Inwardly Digest

A wonderful introduction to liturgical spirituality! This is a topic that needs addressing regularly and in every generation, and in this book, Derek Olsen has done a very fine job of it. From the cover blurb:

Creating a vibrant spiritual life requires us to acknowledge the state we are in now needs to be transformed by God, through God, and toward God – and we have a role in the process. Daily spiritual practice takes discipline, and we often wonder where to start and how to keep it from feeling like yet another task on our to-do list. In this grounded, practical book, author Derek Olsen uses The Book of Common Prayer for a template to a deeper spiritual life. Explaining the purpose and intention of The Book of Common Prayer, and offering fresh insight, Olsen simplifies its services into practical application for daily living.

Olsen is an American Episcopalian and so the specific references in Inwardly Digest refer to The Episocpal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), but the principles, history, and ideas he outlines are easily portable to any Anglican tradition of structured, regular, liturgical prayer.

Equal parts history, theology, instruction, and plain good advice, Inwardly Digest gives an overview of why people choose to live a liturgical spirituality, using the accessible analogy of a fitness routine. If one expects to stay spiritually “in shape” then some degree of spiritual discipline is going to be required around diet and exericse. Olsen walks the reader through what this looks like in the tradition of the BCP.

Readers are given a good discussion of general principles of spiritual practice and discipline before they are handed an outline of how the liturgical calendars work, and the place and usages of daily offices and the Eucharist. Olsen does an excellent job of pointing out controversial theological topics (When do the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ?) without getting stuck into the debate himself.

This book is a good read and full of excellent advice and information. Would that there were such a recent book for Canadian Anglicans, speaking to their particular traditions. Inwardly Digest would make an excellent study for a Christian education group, as part of an adult catechism program, or in an introductory course on liturgical spirituality.

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