The Feasts: A Book Review

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When I first decided to join in Melanie’s homeschool Guilt-Free Learning Notes link-up, I was a bit surprised when the saints’ days of the church showed up so frequently in my notes. I hadn’t realized how much following the liturgical calendar of the church had become a central part of our homeschool’s religious education.

But, according to the authors of The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics, that’s entirely appropriate because “the feasts are the primary means by which Christians have handed on the faith.” Even before the New Testament had been finished, the worship of the early Christians consisted in celebrating the Eucharist together and remembering the mighty acts of God in the lives of the apostles and martyrs.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina have joined together to produce this theological explanation of all the major liturgical seasons and saints’ days, as well as an interesting history of the current calendar and changes to the calendar throughout church history.

Because we are human we cannot help but celebrate feasts…We do not permit ourselves to forget anniversaries. We dare not forget the birthday of that special someone in our lives.

If it is natural for us to celebrate anniversaries or pause to remember the passing of a loved one year after year, how much more should we celebrate and remember the important dates and heroes of our faith?

Grace builds upon nature, and the Catholic church has taken the Jewish tradition of observing religious feasts and fasts and transformed it into a journey through the life of Christ year after year. The Jewish feasts prefigured the celebration of the Eucharist, and our feasts today look forward to the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb.

Past, present, and future converge when we celebrate the feasts. We truly participate in events of long ago, and we anticipate the glories of the future. Yet we never leave the present moment.

This is what happens when eternity comes rushing into time, as it did when the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).

The authors begin with a short philosophical reflection on the need for feasting in the human experience (not too heady though!). After this they briefly describe the Jewish feasts and fasts that Jesus kept and how the early Christians transformed the Sabbath into the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord.

They then give a history of the calendar and describe the major liturgical seasons. If you’ve ever looked at a church calendar and wondered what the difference is between a solemnity, a feast, a memorial, and an optional memorial, this book will help you out there too.

The Feasts would be a perfect gift for a Confirmation celebration or an adult baptism. It could make a nice gift for your baby’s godparents or teenager’s sponsor too. It would be helpful in a high school religious ed or CCE class, and it would be a nice addition to any Christian family library.

With endorsements on the back from Archbishop Gomez (LA), Cardinal DiNardo (Houston!), Fr. Barron, Matthew Kelly, John Michael Talbot, and the editor of Magnificat, you really can’t go wrong.

You can read the first chapter of the book here and find information on more books Cardinal Wuerl and Mr. Aquilina have written together here.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the free copy received in exchange for this review.

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