Today marks the beginning of a new year for the Church. The Church Year begins every year at Advent, as we enter into the drama of expectation and longing for the coming of the Messiah. I think that a very healthy step for all non-liturgical Christians to take would be to begin observing the Church Year and the accompanying lectionary. Never heard of these things? Here’s a snippet about the Church Year from the Vanderbilt Lectionary Project:
The Church Year is an ancient way of telling time. Rather than measuring time exclusively according to the natural seasons, Christians have traditionally measured time in their worship with a calendar built around the life of Christ. Some of the seasons of the Church Year date back to our earliest written records of Christian worship. The current form of the Christian calendar, including its colors, dates, and feasts, was firmly in place by the medieval period.
Worship that is centered on the Church Year allows Christians to step into the life of Jesus. Seasons of hope and grief, mercy and penitence assure that all aspects of the human condition are given an appropriate place in the worship practices of the Church. The repetition of these seasons is also an educational tool, gently inculcating the heritage of the faith.
The readings from the lectionary follow the Church Year and ensure that we are being attentive to the whole Bible–including the parts we don’t like so much. The lectionary also connects us with the millions of Christians around the world who follow both the Church Year and the lectionary in their worship. This might help ecumenism, and help us to feel a little more grounded in our 2000 year tradition in this flighty world.
For more, poke around the Revised Common Lectionary (Vanderbilt Divinity School). (HT Dan)
3 responses to “Happy New Year!”
Interesting. Yesterday at church (St Benedict’s) Jamie, the priest, strongly emphasized the point that according to the Christian calendar Christmas doesn’t start until the eve of the 24th and that we should therefore be mindful not to get caught up in the raging advertising, etc of the year that compels us to jump the gun. Even advent, he asserted, does not mark the beginning of Christmas. It is rather just the time when we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord, both in the sense that this is when we remember the incarnation, but also that we are mindful, watchful, and expectant of his continual inbreaking/incarnating in life.
The church calendar is indeed a novel thing, a shame that us folk of evangelical stock are often so unaware of it. And yes, there is something significant about following the same calendar as millions of other Christians around the world.
Another Jamie (James K.A. Smith in this case) posted a good reflection on Advent vs. “Countdown to Christmas” that touches on the themes you’re talking about.
This kind of thing once again makes me much more liturgically inclined. Because then we’d definitely cease to have any Christian problems at all. ;)
You got it ;)