Monday, April 14, 2008

Unwrapping Liturgical Time

I've been pondering why living in Liturgical Time feels like such a blessed addition to my life, and I think it's partly because, in order to appreciate the way things are, we have to understand the way they have been. Following the Liturgical calendar unfolds the story of salvation throughout the year, so there are times when we 'live' an event that has came and gone long ago--the annunciation, the birth of Christ, his passion, his resurrection. All Christians celebrate the resurrection, since it is central to being Christian and is the reality we live, but I haven't seen a universal value as strong as the Catholic one on celebrating the events leading up to the resurrection. One could ask, why would I drag myself through the muck, so to speak, of focusing on the agony of Jesus' death, when he has triumphed over death (his, and ours) once and for all? Some are offended at the re-creation of Christ's paschal sacrifice during the Mass. It may seem morbid, distasteful, or just altogether too solemn for Christians to celebrate every week, who are supposed to be, overall, joyful people.

But there is something about participating weekly in Christ's sacrifice that keeps the central act Christ has done for us close to the heart, and I think living Liturgical Time has the same effect. We are reminded of all Christ has done..."the kingdom of God enters into our time." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1168). I have found that as a Catholic, I feel more joyful on Easter Sunday because I have spent Lent in mourning. There has been physical solemness in my life as I have tried to be more spiritually disciplined, penitential, and focused on imitating Christ's total surrender long ago. Reliving the way things were facilitates a true celebration of the way things are when Easter finally comes. Furthermore, I am enabled to celebrate an entire Easter season rather than one single day because I find I enjoy the fruits of my Lenten penance especially during Easter season since they are so fresh. I have grown closer to God, and have more reason to actually be able to think of myself as living an Easter season.

In addition, Liturgical time mirrors reality, anticipating the future as well as looking to the past. By living a well-rounded year of spiritual seasons, we are reminded that the nature of life is always thus--full of ups and downs. For each individual, the final chapters of our own salvation stories have not been written. Who knows what the future holds for each of us--while we can have confidence that we will be with Christ and his Church victorious in heaven when we die, we have no way of knowing what pain and trials we will have to endure in order to get there. We are told to be imitators of Christ, granted on a mini-scale since we are not offering life to others from within us. But we are all called to take up our cross, the die to ourselves, and ultimately to physically die and rise again in Christ. There is no comfort zone we can relax in as Christians, expecting to have an easy life of happy blessings continuously raining down from heaven --our life is simply not our own. Liturgical time helps keep the tendency to believe this isn't so at bay, just because each month is not our own. We are following the Church calendar, and when it says to fast, we fast, despite any inconvenience that may come from conflicts with our personal life (within reason).

I was reading about the Liturgy of the Hours in the Catechism, and came across this passage describing its purpose, which I think also applies to the Liturgical Calendar, "This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to "pray constantly," is "so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God." (CCC 1174). We have a Catholic calendar on the wall next to the computer, and I am often struck by how different it feels to have a calendar full of religious dates, and to pencil in Holy Days of obligation on our other calendar. It's still very novel to me, religious time overlapping with dentist appointments and play dates. It's a really good thing, this mingling of holy time with the everyday. I'm glad I discovered it.


liturgy said...

Cool thoughts
I'm working at improving my LoH section on my site "Liturgy"
I hope you'll visit & maybe link.
Let me know if you would like a link back.

jogger mom said...

looks like your site is packed with good stuff, I've been looking for an easily accessible online Lit of Hours, I'll be back...

liturgy said...

Yes there are several different ways of praying the Liturgy of the Hours available at "Liturgy"
including at least two different podcasts.