I can’t remember how I stumbled across The Sacred Year by Michael Yankowski. But somehow it made it to my Goodreads list, and I bought the Kindle edition to take on a family ski trip this January.
An interesting feature of reading on a Kindle app is the “Mentioned in this book” section. I saw that before I even started reading, and it was a major clue I’d stumbled across a kindred spirit, because The Sacred Year mentions The Fellowship of the Ring, A Walk in the Woods, On Writing, Love Does, Bird by Bird, and Celebration of Discipline.
For some reason I dislike the parts of book reviews that summarize the book. I know, I know, that’s a major part of an “official” book review, but I usually skip ahead to the personal commentary. Amazon can give me the summary; what I want to hear is how the book impacted the reader. So I won’t try to write a synopsis of Michael Yankowski’s book or distill his main points. If any of the books mentioned above resonate with you, The Sacred Year certainly deserves its place alongside them.
As a Tolkien fan, I have sometimes wished Christian faith felt more like the quest of The Fellowship. I’ve longed for a path to follow, even a dark and dangerous one. I’ve longed for boon companions, wizened old advisers, and places of astonishing peace and beauty. Finding those things amid contemporary American Christianity … I’d almost stopped looking. I was going through the exercises of faith without wonder, without gratitude, sometimes without even paying attention.
So was Michael Yankowski. But he had the added baggage of being a popular Christian writer and speaker whose job was to fly around the country being fired up for God. What he discovers through the course of The Sacred Year are the ancient rhythms of faith, including things that seems antithetical to modern Christianity: spiritual direction, fasting, silence, and the blessed invitation to rest.
But there I go trying to summarize. Perhaps most importantly, The Sacred Year reminded me there’s another path to follow, one overshadowed by our expectations of ourselves and what faith should look like. It’s an invitation to bake bread as a spiritual practice and to allow ourselves one day where we don’t even try to be productive. (Much harder than I anticipated!) It’s an invitation to fast, not to coerce God into answering a prayer, but because when was the last time you were actually hungry?
I’ve probably been hungry for a long time, wondering why my rushed Wonder-bread spiritual practices weren’t working. The life described in The Sacred Year is homemade bread: slow and seemingly impractical but both far more nourishing and far more delightful.