Book Review – The Liturgical Year
The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister
This is part of the Ancient Practices Series by Thomas Nelson.
The Liturgical Year is about explaining the church calendar and what different holy days or periods are about. This was a pleasant read for me because I have been very curious about the church calendar. Chittister does not look at the Jewish calendar, which was a disappointment for me, but she does walk you through the Christian calendar as practiced by the Catholic church and others.
I had to grind through the first eight chapters but the remaining ones were a pleasant read. The first eight try to paint of picture of what the calendar is and how it interacts with life. I found it difficult and burdensome to read at times. I am glad I did not stop before I got to chapter 9.
The church calendar begins at Advent. The earliest mention of Advent was 490. But it is the time when we focus on anticipating the Messiah. The Jews lived in great anticipation of the promise of the Messiah. Advent celebrates the first coming of Jesus and anticipates the second coming. The point is not the baby Jesus but the risen Savior who will return and usher in eternity.
After Advent we enter into the period called ordinary time. This will last until Lent. It is during this time that the church will begin to contemplate the events of Christmas and prepare for Lent.
Lent is the period of 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is a period of time that Christians were to abstain from something. The purpose of this is to intentionally do without something to train ourselves to look for something more. It is when we give up something good in order to remember what is better. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. This is a special time to remember our sins and ask God to forgive us. The ash is a symbol or morning in sackcloth and ashes. Critttister outlines the reading and teaching during each of these times. You should read the book for these. It is very insightful and made me think about how I could incorporate the main points into my teaching.
The last half of the book focuses on holy week. Palm Sunday begins with the celebration of Jesus coming into Jerusalem as the crowds praised and celebrated him. It is here that we remember there are some things worth living for and some things worth dying for as well. As we begin this week we remember the reason we suffer in this life.
Good Friday is on Passover. It is then that the Jews would have picked out the Passover lamb to slaughter as they remembered God’s grace in saving them from Egypt. This is the day that Jesus was picked by God to be slaughter so the death angel could forever pass over us. Traditionally people have fasted during this time, some even doing a complete fast, to remind help us center our mind on the emptiness and void without Jesus.
Easter Sunday is a day of celebration and is the center of the church calendar. Christmas shows us a manger full of life and Easter a tomb empty of death. Easter reminds us that in the end all things will be made new.
Pentecost is 50 days after Easter. It is during this time that we contemplate the time from Advent to Easter and develop an awareness of who God is and what he is doing while we also come to see who we are meant to be in Christ. After Pentecost we enter the period of Ordinary Time. This will last between now and Advent. There are four minor feast days in the Catholic calendar between this time. This time is overall a time of reflection, wonder, and anticipation of what is to come in this life but more importantly the next.
The main thing I will take away from the calendar is the emphasis on anticipating the return of Christ. The calendar constantly points to this reality. I give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.