The Art of Living in Season
"What can I give him?”
Growing up in her native Provence, in southern France, Sylvie Vanhoozer learned about the traditional Provençal crèche. These nativity scenes were peopled by santons—“little saints”—each bringing their unique gifts to the baby Jesus. As her own life took her around the world, to England, Scotland, and the United States, she kept up the tradition of her native crèche in her own home, adding to it souvenirs from each new place where she found herself.
In The Art of Living in Season, Vanhoozer invites readers to join this communion of little saints and to follow them not only at Christmas but throughout the whole year. Each chapter introduces a new santon and opens up another aspect of our annual pilgrimage toward Christ. Structured as weekly reflections and illustrated with Vanhoozer's own botanical illustrations, this book invites us to follow Christ in our own places and seasons of life, beginning by keeping in step with the rhythms of nature and the church calendar.
The Art of Living in Season is a companion for everyday saints who wonder how they can follow Jesus—and what they can give him—wherever, whenever, and whoever they are.
"This wonderful book is artistic in every way. Sylvie Vanhoozer's study is a powerful reminder that we need to honor seasons in our lives, just as Scripture and the church calendar require, artfully punctuating life's significant moments. The book is deeply rooted in location, often southern France where Sylvie grew up. Thus it is incarnational in the best sense, as all good art should be. Two types of illustration permeate the book. First, the santons—figures for the crèche from Sylvie's native Provence—'saintlets' which, unlike the haloed figures of classical art, are simply local personages: the baker, the farmer, the seamstress . . . and by implication, you and me. Second, there are marvelous botanical illustrations of plants and vegetables that go with each season, such as the bell flowers for Easter or the thornbush for passion week. This book is not just to be picked up each morning but to be savored all year. As Kevin, Sylvie's husband puts it in his foreword, it is 'life changing.'"
"What then are we to do with this book so unlike any other? Shelve it all alone and give it pride of place? It is a work of art. Or might we slip it in a pocket to carry through the afternoon? Or better, allow ourselves to be carried by it through a calendar of seasons, instructed in the folkways of each one, in unexpected beauty and surprise? Might we allow this book to ask us questions, make us wonder, tell us new and ancient stories of other places, other times? And surely, if we listen, if we pay attention, we will see and learn. We will be charmed; we will be changed. For yes, this lovely book is just that fine."
"Sylvie Vanhoozer's winsome and infectious compendium is about learning in practical and endearing ways to use our imaginations and behold Jesus becoming incarnate in the seasons of our days. But more profoundly, it is about letting our lives be transposed so we become characters in the story of God in Christ. Here you will find something for body, mind, and spirit to cluster round Christ's earthy throne of grace. This book will make your soul grow."
"Sylvie Vanhoozer journeys with us as a pilgrim through the church year using the lens of the characters in a French crèche, rooted in the earthy everyday beauty of the natural world, a beauty she first learned to see during her childhood in Provence. She writes with grace, reverence, and a sense of wonder, weaving in cultural and historical background, her study of nature, and her own practice of living deeply into the rich meaning of each movement of the church year. Her accessible suggestions throughout the book serve as an invitation for all who hunger and thirst to live with intention in each sacred season of the year."
"Fine wines are grown in historically acknowledged terroirs—that French word meaning a very specific mix of soil, grade, hours of sunlight, and harnessed minerals. The distance of ten feet can be the distance between a ten-dollar wine and a thousand-dollar wine. In this book, Sylvie Vanhoozer studies the terroir of everyday life and the complex interplay of each person's history, geography, personality, and God-call. Her protagonists? The small santons of French provincial life, miniature clay figures that are brought out each Advent and who represent ordinary people (us!) on pilgrimage to the Christ child. This book is a delightful blend of memoir, nature journal, and theological reflection on a unique tradition from southern France that invites us to root our own lives in the Nativity, such that it takes on the contours of our terroir and can become fine wine."
"Opening Sylvie Vanhoozer's The Art of Living in Season is like stepping through the wardrobe on a great Narnian adventure! Everyday saints, like you and me, are invited on pilgrimage through the pages of this thoughtfully conceived, beautifully designed, and deeply moving book. Bring your gift, indeed, your very self, and follow Sylvie's story—as she invites us to journey with Christ through the Christian year. A marvelous resource for individuals, families, and congregations alike!"
"My spiritual life has long been shaped by the liturgical calendar, but this book opened a cornucopia of new insights (and delights) for me. I was utterly charmed, a smile dancing on my face as I read each chapter. The adventure starts in Vanhoozer's native Provence with its distinctive Advent traditions, and from there she artfully shows us by her felicitous language and personal example how to incorporate the wisdom of her tradition where we each live and work. Along the way she helps us taste a culinary spirituality, inhabit an earthy theology, and practice a neighborly hospitality, all the while anticipating our eternal home with God."
"Sylvie Vanhoozer weaves an exquisite telling of what it is to live in the fullness of the seasons, both of nature and the church. From her opening description to closing benediction, a luminous beauty is present in every page. This is a book I want to read and live through again and again, all the year through."
"This tender, beautiful, and entirely original book does indeed offer an art de vivre, an art of living. The age-old wisdom embedded in the traditional seasons of the Christian year is brought to new life and made available to us in new ways."
Foreword by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
Introduction: A Seed Is Planted: A Child's Christmas in Provence
Part One: Everyday Saints in the Special Seasons
1. Advent: The Art of Watchful Waiting
2. Christmas: The Art of Giving
3. Epiphany: The Art of Welcoming the Stranger
4. Candlemas: The Art of Remaining Alight
5. Lent: The Art of Self-Pruning
6. Easter: The Art of Rejoicing
7. Pentecost: The Art of Pouring Out Essential Oils
Part Two: Everyday Saints in Ordinary Time
8. On the Land: The Art of Growing in Place
9. At the Table: The Art of Providing Restauration
10. Round the Garden: The Art of Beautifying
11. In the Marketplace: The Art of Making a Living
12. With the Children: The Art of Seeing Afresh
13. Alongside the Elders: The Art of Passing Down Heirlooms
14. The Feast of Christ the King: The Art of Coming Home
Epilogue: Everyday Advent: The Art of Reengaging
Glossary of French Terms