Each and every day of the believer’s life should be lived with an understanding that God keeps a calendar. By following his calendar, we won’t waste time and energy during the course of our life, because the calendar will keep us focused on God’s will rather than our own. This week, Jeff Cavins discusses how the liturgical year helps us anchor our lives in God’s life.
Saint Paul said, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Each and every day of the believer’s life should be lived with an understanding that God keeps a calendar. By following His calendar we will not waste time and energy during the course of our life, because the calendar will keep us focused on His will rather than our own. From the beginning of salvation history to the end we see that God is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:40) and by following His lead order will be brought to our lives.
The Feasts Of Israel
Many Christians do not realize that the seven feasts which God commanded in Leviticus 23 are still observed by their Jewish neighbors. The feasts, as given to Israel, have a multi-faceted significance. First there was the seasonal aspect of each holiday, involving agricultural activities in the land; then the feasts were to be a memorial of God’s dealings with the people of Israel; and, finally, there may be prophetic symbolism. Many Christians see parallels in God’s dealings with Israel and with the Church.
The Liturgical Calendar and the Kingdom of God
The liturgical year begins with Advent and concludes on the Feast of Christ the King. From the beginning of the year to the end the focus is not only upon the life of Christ, but also upon His kingdom. Below we will highlight aspects of the kingdom in their respective season.
The Logic of the Liturgical Calendar
There is certain logic to the liturgical calendar that emphasizes the life of Christ. The various important events act as a guide in discovering other important events in the life of Christ. For example, the Annunciation falls nine months prior to the birth of Christ.
Each day is a microcosm of life as we have the opportunity to sanctify time. Each day is made holy through the liturgical celebrations and becomes the stage on which we demonstrate our trust in God and practice good stewardship.
The liturgical day runs from midnight to midnight, but the observance of Sunday and solemnities begins with the evening of the preceding day.
The Church celebrates the paschal mystery on the first day of the week, known as the Lord’s Day or Sunday. This follows a tradition handed down from the apostles and having its origin from the day of Christ’s resurrection. Thus Sunday must be ranked as the first holyday of all.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews said, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25).
“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day” (CCC 2180).
The Cycle of Readings
The Sunday lectionary (guide to liturgical readings) is a three-year cycle of three readings. The first reading usually comes from the Old Testament and parallels the theme of the Gospel reading of the day. The second reading is usually from the epistles or the book of Revelation.
The Gospel readings are arranged in such a way that they match the life of Christ to the season celebrated. There are three cycles used to gain the most comprehensive look at the life of Christ.
- Cycle A: Matthew
- Cycle B: Mark
- Cycle C: Luke
- The Gospel of John is used in all three cycles, especially during cycle A in Lent.
The lectionary is so extensive that over a three year cycle nearly the entire New Testament and the most significant portions of the Old Testament are covered.
Solemnities, Feasts and Memorials
As the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ in a yearly cycle, the Church also venerates with a particular love Mary, the Mother of God and sets before the devotion of the faithful the memory of the martyrs and other saints.
The saints of universal significance have celebrations that are obligatory throughout the entire Church. Saints are great role models as they have been successful in serving the king and continue to pray for our success (Hebrews 12:1). Other saints are left to the veneration of particular regions or religious families.
Days of Obligation
- January 1st: The Feast of Mary, the Mother of God.
- The Ascension
- August 15th: The Assumption of Mary
- November 1st: The Feast of All Saints
- December 8th: The Immaculate Conception
The Liturgical Seasons
Advent: We prepare for the coming of the King.
Advent is a time of twofold preparation: a season to prepare for Christmas which marks the first coming of Christ; and as a season when the heart and mind prepare for the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. The Church begins Advent with the evening prayer of the Sunday falling on or closest to November 30th of November and ends before evening prayer of Christmas. The Sundays of this season are named the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays of Advent.
Christmas: We celebrate the birth of the King.
Next to the yearly celebration of the paschal mystery of Easter, the Church holds most sacred the memorial of Christ’s birth. The Christmas season runs from evening prayer of Christmas until the Sunday after Epiphany or after January 6th. Christmas marks the incarnation when God became a man and for the first time God walks among us as one of us (Luke 2)..
Ordinary Time: We learn the teachings of the King &work at building the Kingdom.
Thirty-three or thirty-four weeks remain in the yearly cycle that does not celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on the Sundays, they are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects.
Ordinary Time begins on Monday after the Sunday following January 6th and continues until Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It begins again on Monday after Pentecost and ends before evening prayer of the First Sunday of Advent.
Lent: W prepare for the most important action of the King.
Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Triduum: We enter into the final week of the King’s life.
The culmination of the liturgical year is the Easter Triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ. Easter is to the liturgical year what Sunday is to the week, the zenith of celebration. This Holy Week is marked by five special days:
The Easter Season: We enter into the resurrection life of the King.
Easter Sunday: The celebration of the Resurrection of the King.
The Parish Liturgist
The role of the parish Liturgist is very important to the life of the parish. While they work behind the scenes, they quietly guide the parish community through the life of Christ. Take some time to thank your parish Liturgist, they are the ones who are working hard at keeping God’s calendar for you. Our responsibility is to respond with a humble heart.
The Fruit of the Liturgical Year: Top Ten Reasons to Follow the Liturgical Calendar
- Opportunity to cultivate conversion
- Opportunity to cultivate communion
- Opportunity to cultivate solidarity
- Opportunity to conform family life to the life of Christ
- Opportunity to be influenced by the great saints in the family of God
- Opportunity to face issues in your life that you may not face if left to your own calendar
- Opportunity to prepare for heaven
- God knows what you need when you need it
- God’s calendar brings order to our lives.
- Missing appointments with God is just downright rude.
More Great Resources from Jeff
Find free blogs, videos, and resources about Scripture and the Catholic faith at http://biblestudyforcatholics.com/.
Learn more about The Great Adventure Bible Timeline and preview any study for free.
For an easy way to transform your approach to reading Scripture, check out Jeff’s Bible Timeline Chart.
For an illustrated resource introducing God’s love story to children while helping them to understand how the Catholic Church is the body of Christ on Earth try The Great Adventure Storybook.
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