Joan Chittister: Reflections on the Importance of the Christian calendar

anillos-del-árbolWe 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.

Attuning Ourselves to the Life of Jesus

Reflections on the Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister

As I mentioned in the previous article, I have recently been reading a book that has proven impactful in my understanding of the Christian calendar. It’s written by Joan Chittister and entitled, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life.  As we near Ash Wednesday, I think it will be helpful to allow some excerpts from that book to challenge us to view the entire Christian calendar through new eyes…

“The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus.  It does not concern itself with the questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.”

“The liturgical year is the year that sets us 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.”

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“It is in the liturgy that we meet the Jesus of history and come to understand the Christ of faith who is with us still…It is, in fact, the life of Jesus that really guides the church through time.  It is the life of Jesus that judges the conduct of the time.  It is the life of Jesus that is the standard of the souls who call themselves Christian in every age, however seductive the errors of the age itself.”

“In the liturgical year we walk with Jesus through all the details of His life – and He walks with us in ours…Early Christians knew without doubt that all facets of the life of Christ stemmed from one reality, were related to one reality, led to one reality, were aspects of one central reality: the cross.  Jesus was born to confront the cross; Jesus died on the cross to bring us to fullness of life; Jesus rose to defeat the cross; Jesus embodied what the role of the cross was to be in the life of us all. Clearly it was the reality of the cross that defined the life of Jesus, the Christ. And it is the reality of the cross that defines the life of the individual Christian, both then and now.”

“Like the voices of loved ones gone before us, the liturgical year is the voice of Jesus calling to us every day of our lives to wake our sleeping selves from the drowsing effects of purposelessness and meaninglessness, materialism and hedonism, rationalism and indifference, to attend to the life of the Jesus who cries within us for fulfillment.”