Our culture has its own calendar for the next month or so. We can mark off these days: Door-busters, Black Friday, Parties, Winter breaks, Holiday cheer, Family dinners (and political arguments) and ending with a Ball-dropping champagne toast. That is the liturgy of the world at the end of a year. But what about the Liturgical Calendar?
Christmas: The Prequel
There is another timeline from another culture that some observe. The Liturgical Calendar starts this Sunday with Advent 1; the first day of the new Church Year. The calendar makes this bold claim: the real New Year begins this Sunday, with a four-week prequel to Christmas. It is time NOT to run…but to observe. There is no rush. In fact, the Liturgical Calendar is a not-so-subtle speed bump to our Christmas rush. Whoa! Slow down!
The world wants to say “Merry” and “Happy” and “Hurry” all month long. But for most of the month, the Christian Liturgical Calendar starts with a different cue: “Watch”.
And this kind of calendar is making a comeback.
It is usually displayed as a wheel with a pattern of colors marking the days and seasons of the church year. Time is not depicted as rows of seven boxes, stacked up four at a time into square blocks of months with hard, fixed edges. In a Liturgical Calendar, nothing is square. Time goes around like the sweep of a hand; it happens as a circle. It conveys a rhythmic sense to the passage of time. One writer put it this way, “The liturgical calendar of Sacramental Christianity moves along with the natural rhythms of life, as did the calendars of ancient peoples...” (Loyd Feuston) Time, in a Liturgical Calendar, is not measured in 24-hour sessions, but in intentional seasons. It is not Chronos-time; it is Kairos-time. (A nice meditation on the difference can be found here.)
When we observe the secular calendar, the days are ticked off one by one. Time is measured horizontally, as it were. We make time for things, or so we imagine. How many more shopping days till Christmas? I’m off on vacation until the end of the month. “Everyone is working for the weekend.” (Loverboy) We maintain the illusion that we are making or at least shaping time for our use.
But the Liturgical Calendar is different. The Liturgical Calendar tries to shape us.
Joan Chittister said it this way: 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.
This Liturgical Calendar designed by my friends at LemmonDesign (Bliss and Ryan) is gorgeous. I love it and you will too.
Ryan wrote me about it: We have encountered so many people who are new to Anglicanism, who are unfamiliar with the many different facets of the tradition. We wanted to create beautiful pieces that are engaging and educational, shedding light on various aspects of the Anglican faith (Seasons, Holy Days, Saints, Collects, etc.) in a way that is accessible to them.
But they have achieved more than just a new way of looking at Time. They have created a beautiful portrait of time that will catch the eye and communicate to the heart. It is lovely. I commend this to you and their online company Mod Lit here.
A final thought:
It is interesting that the block calendar we display on our devices and old-school Daytimers can’t measure time accurately. (It has to make an adjustment every four years on Leap Day.) But the Liturgical Calendar is never wrong. It just runs a course. And the course centers around the life of Jesus: first, the long-expectant hope of His advent, then His birth, and His life, and His ministry, and His death, and His Resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit. And then again, once more, the long-expectant hope of the Church. Come Lord Jesus. Again.
Advent is just around the corner—get yours today!