Monday, January 4, 2010

The New Year, The Old Year (The Liturgical Year)

Here we are at the new year, a great time to read a book about the liturgical year. Even if you're already part of a religious community that follows the liturgical calendar and you think you don't have anything new to learn, Joan Chittister's latest book, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life, is worth a look. And for those of you who can't comprehend the value of a church calendar that follows a different cycle than the worldly calendar, Chittister will explain, in elegant, beautiful language.

I've been a Lutheran since I was born, so even during the years when I wasn't part of a church, I always felt the liturgical year thrumming behind the surface of the "real" year. As a churchgoer, the liturgical year is one more reinforcing element to remind me that my "real" life may not be what the larger world sees. And my inner child loves the idea of having that many more holidays to celebrate.

I've even lately been regretting that Protestants lost all the feast days of the saints when we broke away from the Orthodox churches, and I'm pleased that some of us are reclaiming some of those elements. For those of you who feel that feast days and saint days are too close to paganism, Chittister will explain why they can enrich our spiritual lives.

I've always found Chittister to be readable and approachable, which is no small thing, considering all the topics she's covered. Best of all this book is fairly short, unlike many of the books of theology I'd like to read, books which are daunting due to their size and my diminished reading time and attention.

This book is part of a fine series, The Ancient Practices series. I've read several of the books in the series and enjoyed them all. In fact, the next book on my list is part of the series, Nora Gallagher's book about the Eucharist, The Sacred Meal. I couldn't resist dipping in when the book arrived, and if I can judge based on the first 34 pages, the book is excellent.

So, start the new year by reading about the old year, the liturgical year. Even if you're anti-Catholic, like some of the reviewers at Amazon, you'll likely find something to enrich your spirit. And even if you disagree with most of it, it's good to read something completely outside your realm of experience (in fact, a brain researcher, Barbara Strauch, says that's how our brains stay young, by wrestling with ideas outside our realm of experience--go here to read the article).

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