Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Comfort of the Liturgical Seasons

In an increasingly globalized world with feverish methods of communication, overbearing work schedules, and an often times hostile culture, what a great blessing we have in the Church year to find peace and rest. The liturgical year serves as interpreter to the Church - to teach us, provide for us meaningful structure, and grant reconciliation from our Lord, Christ Jesus. The liturgical seasons encourage in us a childlike longing for our feast with Jesus where we find life eternal through our new birth in His Flesh and Blood.

The church year has gone through many adaptations throughout time and this student would be unprofitable to provide even a basic historical account. The Lutheran reformation reclaimed the truth of the Gospel yet retained the beauty of the ancient liturgy and church year. What is clear however is that there remains a wonderfully clear continuity of the centrality of the Pascha in the liturgical year, namely that of the Lord's suffering, death, and resurrection. The two main cycles, Christmas and Easter, begin with a time of preparation. It is here where our Lord cultivates in us a great anticipation and assuredness of all His promises through His Holy Word, Divine Liturgy, hymns, and psalms. The Lord makes children of us with burning and thankful hearts. Though in the midst of this expectation and yearning He comes to us continually without ceasing through His beautiful Word, setting at ease our will. Through the liturgical year we live through and confess all that Christ did and continues to graciously do for his shattered vessels.

The central subject matter in any discussion of the liturgical year must be that Christ has intervened to justify sinners, sanctify them, and bring them to everlasting life. In this way there exists no room to imagine the organization of the church year through sociological constructs for a smooth ride from one Sunday to the next. The liturgical seasons affirm the work of Jesus, serving as a catechesis so that we might keep and strengthen our faith, living day to day incarnationally as blessed saints. In this way the liturgical seasons are not sociological but purely sacramental in that they testify to the sacred mysteries of His birth, life, teaching, and voluntary death to appease the will of the Father.

Thy Kingdom therefore has come. Easter is not an isolated event - not for the disciples who witnessed the bodily ascension of Jesus nor for ourselves who attend a service on Easter Day. Christians do not have to wait for participation in the Heavenly realm. They knowingly or unknowingly kneel at the altar with saints and martyrs who joyfully intercede on their behalf before the throne of God. Easter is a present reality, an eternal celebration that all things have been accomplished in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. The eighth day when Jesus rose from the dead marks eternity - a time in which there is no time. The entire cosmos is being recreated in his name. How blessed is His church to have the liturgical seasons that He might be continually on Her lips! Through the gift and blessing of the Church year which has been graciously handed down, His bride might witness and delight in His birth, baptism, passion, and glorious resurrection.

As enlightened rationalists we scoff at the mystery at the altar where our Lord presents his body and blood. By nature, our imaginations are better set ablaze by a fiery intellectual discourse masked in the disguise of a sermon. The liturgical year however is a gift which arises out of the divine liturgy of the mass. A natural consequence of deemphasizing the heaven-Christ-reality of the Eucharist will be the subverting of the liturgical seasons, which for centuries have nurtured and comforted His dear saints.

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