Monday, October 02, 2006
What Time Is It?
Moderns have stripped this question to its most mechanistic, petty level. It is only about stopwatches and timetables, never about meaning: What is it time for?
The Christian Year asks us to consider the meaning of time. It asks us how we will "redeem the time....for the days are evil..." (Eph 5:16)
So it's not enough just to answer, 'I have a report due next week.' We really need to weigh, 'If I finish the report on time, what will I have accomplished, for whom and for what purpose?'
The Christian Year sets up seasons of contemplation, which focus in turn on the vast workings of God on our behalf throughout history. This is enormously different from the pagan calendars, which focus on the cycles of nature. There is no sense of progress in the natural cycles. Everything that will happen has already happened for thousands on thousands of years without significant variation.
But the Christian Year points us to the progress of Redemption, the cycle of Promise, Longing & Development, Passion & Atonement, Resurrection, and Contemplation/Kingdom-building. These are the patterns not only of a history that has a center and a climax; these are the patterns of our personal walks with God.
There are several ways to calculate the year, but whether you use the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant version, the basic pattern is the same. Here in a nutshell is the Year:
Advent (four weeks leading up to Christmas)
Christmas (not just one day, but twelve!)
Epiphany (six weeks, beginning on Jan 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas)
Ordinary Time (the weeks between Epiphany and Lent, which vary with the year, since Easter is a moveable feast)
Lent (six weeks leading up to Easter or Resurrection Day)
Easter (six weeks beginning with Easter Day)
Ascension (the Sunday before Pentecost)
Pentecost (the Sunday ending the Feast section of the year)
Trinity (all the rest of the year until Advent, encompassing most of June through November)
Note that in the United States, the last week of Trinity is Thanksgiving - very appropriate.
Next time: Keeping Time