Making Time Matter: Living the Liturgical Year
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On Sunday, November 26, 2023, we will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of our liturgical year. Yet, for many Catholics who commemorate the Feast, it is just one more somewhat esoteric celebration which we go through every year at this time. This mistake is at least right on one count, it really is all about time. The Feast is one of many opportunities the Liturgical Church year offers to each one of us consider this creature, which is called time, receive it as a gift, and then begin to really live differently transforming it into a vehicle for our growth in the Christian life.
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Image credit: Christian Liebel
The Christian is invited into an eternal perspective - beginning in the here and now. We can begin to receive time - and its passing - as a gift from God. This can be one of the many things which make us counter-cultural in an age which is obsessed with fighting the passage of time. As the current age rushes toward self-idolatry and falls into nihilism, the number of things which make us counter-cultural is increasing. The West has abandoned its foundations in Christendom and is wandering aimlessly, like Cain, East of Eden in a new land of Nod. (Genesis 4:16)
Our choice to live the Christian Liturgical year, in a compelling, evangelistic, and inviting way, can become a profoundly important form of missionary activity in an age deluded by the barrenness of secularism. A robust, evangelically alive, and symbolically rich practice of living liturgically can invite our neighbors to examine their lives and be drawn to Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, of time. As the emptiness of a life without God fails to fulfill the longing in their own hearts, we are invited to live a missionary witness.
Catholic Christians are invited to mark time by the great events of the Christian faith by following a Liturgical calendar. However, like so much that is contained within the treasury of the Catholic Church; the practice must be understood to be fully received as a gift and then actually inform the pattern of our daily lives. In other words, to move us from piety to reality.
First, we must jump into the treasure chest of what the Church offers, find the jewels, receive them, and put them on! In other words, lets really live the Catholic faith in a changed lifestyle. Otherwise, these practices can become meaningless and seem to some to be empty show or the vestige of a bygone era. They are neither! They proclaim the very meaning of life. Jesus Christ is King, and we are the seeds of His Kingdom scattered in the garden of a world which is waiting to be born anew.
The Church is an â€˝expert in humanity", according to the insightful words of the Fathers of the last great Council of the Church, Vatican II. She walks the way of the person. The Church, as a mother and a teacher, invites us to live the rhythm of the liturgical year to help us walk into a deeper encounter with the Lord and bring the whole world with us into the â€˝new world" of the Church. That is an expression which the early Christians used when speaking and writing about the Church. That is because the Church is a â€˝new world" and is meant to become the home of the whole human race until the Kingdom of God is established with the return of Jesus Christ.
That deeper encounter, that continual invitation to grow closer to Jesus - along with all the graces truly needed to live it - is what lies at the heart of Catholic Christian faith. The Christian Faith is not Some-Thing but Some- One. The Church really IS the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ, as the Bible and the teaching of 2000 years of Church history proclaims. That Body is inseparably joined to the Head, Jesus Christ. Jesus is alive, he has been raised, and he continues His redemptive mission now through the Church, of which we are members.
As we choose to live our lives liturgically, not to just go through the motions, we can move through life in the flow of the liturgical calendar. We can experience the deeper mystery and meaning of life, now made New in Jesus Christ, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6, 7) Jesus Christ is meant to become the Lord of our whole lives, and inform the very pattern of how we really live them.
The early Christians, before they were even called Christians, were referred to as the Way. (Acts 9:2, Acts 11:26) That was because they lived a very different way of life. A Way of Life which drew men and women to the One whose name they were soon privileged to bear, Jesus the Christ. A Christian is a follower of â€˝the Christ". The Messiah, the Anointed One.
One way this can occur in our lives as Catholic Christians is by each of us choosing to move from seeing the Church year as just some kind of "Catholic custom" to seeing it as an invitation to enter into the mysteries of our faith in a manner which informs our daily life. For example, we do not really go to Church; we live in the Church and go into the world, to bring the world, through the waters of new birth, into the Church as a new home, a new family. There they will find the grace needed to begin a whole new way of living.
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. We reject the sad concept - even present in some other religious traditions - that time is a tyrant entrapping us in an endless cycle which must be broken. Rather, the Catholic Church proclaims that time is a precious commodity. In the insightful and allegorical words of St Jose Maria Escriva, the "Time is our treasure, the "money" with which to buy eternity." (Furrow #882)
Time truly matters. What we do with it truly matters. That is as true of the history of the world as it is our own personal histories. As that wonderful Saint reminded us, "A true Christian is always ready to appear before God. Because, if he is fighting to live as a man of Christ, he is ready at every moment to fulfill his duty." (Furrow, 875)
One of the searching questions we should ask ourselves at this time very year, in a blunt examination of conscience, is what are we doing with time? Do we choose to mark our passage of time by the great events of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ? We are invited to do so. Letâ€ s accept the invitation.
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