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Edwin David Aponte, !Santo! Varieties of Latino/a Sprituality.

Edwin David Aponte, !Santo! Varieties of Latino/a Sprituality. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012. Pp. 193. $28.00, paper.

Nicholas E. Denysenko, The Blessing of Waters and Epiphany: The Eastern Liturgical Tradition. Burlington, VT, and Famham, Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing, 2012. Pp. 237. $99.95.

While differing significantly in content and methodology, these recent books by Aponte and Denysenko both concern themselves with the liturgical expressions of broadly defined groups of people: in the former, Latino/as, and, in the latter, those with a Byzantine liturgical patrimony. The scope of Aponte's small book is immense, as it analyzes the varying expressions of "Latino/a Spirituality," while Denysenko's is narrow and precise, confined to the rite of water blessing on Epiphany in the Eastern churches.

Through his exploration and analysis of Latino/as who identify as Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim, Aponte helps to counteract the widely held misconception that "all Hispanics are Catholic." He focuses primarily upon the great diversity of Latino/a expressions of spirituality (to which he gives the appellation "santo") and demonstrates a keen sensitivity to the diversity of ethnic and cultural heritages of Latino/as in the U.S.A. However valuable this approach may be, it leaves the reader wondering if Aponte has deconstructed the very categories upon which his book is based. Denysenko leaves no doubt about the contribution and purpose of his study. Working in the tradition of comparative liturgy established by Baumstark-Mateos-Taft, he provides a detailed investigation of the extant manuscripts in the Byzantine water-blessing rites on Epiphany, from the eighth to the sixteenth centuries, while noting the development of the analogous rites in the other Eastern liturgical families. This study will certainly remain the authority on the subject for some time and will be gladly welcomed by liturgists, Byzantinists, and Eastern Christian theologians.

Although clearly of secondary importance within the book, Denysenko also provides a theological analysis of the rite and suggests several ethical and pastoral implications of blessing water. He draws an astute connection between the liturgical sanctification of water and the moral imperative to help the approximately one billion people who lack safe drinking water. The aspects of Denysenko's work that are the most intriguing are precisely when he builds upon his analysis of the manuscript tradition and notes aspects of what could be called "popular piety" (to which !Santo! is almost entirely devoted). Two examples are the attention he gives to the cult of water beyond the rites on January 6th, such as the prevalence of healing fonts and how the water blessed at Epiphany was used throughout the year, such as for the "communion of the Epiphany waters" received by penitents barred from the eucharist in the Russian Church.

As !Santo! intentionally focuses on difference and variety, it would not serve well as an introduction to the religious expressions of Hispanics in the U.S.A.; for those already familiar with the subject, Aponte will be a beneficial voice. While most of his observations are not new and can be found with greater detail in other sources, this testimony to the great diversity of practices and spirituality will act as an instructive reminder about the various conceptions of santo among the largest minority group in the U.S.A. The last chapter of his informative work draws together his observations and provides a helpful category: "Spanglish" spirituality. Just as Spanglish, an increasingly common linguistic phenomenon, reveals the mixing of languages in often surprising ways that escape categorization, so we can consider the variety of spiritualities among Latino/as as a type of religious and cultural Spanglish.

Aponte's analysis of popular piety and Denysenko's study of a particular ecclesiastical rite both reflect in their respective methodologies the ethos of their subject matter: the former as varied and spontaneous, and the latter as ordered and relatively consistent. These are not, however, entirely disparate ways of approaching liturgy. Aponte shows us how, in the ease of Latino/as, liturgy develops and particularizes according to local customs. Denysenko reminds us that, even in spite of variation and development, people often manifest their conception of santo in recognizable liturgical families.

Jonathan Martin Ciraulo, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN
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Title Annotation:The Blessing of Waters and Epiphany: The Eastern Liturgical Tradition
Author:Ciraulo, Jonathan Martin
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2013
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