December 5, 2020

Church Year Spirituality: Some Resources

By Chaplain Mike

Over this past week, many have asked about resources for understanding and keeping the Church Year. I have compiled a starter list here in three categories:

  1. Books that give an overview of the Church Year to help individuals, families, and churches grasp its basic concepts and begin participating in Church Year spirituality.
  2. Books that can aid believers in conforming their daily prayer and devotional lives to the framework of the seasons of the Church Year.
  3. Books and resources that focus specifically on the upcoming Advent season, so that we can get a good start this year.

What criteria did I use in selecting these resources? First, I am recommending books that I myself have found useful. Second, others are on my own “Wish List” because I have seen them and they look intriguing to me. Third, I am suggesting links to publishers and their catalogs of resources because I have used some of their materials (but not all) and have found them helpful. The catalogs may enable those in different seasons of life (for example, with young children) to find additional resources to meet specific needs.

Each of us is unique, so you will have your favorites, and some of mine may not resonate as deeply with you. If any in our iMonk community would like to make additional suggestions, please feel free to do so.

My best recommendation for you would be to join a faith community that practices Church Year spirituality. As I will argue in my next post, this pattern is designed to enable Christians to experience his life, death, and resurrection not only as individuals, but also together with one another in God’s family. If you are part of such a community now, you should take your first counsel from the ministers and mentors in your own tradition, for each stream of the Christian faith has its own emphases and detailed practices. Your local church or denominational publishing house may be able to guide you more specifically than I can here.


Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year, by Robert Webber

The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life – The Ancient Practices Series, by Joan Chittister

The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year, by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

The New Handbook of the Christian Year: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, by Hoyt Hickman, et al

The Services of the Christian Year (Complete Library of Christian Worship, Vol 5), Robert Webber, editor
Copies available through Amazon links to other vendors

Children’s Activities for the Christian Year, by Delia Halverson

EPISCOPAL RESOURCES: Seasons of the Church Year web catalog


DAILY PRAYER/DEVOTIONS (arranged according to the Church Year)

Treasury of Daily Prayer, by Scot A. Kinnaman

The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle
Various editions available for seasons of the year and occasions.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne

Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, by Bobby Gross

Eternal Seasons: A Spiritual Journey Through the Church’s Year, by Henri Nouwen


The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas, by Madeline L’Engle

We Light the Candles: Devotions Related to Family Use of the Advent Wreath, by Catharine Brandt

The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas, by Dean Lambert Smith

Preparing for Jesus: Meditations on the Coming of Christ, Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom, by Walter Wangerin

Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?, by Rick McKinley
Various resources for this approach to keeping Advent/Christmas are available at the Advent Conspiracy website.

I hope these resources will give us all a good start at going deeper into understanding and practicing Church Year spirituality. We will continue with more posts throughout the week to help us get ready for next Sunday, the first in Advent.


  1. I have a 1928 edition of the Common Book of Prayer. In it one can follow the church year. My present church doesn’t follow it, so I;m looking for another.

  2. Thank you so much for these posts! As one raised in a non-liturgical denomination, I have felt quite cheated in the area of ritual and tradition. I have a young family and am feeling a longing to make more meaning for our days.

    I just bought this beautiful piece of work, hand crafted by the son of one of my favorite spiritual bloggers: The Way of Light Wreath. Your resource links will give me ideas for how to craft our family liturgy. 🙂

  3. Thank you for taking the time to compile this list! It can be daunting to sort through reviews on Amazon, etc. I will recommend your list to friends who are exploring this topic for the first time, and also probably do some reading off this list myself.

  4. you might want to include some resources about the Feast of the Nativity, as it is called in the Orthodox Church. We actually start the Advent season on November 15th. I would recommend “The Winter Pascha” by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

  5. Y’know, Chaplain Mike, all you need now is some snazzy packaging and an attention-grabbing name, and you can sell this as a resource programme to all those Christian bookstores waiting for the next big thing after the Prayer of Jabez.

    Just think of the possibilities! “Dieting the Liturgical Year Way”, “Liturgical Year” inspirational posters, notepaper, calendars with mottoes, bathtowels…


    Seriously, congratulations on putting together such a good guide.

    • You are hired as my European publicist, Martha. Now get to work! : ))

      • Okay, Chaplain Mike, but first I need the snazzy job title and then we get to discussing salary and perks.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Just think of the possibilities! “Dieting the Liturgical Year Way”, “Liturgical Year” inspirational posters, notepaper, calendars with mottoes, bathtowels…

      Liturgical Year Testamints…
      Liturgical Year Christian Soap…
      Prayer of Liturgical Year Jabez…
      Nostradamus 2012 the Liturgical Year Way…
      Liturgical Year MLMs…
      Liturgical Year Hokey Pokey…

  6. Great list. I have wanted the Phyllis Tickle books for some time. The Webber and Chittister works are great!

    • We got Tickles DIvine Hours series for the seasons (3 books) and use it a lot.
      It is really quite a blessing.

      There is sometimes you just don’t have the right words when praying. Somehow in my evangelical background I picked up the idea that if it was not extemporaneous, it was contrived and not from the heart.
      So how do you pray when you have no words? Too tired, too worn out, whatever.

      I started using Tickle’s book for the evening office, the liturgy is so Christ centred that I have no problem with it whatsoever.

      It is very good. Makes a difference in our lives.

  7. Another excellent resource is ‘Christ in His Mysteries’, by Blessed Columba Marmion – a walk-through of the liturgical year, placing each feast in its Biblical context.

  8. “My best recommendation for you would be to join a faith community that practices Church Year spirituality.”

    The other option is of course to encourage it withing your own community. You don’t have to go whole hog all at once, but focus on some the key dates to start with.

    • >> You don’t have to go whole hog all at once, but focus on some the key dates to start with.<<

      I wonder if you aren't missing the point, Michael. The liturgical calendar is one thing. We can either accept it or reject it, but we can't reinvent it. Focusing on parts of it is only rejecting it.

      Besides, children of 3 or 4 years already know that Christmas and Easter are the best holidays of the year. They already focus on the exciting parts. Full-grown adults ought to be ready and able to comprehend the whole cycle.

    • you mean like Christmas and Easter? The liturgical calendar is here to stay! I grew up with the calendar, and I love it’s rhythm. My reformed friends every once in a while try to challenge me on it, But I notice they feel obligated to celebrate Christmas and Easter, I just bring that up to them Christmas isn’t really Christmas without Advent though, and Easter isn’t Easter with out Lent, nor is Lent Lent without Epiphany. So…
      I find it curious these holidays stayed on though. I mean there have been intense efforts to get rid of them in some reformed circles. In fact every once in awhile you still see churches ranting against Christmas, but the people demand it. If the church won’t celebrate it, seems society will.

  9. I was not able to pray daily in a consistent manner until I began to use “The Divine Hours”. I have all of Phyllis’ books; they enabled me to develop the habit of prayer in a way that +20 years of trying to “have devotional time” just didn’t do.

    Since at that point I had also developed Celtic “sensibilities”, I was very happy to have found the Northumbria Community’s daily prayer – online here:

    or through their prayer book, which is a very rich guide to the church year and Celtic saints as well:
    click on “Northumbria Community Resources”, then click on “Celtic Daily Prayer”

    Journeying with the Northumbria Community during my years in the Evangelical Wilderness was extremely significant for me. The whole NC “ethos” is an antidote to the problems that moved M. Spencer to begin this blog. It is a “new monastic” group, but it’s been around since the ’70s. Sane. Kind. Rooted in the ancient church, but comprised of people of different denoms actually helping one another follow Jesus, not fighting over doctrinal points or judging who’s “saved”. They haven’t had a perfect history; they grieved a rupture that ended with the departure of one of the founding couples, but are still grateful for all the good this couple contributed. Gathered as able – no “personality cult”, but with a place, a “mother house” to which people can come, if possible, given one’s own circumstances; scattered around the world, patiently and quietly practicing availability and vulnerability – a simple rule which covers every situation. I am so grateful to God for this group.

    Do check out the links – assuming the spam filter lets this comment through 🙂


  10. Hopefully the comment with my links for the Northumbria Community will get through fairly soon. In the meantime, for an overview of the Orthodox church year and the meaning surrounding each feast, this has been helpful for me:

    “The Year of Grace of the Lord: A Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church”


  11. I attend a Lutheran church which follows the church calendar, but Christian education is dominated by the same old, same old: Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Truth Project, blah, blah, blah. The church calendar, liturgy, rubrics are not integrated into discipleship. They have bought into the self-help, self-centered, therapeutic, works-oriented discipleship model. The elephant in the middle of the room is not anti-tradition or anti-rubrics but anti-gospel. The church calendar is not a bandaid for a church which is hemorrhaging from a lack of a gospel foundation. Evangelicals have got to figure out that there is not a conflict between gospel and discipleship, between justification and sanctification. Sigh. There just doesn’t seem to be an answer to this age-old problem.

    Lutherans need to understand that you can be faithful to church traditions, rubrics, calendar and confessions but still be as anti-gospel as the rest of evangelicalism. Even as I listen Rev. Fisk or Issues, etc., I just don’t think they get it. Trumpeting ones right doctrine can become easily become works-oriented, legalistic, and self-righteous. Church rubrics, rituals, administration of the sacraments tend to fence off access to grace and the gospel rather than being an aid to proclaiming the gospel. Sorry for the rant. As much as I love the Lutheran practice of the calendar and other rubrics, their inability to truly proclaim the gospel may force me to find another church for my family. At this point, I will settle for a church without a church calendar that actually proclaims and practices the gospel.

    • dumb ox, I hear you. No one is immune from the temptation to avoid the Gospel, to become self-righteous, to make idols out of even the best of theological doctrines and practices. Calvin said our hearts are idol factories, and we must constantly cry out for mercy in the face of this ingrained manufacturing process.

    • Dumb ox
      Really sorry to hear all that. i would like to think you are having an unusual experience, but suspect that you are right and it isn’t so unusual. I don’t know that I can help your church, but if you are looking for gospel centered devotions for this church year, that are Lutheran (conspicuously missing from your list chaplain Mike. By the way today I start my new part time job as a hospice chaplain, so maybe we have something in common). I recommend “To live with Christ” by Bo Giertz, half of which was translated by yours truly.