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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Joan Chittister's THE LITURGICAL YEAR


Over the next few months I will be blogging on "The Liturgical Year: the spiralling adventure of the spiritual life" by Joan Chittister, which is part of the Ancient Practices Series.


The reason I will do this over a few months is that I hope to blog on the appropriate seasons as she deals with them, but only as they arise in the coming liturgical year.

This is a good time to lay out the liturgical year, because it starts with the first Sunday in Advent, which in 2016 is 27 November. That means that this past Sunday, 20 November, was the end of the (liturgical) year. As I said, the liturgical year starts with Advent and then moves into Christmas season, which includes Christmas Day, Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus. Then it moves into Ordinary Time One, until Lent. Lent ends with Holy Week, followed by Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Then it is Paschaltide/The Days of Pentecost which includes Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday. This is followed by Ordinary Time Two.

This book is a worthwhile addition to any preacher's library, whether 'liturgical' or not. I'm going to follow the loosest understanding of liturgical in this series, taking it to imply that you follow the Christian year according to the seasons above (of course there isn't a Christian who doesn't, but we don't all call ourselves 'liturgical')and who follows, or perhaps only occasionally refers to, the Revised Common Lectionary (for example, Christmas readings at Christmas time, Easter readings over Easter, Pentecost readings at Pentecost and so on).

In discussing each season, Chittister gives very interesting background information on each season. For example, when did the Christian church begin to celebrate Christmas; why do different large branches of the Christian church celebrate Christmas on different days; how exactly is Easter determined; why does Easter not always coincide with the Jewish Passover which was when the first Easter happened? These and many other bits of information make for wonderful additions to well-prepared sermons.

I will try and lift five or so important points from each of Chittister's excellently researched discussions on each of the seasons, my goal being to give you just enough of a taster to make you want to go out and buy this good and well priced resource.

To conclude this introduction to my review of her book, I close with some statements she makes in the first 57 pages of her book:

It is the nature of liturgical spirituality itself-the attempt to live the Jesus life over and over again all the years of our lives-that is the essence of this book.

To use the substance of the liturgical tradition is to surrender even the spiritual life to the dangers of superficiality, to drain the faith of meaning, to deprive our lives of the ongoing presence of the living God.

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 questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.

The liturgical year reminds us as the church what kind of the community we are meant to be.

The liturgical year is the arena where our life and the life of Jesus intersect.


Next in the series:
Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting.

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