What to Expect
Slightly different than what I was expecting, Earth Filled with Heaven explores a variety of themes connected to church participation and tradition. While I was expecting a deeper dive into individual sacraments, it’s more of a general survey with examples. For instance, while there are whole chapters devoted to the Eucharist and baptism, there’s just one chapter about the church calendar. There’s a chapter about mission, based on the final prayer of the service, and the last chapter is about courage. I think my favorite chapters were five and six, which focused on “Scripture, Creeds, and Old Prayers” and “Liturgy.”
This is the fundamental issue around our view of the world: Can we see Jesus Christ in creation, around creation, and through creation? Have our imaginations been baptized like Patrick or warped like Saruman’s?p. 34
Context: Damiani contrasts the real life story of St. Patrick with the life of Tolkien’s fictional Saruman. Whereas Patrick saw the world as having been created by Jesus, Saruman saw the world as something to exploit. Damiani uses these figures to discuss the importance of a material Jesus– that is– Jesus in the flesh.
What if we inhabited our week like a cathedral instead of a prison?p. 61
Context: Damiani rightly observes that many of us are “trapped” in the pattern of the week, slogging through each day until we get to the weekend. In Christ, the author explains, we are invited into a different way of life, and traditional church rhythms help us to remember and dwell in Him, in our day to day lives.
What I Liked
My favorite parts of the book were the invitational parts: those sections that emphasized participating in Christ, through regular rhythms of prayer. This is something I learned just a little bit about when I used to attend the “Fives” chapel, at Biola University. This chapel was weekly at 5 PM on Tuesdays, and it was my first regular liturgical eperience. It was a time to draw back to Jesus, even amidst the busyness of the day/week.
I really liked that there were a few prayers, throughout the book. These, and the book itself, heightened my interest in regular daily prayers, such as in the Book of Common Prayer.
I appreciated the explanations of certain high church traditions, including crossing oneself. The author explains that church services in this tradition are meant to feel foreign, as they are a call to separate from the things of earth. At the same time, I do like that Damiani explains the origin and significance of certain elements that may not make sense to visitors. For that reason, the book does a great job doing what it set out to do: introducing Christians of different backgrounds to the sacramental life.
This is more about the content than about the writing, but there is a lot of emphasis on the “local church,” which seems, at points to be conflated with the Church, the Bride of Christ. I believe the author’s intent is ecumenical, which I appreciate, but I also feel that there is an important distinction between the two, because people can attend church and not be part of His body.
The author does do a good job of reminding readers that we are part of Jesus’ body, and that His body is very important to Him. These are important points; I just would have preferred that message not be mixed up with the idea that Jesus’s bride is the same thing as the local church.
I also was hoping the book would delve a bit more into the connections between Jewish and early church traditions, but this is, again, a matter of preference.
If you’re looking for a book that offers a personalized approach to the sacramental life, this is not the book. But I think that’s very intentional on the part of the author. Damiani places a strong emphasis on entering into church traditions — that is, participating in the things that the Bride of Christ, past and present, does. In this sense, the book is also a harkening back to the community of faith—over which Christ is head. Overall, I’m comfortable recommending the book, but with reader discretion.