Relevancy of Current Events and the Liturgical Year
The current era is not lacking in crises, breaking news, conflicting news reports and confusing reports from Rome. Catholic Culture and CWNews provide accurate news reports and opinion pieces giving balance and insight with a Catholic perspective on these existing and developing issues, such as ISIS, same-sex issues, Ebola and news from the Synod.
The Liturgical Year is another section of Catholic Culture's website. Day-by-day the Catholic calendar unfolds, and occasionally I write thoughts and reflections on aspects of the Liturgical Year. Are current events and the Liturgical Year unrelated? Is "living the Liturgical Year" like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand? Is it mainly for young families and not applicable for the mature Catholic? Is it just living in the past, having nothing pertaining to the modern day Catholic?
The Liturgical Year is relevant. Today I'm sharing five reasons why the Liturgical Year is very pertinent to daily living in the modern world whatever the crisis.
1. Living In Christ, Living with Christ
God transcends time. But since we are both spiritual and physical beings, we need that physical ordering of time. The current universal standard is the Gregorian Calendar, which is a lunar/solar calendar marking days, weeks, months and years. It can be difficult to understand quite exactly what the Liturgical year means. The Liturgical Year of the Catholic Church is not just an overlay of Catholic feast days on the existing calendar, nor is it a Catholic tweaking of our existing secular calendar to baptize or "Catholicize" the year. The Liturgical Year is Christ living in His Church with the Paschal Mystery (Christ's passion, death, resurrection and ascension) as the heart and kernel of the Liturgical Year.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
1171 In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, Epiphany). They commemorate the beginning of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal mystery.
The events of the Liturgical Year are different than observing memorials, or remembering past events. Christ is alive through the Liturgical Year:
Hence, the liturgical year, devotedly fostered and accompanied by the Church, is not a cold and lifeless representation of the events of the past, or a simple and bare record of a former age. It is rather Christ Himself who is ever living in His Church (Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 65).
Because of Christ’s Incarnation and Redemption, we Christians understand time differently. As St. Paul said, "To live is Christ" (Phil 1:21) and that applies to us Catholics living day-by-day with the whole Mystical Body of Christ through the Liturgical Year. Everything is in a different light when one is aware that you are living in Christ and with Christ. Our perspectives change. We are reminded and reassured that we are not alone during these trials and crises of family, Church, and the world. Breaking news should not disturb our peace because we know that Christ is with us. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18). And it is also a reminder that this world is NOT all there is, but that we are made for our heavenly home. We are working our way to heaven, but again, not alone. We live in Christ. The Liturgical Year is the source of grace; it is Christ living in us.
2. We Learn from History
Besides the spiritual aspect of the Liturgical Year, it is also a reminder of the history of the Catholic Church as founded by Christ, and passed on through apostolic succession. Persecution, war, famine, heresy, schism, plague are just few of the battles that have attacked the Church and the world over time. The Liturgical Year gives us perspective, because it is an unchanging and repeating cycle despite all these changing external events of time. We can also examine the close-up view and see how the Church fared during these times of crises. We can see saints who fought against the heresies of the time, the blood of the martyrs spilled in almost every century that have nourished the growth of the Church, the flawed humans who made mistakes, and the extremely proud leaders who sought their own selfish aims. The Liturgical Year is marked with feasts of saints throughout the centuries from all over the world. Their lives gives us Church history Their lives illustrate how they combatted the different crises and errors and attacks, even if it might have meant death. We learn from their mistakes and successes. Most of all we learn by their example of allowing nothing to disturb their inner peace. Their faith was not shaken. Their first line of defense was turning their thoughts to God by prayer, then mortification, then physical action if necessary. Their witness is a simple lesson that modern Catholics forget.
3. We Are Not Alone
The Liturgical Year is the unfolding of our family calendar. God revealed Himself as Father to the Israelites and established His Covenant with them. Christ's redemption fulfilled that Covenant. Through Christ and our Baptism, we became adopted sons of God. We are brothers and sisters of Christ. The Divine Filiation or Divine Sonship is the center of the Gospel message. Because of this family relationship with God, our baptism connects us with all the members of the Mystical Body. All the baptized members of the Church, past, present and future are our family; we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. When the Church celebrates a feast day, we all are celebrating with whole family of God. God is our Father, Christ is our Brother; Our Lady is our Mother. The saints are our brothers and sisters. The Liturgical Year is our family calendar, full of family feast days!
Knowing that we are united through the Mystical Body of Christ means we have support whatever our current struggle may be. Family provides the closest ties, and our heavenly family will always "watch our backs." All of us here on earth, united as brothers and sisters through our baptism also pray for each other through every trial, worshiping together at the same liturgy, the same feasts, across the world.
The Liturgical Calendar transcends time, so our companions are not only Christ and His Mother, but all saints through all history. How comforting to know through any trial we will not be alone. We have the intercession of our family in Christ to aid us in any time of need.
4. A Repeating Cycle
The Liturgical Year is a deep mystery. It is not merely observance of the past, but Christ alive through the year. And the repeating cycle is not just marking one year from the next, but ever renewing and deepening. Virgil Michel explained:
…[I]t is admirably in harmony with our human nature that the liturgical cycle is repeated year after year, just as the divine sacrifice is repeated in the Church day after day. As we are unable to exhaust our capacity for the Divine in a day or a year, the Church of Christ…continues to present to us the divine means of living Christ…
It is for this reason that the recurring daily and annual cycles of the liturgy never grow old for those who enter into their participation with the understanding and love of their divine Head. Ancient as the hills, the liturgy is still ever new, it has ever a new store of the divine life to hold out to our grasp, and with the recurring years the realization of its meaning grows ever richer….(Michel, The Liturgical Year).
We aren't supposed to observe a feast or liturgical seasons as a complete task, like cramming for a test and then never looking back. It is not just some child's thing to learn and then put aside when we are older. There are riches to draw from the well of the Liturgical Year every day of every year of our lives. Drawing from those riches deepens our spiritual lives and changes our perspectives. It arms us with the tools needed to deal with current events.
5. A Pattern For Our Lives
Living the Liturgical Year is not just for kids. Following and living with Christ through the feasts and seasons gives us a pattern for our daily lives.
The ideal is to orient every element in our daily lives—prayer, study, work, play—toward the celebration of each feast or season, to allow the special light and grace and vitality of each feast and season to permeate every aspect of our lives. The word “celebrate” comes from a Latin root meaning “to frequent,” to gather in crowds. So we should gather ourselves and our lives round the Church’s feasts and fasts if we are to celebrate them fully (Mary Perkins Ryan, Beginning at Home).
The Liturgical Year is the gift of the Church as the central guide to help us live that pattern of Catholic culture. This isn't an innovative tool. Lydwine van Kersbergen in Living with the Church (originally published as Normal School of the Laity) explains that the Church's cycle was the pattern used in the past and the same one we can use today:
In the past, all of Christendom moved to the rhythm of the liturgical year; the times of work and of rest, of mourning and of public celebration, were regulated according to the cycle of the Church year. As human beings we are always in need of a pattern of living…We have Christ’s own program for the year, a pattern of variety and beauty, of sorrow and splendor, of quiet preparation and magnificent climax. We have only to rediscover and live this pattern. It should all naturally fit into our daily rhythms and our lives will be filled with spiritual wealth and wonder.
In living the Liturgical Year at every age we unite ourselves with Christ through the Mystical Body, the Church. We learn from history and realize we are not alone, but turn to our family in Christ. The repeating cycle of the Liturgical Year gives us a pattern of life -- living, feeling, thinking, praying, fasting, and feasting with the Church. The aim is to have our daily lives transformed so that elevating every aspect to the supernatural will become second nature. And that daily living of the Liturgical Year will prove to be relevant to whatever the crisis du jour.
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