These days, Phyllis Zagano is surely best-known as a leading scholarly authority on the history and role of women deacons in the Church. So hers may not be the name that first comes to mind when searching for meditations to guide your Advent and Christmas seasons. Don’t let that stop you—this is a marvelous collection of reflections for these seasons.
Though a scholar, these writings are not scholarly in nature. They are thoughtful, and carefully thought through, but extremely approachable and practical. Zagano is deft at taking everyday occurrences and behaviors and applying them to the scriptural pericopes of the day. The collection is also filled with stories and vignettes from her own life, and she shares how these personal experiences helped her insight into the mysteries of faith continue to grow.
The book contains the scripture citations for all three Lectionary years of the Sundays and Solemnities, as well as the various celebrations of Christmas itself, along with the daily/weekday readings. Though the Sundays and other celebrations with other scripture choices do not have separate reflections for each Lectionary entry, I can easily see going back to these reflections year after year, and viewing them a bit differently through the different scriptural lenses the Lectionary offers. This is a testimony to the depth and breadth of Zagano’s craft.
If I were to find one shortcoming with this volume, it would be the same one that I find with all similar products: it completely ignores the psalter. While I understand that the responsorial psalm is not, officially, a “reading” and that there are multiple psalm options to be exercised, ignoring this rich and substantive scriptural offering always strikes me as an unnecessary impoverishment (a term I learned from Lucien Deiss, who guided the work on the Lectionary’s psalter).
Much more ambitious than many of the seasonal products that offer us seasonal reflections that will only take a minute or two per day, these essays are longer, yet not excessively lengthy. They fully merit the extra daily minutes spent with them. Each entry does end with a “grace” that is only one sentence in length, and would be easily remembered throughout the day.
I sincerely hope that we see future offerings of this sort from Phyllis Zagano. As her work has enriched the Church in history and ministry, so will it in matters of the spirit.