January 14, 2024
January 14, 2024
As we are still in the midst of a “New Year” we gear ourselves up to beginning the cycle each month presents with its holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and appointments. The ancient Romans saw life and indeed, all of history as a cycle with the axiom that, “History repeats itself.”
Holy Mother Church, in her own sequence of the year, also carries a cyclical motif. From the First Sunday of Advent when the Church Year begins through Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time, the Church repeats these seasons throughout the span of history and will continue to do so until the end of time. The Middle Ages imposed a historical motif on these seasons based on the Life of Jesus, enhancing this through Mystery Plays, the arrangement of the Scripture read at Mass and other Divine Services, and the decorations in church.
When I teach the school age children about the Church Year, I impose another cycle on it that consists of our dispositions or moods, as it were. The moods are preparing, celebrating, practicing. Since the Liturgy is the representation of the marriage of Christ to the Church, I use the example of a wedding celebration to explain these moods.
Preparation, of course, corresponds to the Season of Advent. Just as when a couple gets married, there are preparations on many fronts. Material preparations of food, dress, gifts are the order of the day. However, amidst all this planning, there is still the more important spiritual preparation to be completed. During Advent, households frantically prepare to celebrate Christmas: we prepare foods, decorate houses and purchase and make gifts. More important, however, is the spiritual preparation we make for Jesus to come again in our hearts and at the end of time. The importance of this preparation is shown by the color purple, which denotes a serious mood of reflection and contemplative effort.
When the day of the wedding comes, we celebrate with the best we have and are. Marriage is celebrated in church with Mass and our best is paraded forth. We follow by a great feast that overflows with the joy of the occasion. At Christmas we pull out all the stops to celebrate the wondrous love God shows us in sending His Son to share our human nature. We wear the brightest and best, especially in church where white, the color of joy and celebration and the best of vessels, music and decorations are used as heralds of the joy God gives and can never be taken away from us.
Between Christmas and Lent, we celebrate Ordinary Time, that is, counted time. This interval provides us with an opportunity for spiritual growth by putting into practice and promoting the goodness and love of God we celebrated at Christmas. Green, the color of growth and nature, is worn to symbolize the progress we make in loving God and one another and living the life of grace on a daily basis. Just as a marriage celebrated must be lived and the spouses assist each other on the way to heaven, so too our relationship with God and one another must deepen if we are achieving our destiny as God’s dear children. May we grow more into the people that God wants us to be through taking seriously and putting into practice what we prepare for and celebrate in this first segment of the Liturgical Year