program see [...]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2009
This book, authored by a Benedictine nun, aims to provide a broad and passionate overview of the Christian liturgical calendar. Within the may variations of Christianity there is a common thread of events all Christians celebrate. This book provides the meaning behind all the special day in a simple, straightforward way. Definitions and origins of holidays such as Christmas and Easter are given along with their spiritual significance.

Chittister successfully positions the liturgical calendar as a tool of spiritual discipline and exercise and not a mindless set of rites to be executed each year in some sort of empty religious duty. Being a Protestant/Evangelical for all of my life, one might expect that I shy away from a book written by a Roman Catholic on this topic. The author successfully presents the data, based on her Roman Catholic background, in a non-partisan way in order to benefit those from all Christian traditions.

I found her points regarding the orientation of the new year rather intriguing (pg. 4). Rather than celebrating the "New Year" when the ball drops on 1 Jan, the Christian more appropriately might celebrate the "New Year" with the revealing of the advent wreath. There is nothing magical here except the transformation that might occur in the individual by focusing more heavenward rather than on their civic realm. It is, as she puts it, the "...eternally spiritual dynamic" (pg 211).

Those interested in the true meaning of the liturgical year and yearning to find tools to develop a closer walk with Christ would do well by reading this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is a dangerous book.

As I read The Liturgical Year (The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life) by Joan Chittister, I was reminded of an earlier book that has now become a favorite to give to others--though always with the warning, "Don't read it until you're willing for your life to change, because you might not be able to avoid it after reading this book." So it is with The Liturgical Year.

Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun and award-winning author, sets out to explore the meaning and value of the liturgical year, beginning with Advent and climaxing in the celebration of Easter. She not only convinces, she woos. She makes the reader hungry for the benefits she extols. And she does it all with a clear and deep appreciation of the great story God tells every year through the feasts and fasts of the Church. I was a little surprised that the book didn't give more insight into the prayers and practices of the liturgical calendar. I think it would have been even more compelling (especially for readers from non-liturgical backgrounds) if the author had given the reader a sense of what the "spiraling adventure" of the church year looks like and feels like.

Still, as the pastor of a very non-liturgical church (though we all have our "liturgies," to be sure), the book made me long for the rhythms and routines she describes. If you're not careful, it will do the same for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2009
Thomas Nelson recently sent me a copy of The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Sr. Joan Chittister. I was excited to receive the next volume in the very helpful Ancient Practices Series. In The Liturgical Year, Chittister opens the reader to the beauty of the liturgical year as a spiritual formation practice. She begins with several chapters that explain how the cycles of the liturgical year form both individuals and faith communities in the fullness of the life of Christ. Through the remainder of the book Chittister walks the reader through the seasons of the liturgical year, mining the depth of meaning and spiritual formation present in each season.

I didn't grow up in a church that followed the rhythm of the liturgical calendar, but have slowly been learning the beauty of the liturgical life. Sr. Joan Chittister, though, has lived a lifetime being formed by the rhythms of the liturgical year. Reading The Liturgical Year is like having a conversation with a friend who is sharing her love for following the intentional rhythms of the Christian calendar. I am glad to have this resource on my journey into allowing the rhythms of the liturgical year to shape me in the life of the Spirit.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2010
(note: thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a review copy of this book)

I am an evangelical Protestant. I grew up attending a Southern Baptist church, and today am part of the Evangelical Covenant Church. In my earliest Christian formation, there were some hints of the liturgical year, but on the whole it was not emphasized.

I was curious, then, to learn more about the liturgical year from this book. It is written by Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, and consists largely of bite-sized (5-7 pages each) meditations on each feast and fast of the liturgical year.

I found it to be a helpful book, but it is not for everyone. If you are the kind of Protestant who is allergic to anything Catholic (yes, Marian feasts are mentioned), this book isn't for you. If you are interested in a blow-by-blow historical account of the development of the liturgical year, then this book isn't for you (though there is some discussion of the historical development behind various aspects of the liturgical year). However, if you are interested in meditating, along with Chittister, on the meaning of the liturgical year and how it can help you grow into a more faithful disciple of Christ, then this is the book for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2010
Chittister's work is written from her years of living life through the liturgical calendar. Her perspective is distinctly catholic, but presented in a manner that welcomes a protestant, like myself, to join in. She writes for the everyday person. After all, liturgy is "the work of the people," and The Liturgical Year aims to engage the everyday follower of Jesus to follow His everyday life. Chittister presents a summary view of the calendar, dedicating a few pages to each movement. Though the approach is broad, one cannot help but linger over the depth of experience in her words. Here is a glimpse into the life of one who has found an ever closer walk with Jesus through the disciple. Even the most non-liturgical reader cannot help but walk away with a desire to "taste and see" how the Lord might work through acts of remembrance. In a world that runs from one thing to the next, with little time for serious reflection, Chittister's work provides another way. The Liturgical Year is a call to probe the depths of God and not settle for quick, surface level answers. The offer is to find our ever changing life rooted in the unchanging example of Jesus' life.
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