“This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:23 KJV
“The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the question of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.” Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year
Let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year. Yes, I know that it is only the first of December. Actually I am a couple days late in my well wishing. The liturgical year marks the first Sunday of Advent as its beginning. While I was not brought up in a church that observes the seasons of the church year, I have been fascinated by the practice. I wondered how these seasons of advent and lent came into existence. Many of those who have been rediscovering the ancient spiritual practices have been reinvigorated in their spiritual lives. Over the years I have been seeking out new mentors to help me understand what it involves to follow Christ throughout the year, and remember the significant seasons of his life as well as the life of the church. As this season of Advent unfolds, I would like you to join me on my adventure and introduce to you my mentors (whom I have met in their books).
Our marking of days, weeks and years with our familiar calendar makes sense, since we live in this world. But as a follower of Christ, I want to live more and more in communion with the things of God, and so I am drawn to the liturgical year, which marks the remembrances of significant events in Christ’s life and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As we begin this particular liturgical year, I would like to explore together some of the history, as well as just experience the following of the liturgy.
Liturgy may be an unfamiliar word to most. And it may conjure up images of monks silently living out a daily regimen of reading Scripture, chanting prayers and meditating on an icon. Or for others it may mean following a prescribed form of worship Sunday after Sunday that is published by their church. For me, the sound of it is mysterious and foreign.
A quick search of its meaning at Merriam-Webster online (www.m-w.com) gives this definition:
a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship; a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases or observances. Its origin is from Latin liturgia and Greek leitourgia, both meaning public service. In a note at the end of the entry it says the word was first used in 1560.
The public aspect of liturgy is significant. One observation I have made in my quest has been that my experience of the liturgy would be enhanced by the corporate practice of it. This explains my desire to draw others into my adventure. Some would recommend I find a congregation that practices the liturgy, yet at this point in my life I do not find myself in a position to seek out that setting. One, I am married, so the monastery is not an option. And two, I find myself in a contemporary setting that is familiar to me, and the place that my family has its roots and affections.
I hope that just as others have invited me into this journey through their writings, you will be intrigued and excited about learning new ways to engage the heart of Christ this year.