Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Book Review: Ancient Christian Devotional

I am quite the total book review machine at the moment, so thanks to IVP for a review copy of Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings (IVP: Downers Grove, Ill., 2007), general ed. Thomas C. Oden, ed. Cindy Crosby

My own rediscovery of liturgy, and my more recent appetite for the church fathers, finds perfect combination in this new IVP book. In a nutshell, '[t]his guide to prayer and reflection combines excerpts from the writings of the church fathers as found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture with a simple structure for daily or weekly reading and prayer' (backcover).

Each week has:

  • Focused readings and reflections upon a certain theme
  • an opening prayer taken from early church sources (indexed in the back)
  • scripture readings from the OT, Epistles and Gospels, in keeping with the church lectionary cycles (i.e. it is connected to cycle A of the Revised Common Lectionary)
  • a psalm of response
  • multiple reflections from the church fathers. This week's reflections (week 16), for example, are taken from Lactantius (that sounds like a disease, to me), Tertullian, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Cyril of Alexandria.
  • and a closing prayer, taken again from ancient sources

At the end of the book is a helpful biographical section, introducing the characters named throughout – a real necessity for church history numpties like me. So, on page 283 I learn that the Ambrosian is a Latin liturgical rite, not a type of rice pudding. Don't look at me like that! You know you thought the same!

For me, while it won't replace the Anglican Common Worship: Daily Prayer, I have found this devotional useful, and I turn to it now and then for more variety in my liturgical diet. All the more so as I am often starving for tradition! Plus, because its liturgical programme is not too demanding it is nonthreatening and adaptable.

You can watch a video presentation about the book, here, and read an interview with the author here.

(Note to self: On the 12th March, 2008, I wrote a review for a liturgical book focusing on the fathers. If only a seven-year younger version of me could see what I have become. 'Liturgy' and 'tradition' used to be words best spat, like cuss words: 'Get your liturgical tradition out of the way, you son of a liturgy'. How the tides change)



At 3/13/2008 1:28 AM, Anonymous Josh McManaway said...

Another great book (I hope this isn't a faux pas to suggest another book in a book review) is Mike Aquilina and Scott Hahn's, "Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians" which is a daily devotional centered around the writings of the Fathers.

At 3/13/2008 7:08 AM, Anonymous Craig Bennett said...

God has a sense of humor doesn't He?

How has your Pentecostal / Charismatic background influenced and perhaps even enhanced your understanding and liking for the more liturgical structure and how does it allow you to express your previous experience of freedom in the Spirit?

Also through your experience and growing liking for a more liturgical approach what do you think Pentecostals and Charismatics can learn from it?

P.S I noticed in some of your past posts you linked to Shane Clifton from Southern Cross College. He is one of my college lecturers and a good deep thinker.

Blessings craig b

At 3/13/2008 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can Chris and other readers please suggest some good books on the Church Fathers from an historical (rather than devotional or theological) perspective, that a secular person would enjoy reading?

At 3/13/2008 4:43 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

Litfin, Bryan M. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. Brazos Press, 2007.

At 3/13/2008 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Anon,

You might find; Fathers Of The Church: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Hubertus R. Drobner, a good place to start.

Here's the amazon link:

John McBryde

PS Thanks for the review, Chris. It looks like another one to put on the list.

At 3/13/2008 7:26 PM, Anonymous Jeremy Priest said...

You might also try R.L. Wilken's The Spirit of Early Christian Thought (Yale University Press, 2003). Wilken is one of the world's foremost patristic scholars and is past-president of the North American Patristic Society.

At 3/15/2008 7:33 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for these book recommendations, folks.
Hi Craig,

Yes, I know Shane. Say "hi" from me.

Hi Anon,
Have a look at the new Hendrickson volume, "The Apostolic Fathers and the NT" by Clayton Jefford. I have a special guest reviewer for this blog to post a review on it soon. ALso, D.H. Williams' "Evangelicals and Tradition" may be interesting for you. But, I must admit to you, Anon, I don't really know my elbow from, err, my bottom when it comes to the fathers.

At 3/16/2008 10:32 PM, Anonymous Ragamuffin said...

I'm so excited to find your blog and to find another person "starving for liturgy."

Thanks for the review. Looks like something I'd enjoy. But also, tell me where I can find Anglican Common Worship: Daily Prayer. Is this just the UK version of The Book of Common Prayer or something else?

At 3/20/2008 8:44 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Ragamuffin!

tell me where I can find Anglican Common Worship: Daily Prayer. Is this just the UK version of The Book of Common Prayer or something else?

This is quite new, a version of the office. It is online too, here

All the best to you!


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