Where does the idea of the liturgical year come from?If we look back to the creation story in Genesis, we see God creating time (separation of night and day), realms of space (sea and sky), and a habitat (vegetation). He then goes about filling this world:
Then God said: Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the seasons, the days and the years, and serve as lights in the dome of the sky, to illuminate the earth.~Gen 1:14-15In this passage, the original Hebrew used for "season" is moedim, which in other parts of the Bible refers to God's feast days. Time and all creation were being directed towards the worship of God. Throughout the entirety of Scripture, we see the celebrations and feasts that were routinely celebrated, as people gave thanks to God. And so, since its earliest days noted in the New Testament, the Catholic Church has celebrated a liturgical year, which has developed over time. This cycle helps us contemplate Christ and orient our entire lives towards God and ultimately being united with Him for all eternity.
"Throughout the entire year, the Mass and the divine office center especially around the person of Jesus Christ. This arrangement is so suitably disposed that our Savior dominates the scene in the mysteries of His humiliation, of His redemption and triumph. While the sacred liturgy calls to mind the mysteries of Jesus Christ, it strives to make all believers take their part in them so that the divine Head of the mystical Body may live in all the members with the fullness of His holiness...By these suitable ways and methods in which the liturgy at stated times proposes the life of Jesus Christ for our meditation, the Church gives us examples to imitate, points out treasures of sanctity for us to make our own, since it is fitting that the mind believes what the lips sing, and that what the mind believes should be practiced in public and private life." ~Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei #151-153The liturgical year is arranged in such a way that we encounter Christ and can contemplate the beautiful epicness of salvation history. It's so amazing! We can and should attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation-but if we only do this, we will all be missing out on a bunch of liturgical year epicness. For instance, if we make the jump from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, we miss most of the incredibly epic, intense Easter Tridduum services that celebrate Christ's final hours leading up to His death. So, by living out the liturgical year, we can more fully immerse ourselves in the mystery of the Incarnation.
How can we celebrate the liturgical year?There are a plethora of different ways to celebrate the liturgical year, and it's important to not get overwhelmed and do what works for ourselves and our families. Here are just a few examples of ways to sanctify time by living the liturgical year:
Participate in events and traditions for each season.
When it's Ordinary Time, focus on the life, work, and mission of Christ. When it's Advent, simplify your life and embrace silence to prepare for the Birth of Christ. When it's Christmas, party it up like crazy. You get the idea. As Ecclesiastes notes, "There is an appointed time for everything."
Celebrate the saints.
We can-and should-look to the example of the holy men and women who have gone before us. They show us that we can become holy, no matter what our circumstances or situations are like. Plus, they are just super intense people to read about. So pick some of the many epic saints on the calender, and celebrate them in awesome ways! Meg Hunger-Kilmer, Hobo for Christ extraordinaire, recently wrote two great posts on saints: one that matches up Disney princesses with saints, and one that describes saints whose pre-conversion and post-conversion lives look crazy different (think: Satanic priest turned Catholic). As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops notes,
"The mystery of Christ, unfolded through the cycle of the year, calls us to live his mystery in our own lives. This call is best illustrated in the lives of Mary and the Saints, celebrated by the Church throughout the year. There is no tension between the mystery of Christ and the celebration of the saints, but rather a marvelous harmony. The Blessed Virgin Mary is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son, and the feasts of all the Saints proclaim the wonderful works of Christ in his servants and offer the faithful fitting examples for their imitation. In the feasts of the Saints the Paschal Mystery of Christ is proclaimed and renewed."
Celebrate special anniversaries each year that relate to your Faith journey
I would venture to say that the most important anniversary we should all celebrate is one's Baptism anniversary. Pope Francis said it so well:
"Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you can bear in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing it is losing awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an even that took place in the past-and not by our own will but by that of our parents-and, thus, has no impact on the present. Indeed, we must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live our Baptism every day, as the current reality of our lives."Besides Baptism anniversaries, we can celebrate our "name day," the feast days of our patron saints. Growing up, my parents had the rule that we could only pick one feast day a year on which we selected the special treat to celebrate (since some of us, like myself, could easily pick 3+ days). Getting to make a special treat and think of one's patron saint is a great way to remember that the saints are interceding for us, and that they're just plain awesome.
What are some online resources for celebrating the liturgical year?
Catholic Cuisine is a fabulous resource for recipes that relate in some way to the saints and liturgical seasons. The blog, Carrots for Michaelmas, is a fantastic resource on a variety of ways to celebrate the liturgical year (especially with young children). Catholic All Year is another great blog that focuses a lot on the liturgical year, especially on ways to throw fantastic parties for different feasts (she has a great post about taking baby steps to living the liturgical year, too!). And here's one directory with different sites dedicated to the many, many saints.
The liturgical year is amazing, and I really like sharing my love of it with others. So, this post will hopefully be the first in a short, occasional series of posts about the liturgical year. If any of you have questions-or ideas of really awesome ways to celebrate the liturgical year-let me know!