“Why a liturgical calendar?”
Sisters and Brothers,
The first Sunday in December this year is the first Lord’s Day in Advent which marks the start of another liturgical year. The year begins with Advent, then Christmas or Nativity, next Epiphany with ordinary time following, into Lent with its focus on the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. After this comes the Festival of the Resurrection and the season commonly referred to as Easter, to be followed by Pentecost and the ordinary time after Pentecost.
True, not all Christians mark the liturgical year in this way. In fact, there are a few who are downright opposed to it, including some who point out that there were pagan festivals marking periods such as Christmas and Easter before the Church christened these festivals and made them its own.
So why do we bother? What is the purpose behind the observance of different seasons with the passage of time?
It is meant to recognise the hand of God at work in human history, as time passes. We walk with God who has become known to us through divine action in human situation. Ours is not a remote God who is unaffected by or disinterested in human affairs. This is God, who in Exodus 3: 7-8 said to Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them …”
So we observe the passage of time remembering the wondrous acts of God- creating, guiding, healing, miraculously providing, chiding, directing, giving, forgiving, delivering, restoring, transforming, saving. In me, we have a record of salvation history and what better way to celebrate this than to remember those special events in which God intervened in human affairs bringing life in the midst of death and ever reminding us: “I am with you always even to the close of the age.”
Faith in God brought a radically different approach to reckoning or understanding time.
The wise world in which the chosen people lived was a world dominated by Greek thought. Wisdom was their gift to human thinking. But with it there was an understanding of time as circular, going round in circles. For the Greek world, there was nothing new to expect. Whatever happened had happened before and should be expected to happen again.
The difference with the Lord in the picture is that God is always doing a new thing- Revelation 21: 5 “See, I am making all things new.”
The Christian understanding of time is that it is linear, moving forward towards an end- a goal in Christ. Like Paul, we press on toward the mark of the prize of our high calling in Christ. There is an inheritance that awaits us. Time is heading towards fulfilment. Christians speak of the end of time.
We look forward to that inheritance unfailing, imperishable, kept in heaven to be revealed at the end. We wait with eager anticipation for the fulfilment of time. Because we believe that the God who acted on our behalf in the past, can and will act again.
During this hope-filled season of Advent, we look expectantly to God’s future for us. Our faith in God’s continuing action towards fulfilment of our redemption helps us to affirm “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
Yours in God’s Service
Joan Delsol Meade