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Sunday 12, Year A: the Liturgical Year

So, we return to green vestments! After the purple of Advent and Lent, the white of Christmas and Easter and the red of Palm Sunday and Pentecost, we pick up once more what is called “Ordinary Time.” Green is the colour of life and fertility, yet the life it symbolises is not the life of plants but the life of Easter, the life of the Resurrection, the life of Pentecost. We could say that green symbolises the daily working of the Holy Spirit in us. He is deepening daily within us the mysteries of the life of Jesus, from his first coming in the flesh, through his death and resurrection to his second coming in glory.

We humans live in cycles of time. From the moon that gives us the month to the sun that gives us the solar year; from the cycle of birth through childhood, adolescence and old age to the cycle of education, work and retirement; from the school year and work year to the financial year and the civic year: our time is organized and mapped out. And it has to be, at least to some degree, if we are to avoid chaos in our personal and social lives.

And this is no less true in our spiritual lives as individual believers and as Church. And that is why there exists what we call the liturgical year. The liturgical year, like every other kind of year we live, has its centre, its more important moments and its less important ones. The rhythm of the liturgical year is intended to bring order to our Christian life, to set its priorities and to release within us and through us the risen life of Jesus Christ. The Liturgy means Divine Worship, and the core act of that Worship is the Mass. Remember that the Mass is not in the first place something we do: it is Christ’s act of worship of the Father with which he associates us. His worship of the Father was his sacrifice on the Cross, a sacrifice he anticipated and accepted the night before he died at the Last Supper. The Mass is Christ’s way of making present throughout history that act of worship. And because he redeemed us and made us his brothers and sisters once more, he joins us to himself in the Mass, as he joined the Apostles on the night he was betrayed.

Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father for us in his death, and the Father’s acceptance of that offering in the Resurrection, is the most important event of human history. The reason for that is that it has destroyed death as the result of sin and has made death an act of love for those who are open to Christ. The best way to be open to Christ is to believe in Him, but any person who lives a good life with a sincere heart and conscience is, without knowing it, also open to Christ.

So, if the death and resurrection of Jesus are the centre of history, if they have begun the “new age of the Resurrection” as the Catechism puts it, then it means that the liturgical year has its centre in those days we celebrate from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. If the sun is the measure of our solar year, the death and resurrection of the Son of God is the measure of our liturgical year. It means that all the power and love and grace which Jesus unleashed for us by his death and resurrection burst forth from those central days and shed their brilliance across the rest of the year. The liturgical calendar, with its feasts and solemnities of the Lord, of Our Lady, of the saints, with its seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary time: all of these gain their importance and their spiritual power from the death and resurrection of the Lord. Each feast unfolds in its own way that central mystery of Christ. In fact, in the early Church, Easter was not considered as one feast among others, but the “Feast of feasts”, the “Solemnity of solemnities” just as the Eucharist was called the “Sacrament of sacraments” or the “Great Sacrament.” St. Athanasius calls Easter “the Great Sunday.”

Our forefathers and mothers in the faith taught that the liturgical year permeates and influences what they called “old time”, that is, time without Christ, time which was marked solely by human rituals and cycles. The liturgical year is intended to redeem our time, to draw how we live and spend our time into the grace and light of Christ’s time. The liturgical year opens our time, which is closed in history, to the eternal reality of Christ. In Christ, time has come to its fulfilment. People often speak of seeking fulfilment in their lives. The best way to do that is to direct your life and its time and rhythms and cycles towards Christ, to worship Christ with your time, to allow Christ’s death and resurrection to purify and order and bring your time to its eternal fulfilment. Because our time on earth is not a commodity closed in on itself that we can waste or use without responsibility to God. Time is the foretaste of eternity. In fact, by the very fact we have been baptised, received the sacraments and heard the Word of God, eternal life is already at work in our time, both individual and collective. For believers, all the other ways we organize our year should themselves revolve around the liturgical year.

So, as we begin these 20-odd weeks of ordinary time, it is worth getting a liturgical calendar, and keeping an eye on it every day. It is worth having a personal missal or lectionary to see every day what it is that the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in the readings at Mass. It is good to ensure that you begin and end your day devoutly with the sign of Christ’s perfect act of worship, the sign of the Cross. If you see that it is the feast day of a martyr, let it be an inspiration to you to witness to your faith courageously that day and ask the martyr to pray for you. If it is a day dedicated to Our Lady, then spend a little more time with Her that day or perform an act of kindness for someone on Her behalf. If it is a day honouring a doctor of the Church, let it be a stimulus to you for that day to read a few pages about your faith. If, from your side, you are going through a rough patch for whatever reason, take a look at the liturgical calendar or the Word of God for the day and seek assistance or light to help you persevere. If you have fallen into serious sin, don’t run away from the calendar or missal, but run all the more to it for a hand and a heart to lift you up. I invite parents especially to familiarize your children with the liturgical calendar. Show them how to understand it, help them to find out about the impressive lives of the saints which recur. Try to make it an enjoyable experience, so that they gradually become familiar with the treasures and beauty of the rich spiritual heritage which is theirs. You will be performing a very powerful and praiseworthy act of love by educating your children in this way.

Time flies. Yes, it does. But every moment is potentially a doorway through which to glimpse the eternal beauty and truth and grace of Jesus Christ. Although we are now in what is called ordinary time, in reality no time is ordinary, for all time is pregnant with Christ. He just waits for us to invite him in, to shine through our doorway and to come in and take our hand. With Christ, time flies, but eternity lands.