Monday, February 08, 2010

Book review: The Liturgical Year, by Joan Chittister

Review of The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life
By Joan Chittister

As a Lutheran pastor, I was intrigued by the opportunity to read and review Joan Chittister’s book, “The Liturgical Year”. In this book, Chittister shows how the faith community is bound together through the constantly repeating cycle of the church’s liturgical calendar. And as a Lutheran pastor, I was curiously both pleased and disappointed with this book.

What Chittister does quite well in “The Liturgical Year” is condenses centuries of complex developments in the liturgical calendar into an easy to read overview. With just a few deft strokes, the historical development of say, the Christmas season, is outlined for her reader’s understanding, and yet her underlying assertion that the church year is a spiritual journey taken for our benefit consistently comes to the fore.

Chittister’s book also does an admirable job of highlighting an essential tension in the liturgical calendar; that being the question “Do we do the liturgy or does the liturgy do its work upon us?” The book strikes hard at the personal transformation that the liturgical year eventually commands. Here Chittister’s insights are keen and penetrating, her application to living the Christian life challenging.

Ultimately, though, the book reveals a fatal flaw. Chittister consistently admonishes the Christian to make “contemplation” his/her focal point. This subtly but surely drives the reader towards the notion that Jesus Christ is properly entitled “Savior” only in that He is an exemplary model to follow. There is precious little talk about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Rather than encouraging Christians to gaze upon the alien work of the cross, Chittister ultimately directs them back to their own navels.

Overall, I appreciated what the book had to offer historically. But when it comes to the book’s assertion of what stuff the Christian life is truly made of, I believe there is far, far too much “we” and not nearly enough “He.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:07 PM

    Good comments, Troy. And even historically, we are to remember Jesus especially in His sacrifice for our sins under the New Covenant. That is how HE wanted us to remember Him.
    Bob Snyder