With the recent growing interest in Evangelical circles of liturgical practices from the larger Christian church (as evidenced, for example, by the Nelson’s Ancient Practices series of which this volume is part or the publication of Tyndale’s Mosaic NLT Bible), Sister Joan Chittister’s book The Liturgical Year provides an excellent introduction to the history, practice, and significance of the Christian liturgical year. As she points out early on in this work, “The liturgical year is one of the teaching dimensions of the church. It is a lesson in life.” With this understanding in mind, she proceeds to discuss the development through history of the liturgical calendar and how its observance can be used as a teaching tool to challenge us to increasingly model our lives on the life and walk of Christ.
After exploring these preliminary items, Sr. Chittister takes the bulk of her book to look in some detail at each of the major seasons and holidays in the liturgical year–all of which, of course, center on the primary celebration of Christianity, Easter. More than just describing the historical facts surrounding each church season or feast, Sr. Chittister continually challenges us, by God’s grace, to be truly changed by our annual journey through the life of Christ–transformed through our worship that our lives might more clearly mirror our Savior’s. Two chapters at the end of the book on saints and Marian devotion will meet with resistance from those of us in Protestantism. While I certainly do not agree with Roman Catholic theology on these points, I did find the discussion helpful if only to better understand the teaching of the church in these areas.
In sum, for those unfamiliar with the liturgical calendar, The Liturgical Year will provide a welcome introduction to its riches. For those whose observance of the church calendar may have devolved into mere rote, this book can provide a re-energizing and necessary Christocentric focus to our worship.
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