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Time: Tyrant or Teacher

7/4/2004 - 5:57 AM PST

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By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

As the years progress, the pattern of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar has become so much more meaningful to me. Like everything about the Catholic Christian life, it is a deep mystery and gift that is to be unpacked, over time. I hope to share some reflections in this article that have come from my own participation in the liturgical cycle and my own aging. Human beings have always marked time by significant events. The real question is not whether we will mark time, but how we will do so. What events and what messages are we proclaiming in the process of our calendaring of time?

For the Christian, time is not meant to be a tyrant, somehow ruling over us. Rather, it is to be a teacher, instructing us and presenting us with opportunity. Rather than an enemy, it is a friend. Its role and reach is a part of the redemptive loving plan of a timeless God who, in His Son, the Timeless One, actually came into time in order to transform it from within. He now gives us time as a gift and intends it to become, for all who so choose, a field of choice and a path to holiness.

Through time, the Lord offers us the privilege of discovering His plan for our own personal life pilgrimage. Through time, He invites us to participate in His plan, through His Son Jesus, to recreate the entire cosmos. Time is the road along which this loving plan of redemption proceeds. We who have been baptized into Christ are now invited to co-operate in this Divine Plan.

The Christian understanding of time as having a redemptive purpose is why Catholic Christians mark time by the great events of the faith in a Church calendar. Like so much else that is contained within the treasury of Catholic faith and life, the Church, who is, (as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council proclaimed) an “expert in humanity” helps us to redeem time and makes it even more meaningful by inviting us to follow the rhythm of the liturgical year. As we truly begin to live by the liturgical calendar we begin to experience the ever-deepening call to conversion and thereby find the deeper mystery and meaning of life.

Christians believe in a linear timeline in history. There is a beginning and an end, a fulfillment, which is, in fact, a new beginning. Time is heading somewhere. That is as true of the history of the world as it is our own personal histories. Christians, because we believe, mark time by the great events of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are always moving ahead toward His loving return.

We also mark our Christian culture with events of importance from the ongoing “family”, history of the Church. The members of that family were birthed from the wounded side of the Savior on the Cross-at Calvary’s hill. That family was sent on mission when He breathed His Spirit into them at Pentecost. We remember them, and walk with them, so that we have models and companions for the journey of life. They are that “great cloud of witnesses” the author of the letter to the Hebrews discusses. They will welcome us into eternity and help us on the daily path.

Our Catholic liturgical year follows a rhythmic cycle. It points us toward beginnings and ends and, in so doing, emphasizes an important truth that can only be grasped through faith, every end is a beginning. In our liturgical life, no sooner than we have celebrated the last Sunday of the Year, the feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, and we prepare for the birth of Savior. Our Christian faith proclaims that Jesus Christ is the “Alpha”, (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) and the “Omega” (the last letter), the beginning and the end. He is the Giver, the Governor and the fulfillment of all time.

These are profound truths concerning time and they can have ever-increasing meaning for us as we grow in the life of grace. They are meant to change us. They invite us into a deeper walk with the Lord and with one another. It is now up to us to respond to the lessons of time and the invitation of faith. Let’s reflect on two (of many) of the many lessons we can learn in the classroom of faith.

Every End is a Beginning

As we progress through liturgical time we are invited to experience the great events of faith and, through our readings and prayer, to reflect on what the Christian tradition refers to as the “last things”- death, judgment, heaven and hell. We do so in order to change, to be converted, and thus to enter more fully into the Divine plan. The Western Church year ends on the Thirty Fourth Sunday of the year, culminating with the Great Feast of Christ the King. On that marvelous Feast we celebrate the full and final triumph and return of the One through whom the entire universe was created; in whom it is being “recreated” (through His saving action); and by whom it will be ...

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