In the midst of Advent, the beginning of the Christian Year, it is good to take a moment to consider the cycle which we follow year in and year out as defined by the lectionary and the Liturgical Calendar. The first thing to bear in mind is that the “Liturgical Year” is an important component of the Church’s liturgy. It reveals great versatility in the presentation of content. On the one hand it provides texts that reflect the purely historical. It does this in a manner that makes the events conveyed in scripture entirely current. At other times the actions called for by the worshiper pertain to the present entirely. The Liturgy and the dynamics of the calendar make us aware of our need to both petition for and proclaim God’s grace. Furthermore the liturgy, which is our communal spiritual work, is always infused with the vision of our future in Christ Jesus. So in various ways the Liturgical Year keeps our sights lifted high, to the parousia, to heaven and judgment, reminding us that for God the past, the present and the future are all one.
In each season liturgical themes leap directly from one area of reference to another, even within the same sentence. We may at times be left to wonder how we are to absorb and profitably employ the lively variation in perspective which the liturgy and the liturgical year give us. Ultimately we might ask what Mother Church when it commends this variety in the liturgy expects of us. Does she wish us to recall the story of salvation? Is she offering us grace in the present? Or is she perhaps seeking to prepare us for the life to come? The short answer of course is that the Church expects the liturgy to convey all three at the same time. In order for us to profit from the rich nature of each Liturgical Year we must first grasp the dramatic nature of Catholic Worship and the fact that each new year is in conversation with our experiences from previous years. It is also incumbent on us to strive to make the insights of our worship part of our daily life.
This means that while the Liturgical Year and the liturgies associated with it reveal a great versatility our worship as a community should never be faddish. And while it is important that the entire action pertain to the present it should never become enslaved to the moment. Rather it should be an experience of heart, mind and body which opens to us the mysteries of God and our own human hearts. It should expose the longings of men, women and children of all kinds and invite us into the world of Godly desire. A world which cries for Syria and Afghanistan, shows it solidarity for the poor and the oppressed, rejoices in the vision of inventors and poets, and is moved by the music of Mozart and Palestrina.