Seasons of the Church, Rhythm of Life

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One of the principal things the Episcopal Church has to offer in keeping with its catholic tradition is its liturgical life, an aesthetic expression of the relationship between God and humanity. It is our gift. From Sunday to Sunday we don’t randomly select prayers and hymns and scripture; instead we follow a time honored order remembering not only the feasts of the church, but an order reflective of the drama of human life. A chief function of liturgy is to remind ourselves of who we are, and to whom we belong…lest we forget…and we recognize our identity as a gift…a gift worth celebrating.

The church year begins with Advent, in the late Fall, a time of expectation and anticipation. It is a time when the days grow shorter. We brace against the encroaching dark with the hope of things being set right. We read from the prophets who condemn the dark injustices of the world, and offer a vision of God’s promised saving presence that will liberate us from the evil that plagues God’s people. We read of motherhood, of pregnancy, symbols of life’s renewal, potential, and persistence.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the One who will stand for all that is good and true; recognizing that hope is not an idea, but that hope, no matter how fragile, takes on flesh and blood, and lives among us.

In Epiphany we articulate what this hope means for us and the world. It is a time of revelation, naming, remembering the nature of the one who is born among us… the One who is archetype of our true nature.

Lent is a season of facing our tendency toward complacency, our predisposition to indifference, our acquiescing to the status quo… sin in short. We remind ourselves that the life of faith takes awareness and work and self-examination… and we face the fact that we are mortal. So much of faith is facing facts.

The fifty days of Easter is the season of resurrection, a time when we proclaim that the love we bear as humankind is stronger than death, stronger than evil, stronger than indifference and complacency. It is the season that defines us as Christians, a people who bear a living hope of infinite possibility. Easter lasts fifty days because resurrection is not a once upon a time thing, but a continuing presence creating and restoring in “real time” the world… not a future hope, but an imminent reality.

And finally the season after Pentecost, the season we are in now, in which we speak of the life and ministry of Jesus, his teachings, his healing the sick, his welcoming the stranger and outcasts, his polemics against the powers that be, which is the life work of the Spirit, the Spirit in which we live and move and have our being. It is a time to be intentional about the practice of the faith while there is still light.

And then we do it all over again: Hope, Revelation, Self-examination, Death and Re-birth, and Work. Dark into light, light into dark. Yin and Yang. It is a rhythm worth our attention, and a rhythm worth our trust, because we dare not forget who we are and to whom we belong. Our world depends on it.

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