Fidelity, or “Why do we bother?”: Chapter 28 of Joan Chittister’s ‘The Liturgical Year’

27 05 2012

by Ian Walden

The sun is setting. The feast of Easter is fading to memory. Ahead lies the long road of Ordinary Time. The next ‘high point’ in the Liturgical Year is a long, long way away. So when the candles are out, the colours are muted, and the words are, well, ordinary – why do we bother with these routines, these rituals, these practices?

The end of the noise and fuss and excitement is a good time for this question. It’s already forced me to re-examine my motives. It’s convicting to hear Sister Joan remind us that “we do not live a liturgical life to look good to other people. We do not develop a liturgical spirituality to affect a kind of spiritual dimension to our lives. And we certainly do not go to Mass regularly to avoid hell.” Ouch. Too often my newbie enthusiasm for this liturgical lark is akin to a shopper’s delight at a little-discovered bargain – consumerism ethos included.

So what’s a better answer? Chittister’s is that we are all (like a character in a parable she tells) being asked, silently but daily, the searching question: Are you Jesus? And I for one would like to say (perhaps also silently, but daily nonetheless) that yes, indeed, I am. I would like my Ordinary Time, my ordinary life, to be lived extraordinarily well, “no matter what other elements of life emerge to seduce us as the years go by.” No matter how far removed Jesus’ first earthly presence seems, no matter how absent his Spirit feels, no matter how improbable his Return appears, I want my life to be the evidence of Things Unseen. I want it, even this summer, to be both site and source of redemption in this world. More than a sacrifice, I need re-creation. I need my life to be witness that I am (and therefore all are) defined by the beautiful future, not the tragic past.

And as we’re all learning, in the Pentecostal economy, becoming like Jesus (learning to think like he thinks, to act as he acts, to allow his life/mind/heart to saturate ours) is something that can be learned. And learning takes repetition, re-enactment, constant re-membering. It takes fidelity, constancy, regularity. All else (and this also, paradoxically, is all the difference) is the in-breathed, dry-bone-stirring  Life of God.

Where have you seen Jesus lately? Where has his life continued in your midst, in the habits, reflexes, instincts, or desires exhibited by Jesus people – including yourself? Was it surprising, extraordinary, or surprisingly natural? Was it obvious, or seen only after reflection? What kind of practices, what kind of liturgy, might possibly (feel free to speculate, to guess!) have contributed to this miracle, this new Presence?

In the hope of glory, Amen.





Chapter 15 Ordinary Time I: The Wisdom of Enoughness

20 02 2012

(or the post in which I blog on the chapter I was supposed to last Monday…)

by Andrea Tisher

There was a long time in my life when the only two celebrations of the church year that I knew about were Christmas and Easter. Christmas was celebrated with a “Carols by Candlelight” service on Christmas Eve and Easter was a big extravaganza of “He is risen” hymns on a Sunday in April.

Christmas always started bef0re the fact, with decorations in the church and the addition of some carols week by week. Easter was a little more abrupt. One Sunday a year we declared emphatically that the Jesus who was crucified sometime back in history had risen from the dead.

The rest of the year was just…ordinary.

Turns out that my experience is not totally unlike the history of the liturgical year. Chittister reminds us that Ordinary Time used to be all of the time of the year that wasn’t Christmas or Easter. Now that the calendar is more complete, we have two major chunks of Ordinary Time. One between Christmas and Lent and another between Pentecost and Advent. This first Ordinary Time is shorter and seems to naturally be focused on the life of the man who was born in Bethlehem as we always know that Lent is not that far away (see last week’s post, Auden says it better). But Chittister rightly points out that this bit of Ordinary Time gives us a chance “to contemplate the intersection between the life of Jesus and our own.” (97) And after all the celebration of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, suddenly there is no distraction. No religious or liturgical actions to get caught up in… “Jesus was, is and will come again.” (99) And this is enough. And we’ll need a few weeks to sit with just this before we’re ready to journey toward the cross during Lent. The calendar gives us a little breathing room before then next bit of the story is told.

Ordinary Time: the time in the calendar when the simple truth of Jesus who was, is and will come again is more than enough.