Year after Year

YOLO. You only live once: the motto of our hurried culture. There’s only one chance: one chance to do this thing, to understand this lesson, to see this scene, to meet this person. If you don’t take this opportunity, you’ve lost it. Grab the chance.

My first year in church time I lived this hurried grasping. I loved Advent, but I couldn’t absorb it before Christmas rushed in. Then there was Lent, so full of blessing. I never wanted it to end–how could I hold on to all this blessing?–yet I was curious and ready for Holy Week. But who can capture Holy Week? Who can experience and remember and do it all? Easter was barely over before I was longing for next Holy Week. Could we just skip Ordinary Time?

As I entered my second church year, the Lord calmed my frantic grasping.

When we teach children the liturgical year we do not teach them a series of events. Instead, we show them a great circle, a clock of sorts. There’s no beginning, no end. The seasons come in order, over and over and over again. Here, in this cycle of seasons, the Church lives Holy Time. And here, in this cycle of seasons, I merge my life with the life of Church and enter the abundance of Holy Time.

I still love each liturgical season. The anticipation of Advent, the quiet joy of Christmas and Epiphany, the opening grace of Lent, the intense journey of Holy Week, the uproarious joy of Easter, the cluster of Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sundays, the long growth of Ordinary time, the exclamation point of All Saints’–I love them all. But more than each season, I now love the rhythm, the cycle.

The liturgical year is Holy Time, outside the swirl and demands of the world’s time. When I enter it, I step out of our broken, hurried world and into the Kingdom of God. Here I live with hands wide open to the gifts of each season. And, as each season passes, I gladly enter the next, knowing the passing season will return again. Gone is the desperate grasping. Gone also is the sense that I determine my spiritual life.

Holy Time, with its feasts and fasts and ordinary times, rarely correlates with my present experiences. Instead, as I deliberately engage in the feast or fast, I’m drawn into the experience of Church. By living the liturgical year, I practice the truth that I am not alone, that I am a member of Holy Church. Together, as we enter the rhythms of the liturgical year, we proclaim Christ’s reign in this world. In Holy Time we live the truth of God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom marked by events more significant than any in this passing age, an eternal Kingdom where there is no need to grasp time.

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