14 July 2011

What do you think of when you hear the word "liturgy?"

I know all faiths, all denominations, all churches have their own liturgy, but growing up in a Bible church, it is not a word with which I've been very familiar. But first, I'd best define liturgy. When I refer to liturgy, I'm thinking of any one of several specific and official church services, rites, ceremonies, prayers, or sacraments performed as a part of the local and universal church... as opposed to private devotions. Some liturgical practices (observing a day of rest, tithing or giving a predetermined portion of income earned back to God, participating in Communion, fasting, fixed intervals or times to pray, even making a pilgrimmage) I've either practiced regularly or irregularly myself. Others, I would love to do some time, some day. But the title of this book caught my eye simply because I'd never heard of the "liturgical year." Recently, I've heard from several different directions the idea that missionaries working with people groups across North and many parts of W. Africa say liturgically oriented worship and discipleship could likely be more effective... so I was curious to read the book.

I must say that although I've been disappointed with the book, I have also been challenged. My disappointment stems from the fact that an initial, straightforward overlook answering the question, "What is the liturgical year?" was missing. Thus, I still feel as though I only have a very vague comprehension of what the author refers to when she writes, "liturgical year." On the other hand, my appreciation for liturgical traditions that "tell a story," or that have levels of meaning for worshippers to unpeal over the years has deepened.

Lastly, and no doubt about it, the author is gifted with words and writes some beautiful, toe-stomping and challenging things...
"The more self-centered we become, the less we have to make us happy.... We have made ourselves the love of our lives and found little to adore at the altar of our egos. We have made ourselves gods and have forgotten God in the process."
"Natural time requires us to think of ourselves as moving from energy to decay... years of diminshment. Liturgical time enables us to see ourselves moving from spirtual emptiness to spiritual fulfillment, from less of one dimension of life to more of another deeper, more meaningful kind of life... rais[ing] our sights above the dailiness of life to the essence of life."
"On Christmas morning we find the manger full of life; on Easter morning we find the tomb empty of death. We know the whole truth now: deathis not the end, and life as we know it is only the beginning of Life. There is no suffering from which we cannot rise if we live a life centered in esus. It is the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning that says to us, 'You go and tell the others. Now!' (Matt 28:10, paraphrase)."
"We are the people of the Passion, yes, but that is neither all we are nor what we are principally. We are an Alleluia people. We are the people of the Lamb, indeed. We are also followers of the Light that shines beyond the grave."

"Hope, you see, is a slippery thing, often confused with certainty, seldom understood as the spiritual discipline that makes us certain of only one thing: in the end, whatever happens will be resolved only by doing the will of God, however much we attempt to wrench it to our own ends..."

Thus, while I was disappointed on several levels with this book, there is much I felt I had to plow through to get to the gemstones that were there, I would still recommend The Liturgical Year, by Joan Chittister to anyone who loves words beautifully used, to anyone looking to have their understanding of how liturgy and tradition can deeply enhance one's spiritual walk, and certainly, to anyone wishing to be confronted with some very challenging and scriptural truths.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Book Sneeze as a part of their Book Review Blogger 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 244: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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