We begin the Christian calendar with Advent. From my perspective, no one expresses the meaning of this reality better perhaps than Joan Chittister en her book, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life.
Every year is a distinct growth point in life, the shedding of another shell of life. Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us…
The church year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which normally begins in late November…The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus.
The civic new year as we know it is a purely solar event, a chart of the planet’s journey around the sun. But it is not, except in the most private and personal of ways, the story of the rest of us, the narrative of our spiritual lives. That story begins and ends and begins again annually with the journey of the soul through the liturgical year, the year that marks the major moments in Christian spirituality and so points our own lives in the same direction.
The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until, eventually, we become what we say we are – followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.
I know now that it is possible to grow physically older by the day but, at the same time, stay spiritually juvenile, if our lives are not directed by a schema far beyond the march of our planet around the sun. Like the rings on a tree, the cycles of Christian feasts are meant to mark the levels of our spiritual growth from one stage to another in the process of human growth.
If we are open and alert to the Christian calendar, it will lead us higher and higher into the One who beckons us on through time to that moment when we will dissolve into God, set free from time to become one with the universe.