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Book Review: Celebrating the Seasons, Daily Spiritual Readings for the Christian Year by Robert Atwell

by Peter Menkin  
1/20/2009 / Book Reviews

For daily readings, you will find few better books

There is a holiness about this book of readings, "Celebrating the Seasons: Daily Spiritual Readings for the Christian Year." I bought my copy at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in 2000. Here are some of my writings
about that event, and I call it an event since the book has meaning to me:

"January 11, 2000. I visited Grace Cathedral Gift Shop and bought this since the 12 days of Christmas are over. I was going to get a new pew copy of The Book of Common Prayer. I ducked into the Cathedral--while waiting for a friend--this turned out well...God loves a sinner and seeks the lost sheep and the lamb."

You can see I was in a spiritual state of mind, and discovered that the readings enhance my sense of the liturgical year. So the compiler and editors intended. The publisher is Canturbury Press in England that the compiler is an Anglican priest working in the Diocese of London named Robert Atwell. He has a Benedictine bent, and that tells you something of the nature of these selections.

They will move the reader, and inspire. So it is, for here is a word or two from the introduction about the book's intent: "Beginning afresh each year on Advent Sunday, the Church has crafted a rhythm of prayer and worship that continues to shape much of Christian life and thought." The readings aid in that exercise and manner of life. This short quote from Ephrem of Syria on Christmas, since as I write this we are celebrating the Christmas season.

"At this feast of the nativity
let each person wreathe the door of his heart
so that the Holy Spirit may delight in that door,
enter in and take up residence there;
then by the Spirit we will be made holy."

Here are some of the titles to these short, daily readings in the Christmas season. They give an idea of the kind of readings offered in this keeper and daily book of meditation and thoughts: "A Reading from a sermon of Augustine;" "A Reading from a letter of Athanasius of Alexandria;" for today, January 4, "A Reading from a sermon o Bernard of Clairvaux;" "A Reading from the 'Catechetical Orations' of Gregory of Nyssa;" "A Reading from 'The Light of Christ' by Evelyn Underhill." There are many more, a kind of religious education of their own to be read again the following year. This excellent compilation (and I am sure you will agree should you purchase and use the book) is useful year after year.

You may think some of the things said obvious, but really they are necessary things to say such as this from The Epiphany date, "A Reading from a sermon of Peter Chrysologos, Bishop of Ravenna." "In the mystery of our Lord's incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal Godhead. Yet the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body." You'll like the story, too, as a prospect for such a book as this.

There are words about loving God, who is "...O Lord adorable an loveable..." There are words about opening one's heart to God through the psalms, "...receive Christ, unlock your soul to him, offer him a welcome in your mind..." There are words about Christs offering and bringing to the world love that reconciles and transcends, "...never stops wor4king to bring it back into being through love, inviting it back by grace..." I find the opportunity in this review to find more Epiphany statements, but you get the idea. These are food for thought, food for meditation.

The words by the spiritual and religious writers are good words, and those inclined to matters of the Christian faith and spirit will find some direction for the seasons, like this from Lent as part of "A Reading from 'Holy Living' by Jeremy Taylor." "God is especially present in the consciences of all persons, good and bad, by way of testimony and judgement..." These are easier to understand than one would think, and just the right length for daily reading and thought.

Notes in the back of the book give the page number for selections, their reference under each category of season. For those who will want to study the book more, or search out readings by particular figures, there is a listing of people (John Donne, Gertrude of Helfta, George Herbert, and of course many others) with the pages numbers where they can be found. There is other material at the back of the book, interesting also and probably something a reader will want to look at if only for curiousities sake.

There is a companion to this title, compiled by the same man. For those who like this title, take a look at it. "Celebrating the Saints: Devotional Readings for Saints' Days." The two books together make a set, and having them for daily reading makes for a full measure of meditation.

This reviewer recommends the title "Celebrating the Seasons" because it is food for thought, with many excerpts of inspirational and spiritual value for the Christian. The book itself is easy to use, and contains a variety of religious writers throughout the Church seasons of the year. A helpful title when keeping the rhythms of the Church year, this is a handsome edition for someone's library and daily use.

--Peter Menkin, Christmas

Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.

Copyright Peter Menkin

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