I’ve gone on record at not being a big fan of envisioning the Christian life through the spiritual disciplines, though I’m all for them. I just don’t think the way to approach the Christian life is through a means but through the end: to love God and to love others. The best recent book I’ve seen on the disciplines is that of Tony Jones, The Sacred Way. My son, who is a baseball guy, liked the book, and that says a lot for Tony Jones writing in a way that non-specialists and non-ministers can read it and use it.
But Sacred Way is more than a book about disciplines: it is about developing a rule of life for oneself. It has chapters on the life of contemplation and the active life, with short, readable, useful chapters on silence, sacred reading, the Jesus Prayer, icons, the daily office, using a labyrinth, stations of the cross, fasting, the sign of the cross, and sabbath.
Frankly, there’s a lot here and it has been surveyed well and made useful for anyone who cares to know about the subjects he covers. The single-most ecumenical, or what I call “purple”, dimension to the Church is spiritual formation, and this book is a genuinely purple spirituality. It reminds me of other books of late written in such a way that readers are offered insights from the whole history of the Church.
Of the books of late on the disciplines, I’d rate this book with Marjorie Thompson’s Soul Feast. There’s a pastoral sensitivity to Tony’s book that makes it especially useful — and, in fact, there are enough hints in this book to make me think that it can be used by youth leaders with younger folk to foster development of the disciplines at a younger age.
Tony, as you may know, is the National Coordinator for Emergent-US, and has taken his hits for what he thinks, for what he’d like the Church to be discussing more than it has, and for a style that is informed and sometimes (God bless him) intentionally provocative.
This book provides for the entire Church a reflective, personally-useful, and pastorally-directive manual for what needs to be involved for the person who wants to develop a spiritual rule of life.