Liturgical Year
Part 1 Introduction

Chapter y14 Time

Preliminary Questions


Ten Finger History


Chronos and Kairos

Pastoral Sensitivity

Goldbrunner:  The Celebration of a Feast

Spirituality of the Season

To Think About

You've got to know what day it is.
you have to own your days and name them,
or else, the years go right by
and none of them belongs to you.  [
A Thousand Clowns]

Preliminary Questions

What role does the liturgical year play in your own prayer life? What is you favorite liturgical season? Why? In what ways do you "act differently" during the seasons of the liturgical year? (For example: During lent I privately make the way of the cross each evening. I put an advent wreath in my room during advent.)

Why do we have a "liturgical year"? Name the oldest parts of the liturgical year?  What are some of the principles which guided the reform of the church year by the Second Vatican Council? What is the relationship between the Lectionary and the liturgical year? What gospel is being read during the current liturgical year?  How can the liturgy say HODIE, "Today is.... Today we are led out..." when the events in question happened long ago?  When liturgists speak of the danger of historicism with regard to the liturgical year, what are they talking about? How is the liturgical year structured? How are the celebrations of the Church year ranked?

What have you already studied about the liturgical year? Have you already taken any courses which treated the liturgical year? Have you read the basic church documents treating the liturgical year?


See the general bibliography given at Chapter y17 Bibliography.

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The Liturgical Year:  Ten Finger History

For an explanation of this historical grid memory aid see Chapter d21 Overview of the History of the Liturgy

1. Apostolic [0-399]  Synagogue precedents. Scripture = Torah, etc. Letters of Paul. Stories of Jesus. Formation of the written Christian Scriptures (to be read or to be heard?)

2. Patristic [400-799]  Theology = commentary on the Scriptures

3. Early Medieval [800-1199]  Rise of the vernacular languages

4. Medieval [1200-1299]

5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]

6. Reformation [1500-1699] Reformers work to restore congregational participation. Luther: bible in vernacular.

7. After Trent [1700-1899]

8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]  Archeological discoveries. Papal statements. Benedict XIV. Complete freedom. Priest could celebrate votive Mass on any Lenten ferial.   Low point. Saints / Devotions. 1900 only one Green Sunday.

9.  Vatican II [1960-1975]  Sacrosanctum Concilium. Dei Verbum. Revision of the Liturgical Calendar. New Lectionary.

10. After Vatican II [1975-2050] Broader based biblical literacy. Movement toward Catholic fundamentalism? Unity at the Table of the Word with the Ecumenical Lectionary. June 1991 volume one of the new Lectionary. November 1991 Lectionary for Masses with Children. November 1992 volume two of the new Lectionary.

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Bible.  "The Liturgical Year is the way we read Scripture."  See Chapter d37 The Role of Sacred Scripture in the Liturgy

Anamnesis.  The liturgical year is not merely a recalling of past events. 


Anamnesis is the Greek word for "remembrance"  "memorial" and "proclamation".   For example:  "Do this in my remembrance."  or  "Do this in memory of me." (remembrance, memory = anamnesis)  The word can be found in Luke 22:19 and 1Cor 11:24, 25. [Strong's Greek Lexicon:  3 364]   However, "anamnesis"  denotes no mere "calling to mind" or "thinking about" a past event.   Anamnesis is not simply "going back and remembering now something done in the past".  It is certainly not a repetition or a re-presentation of a past act in the present; it is not a "doing it over again."  Anamnesis is a "remembering" which brings the person remembering into contact (presence) with the inner core meaning -- the mystery / mysterion -- of a event which happened "once and for all" in the past.  For a fuller description see "anamnesis" in my Glossary and follow the links given there.  See also my article in Catholic Update.

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Paschal Mystery.  The Pascal Mystery is central to the liturgical year, to the sacraments, to the Eucharist, to Christ, to Jesus, to the Trinity.

Liturgy.  Liturgy makes church and Christ visible. CSL 2: Liturgy makes Christ visible. Vatican II. CSL #2. For the liturgy, "making the work of our redemption a present actuality," most of all in the divine sacrifice of the eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. (Vatican Council II. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 2. DOL 2. The passage quoted is from the Prayer Over the Gifts, Holy Thursday.)

Chronos and Kairos.  Mysterion -- Present in God's time (kairos) present now. Greek word: plan. The mysterious, divine plan for our salvation. Mysterion was translated into the Latin by the word sacramentum, oath.

Epiclesis.  Invocation -- Action of Spirit takes us into the NOW of the mystery. Epiclesis "invocation" is applied to liturgical prayers which beseech God, and more especially the Holy Spirit, to consecrate the eucharistic elements.

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Pastoral Sensitivity

Biblical literacy "When the holy scriptures are read in the Church, Christ is present, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read" (CSL 7). As the liturgical assembly comes to appreciate this mode of Christ's presence the demand for quality proclamation will go beyond the desire for lector training or better homilies. The assembly itself must be biblically literate. Biblical fundamentalism and the one issue morality which accompanies it so simplify God that the Lord is rendered impotent to reign in the complex world of the 1980's and 90's.  -- Bible study groups -- Little Rock Scripture Study.  Danger of Biblical Fundamentalism. 

Weekday continuity -- "When one of the assigned weekday readings is not read because of a solemnity, etc., the one presiding, with the plan of readings for the entire week in mind, arranges to omit the less significant selections or suitably combines them with other readings if they contribute to an integral view of a particular theme."  (Lectionary 82)

Interruptions.  Collections, special themes, feasts, missions, catechetical Sunday, mission Sunday, right to life Sunday, Catholic University Sunday, Send the Pastor to Ireland for Vacation Sunday. General principle: Too many interruptions and semi-continuous isn't continuous at all.   "It is the position of the delegates to the 1977 National Meeting [of the FDLC] that the various national and diocesan special collections and campaigns which are considered necessary should not be done at the expense of disrupting the regular liturgical cycle by the displacement of the normal Sunday texts with special thematic scripture readings, prayers and homilies." (Vote: +2.41, highest vote at the convention.)

Liturgy of the word for children.  If we baptize them, we have an obligation to care for them.  See: Directory for Masses with Children.  Boredom: sin against the kids.  50 minutes or 10 + 20 + 20. 

Lectionary for Masses with Children

Approved by the NCCB in November 1991

Permission for 3 year experimental use given by CDWDS on June 10, 1992.

  • Special cycle of readings for children

  • Text: American Bible Society's Contemporary English Version of Scripture

  • Visuals, etc.

    1. Slides, background music, drama, reading in parts, dance, silence, non-biblical readings

    2. Do they help the word to be heard?

    Ritual signs

    1. Book of quality binding (not a "throw away word")

    2. Processions

    3. Incense

    4. Minister (Reading: lector and deacon. Homily: president.)

    5. "The word of the Lord."

    Function of the Presider

    1. put the story of this community into the story of Jesus

    2. to tell the story of Jesus in such a way that it becomes real and living for this church.

    3. To enable the congregation to look into the mirror of the reflection to see those areas necessary to complete the story (general intercessions)

    Broader based biblical literacy

    Ecumenical Lectionary

    Unity at the Table of the Word -- See instruction on "Masses with Small Groups."

    Editions of the Book of Gospels in English. See Notitiae, #310, May 1992, pp 352-356

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    Goldbrunner:  The Celebration of a Feast

    (The following essay contains my personal reflections and class notes from a lecture given by Dr. Josef Goldbrunner at the University of Notre Dame during the summer 1967.   Dr. Goldbrunner gave us permission to use the lecture in our own classes provided we acknowledge the origin of the work and do not publish the material for profit commercially.)  

    Introduction  How do we celebrate a feast? We have certain techniques, ceremonies, which we employ to recall the mysteries of redemption "so that they are in some way made present at all times, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold of them and become filled with saving grace." (SC 102) "But in order that the sacred liturgy may produce its full effect, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions . . . lest they receive this divine grace in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and licit celebration." (SC 11)

    What is this "more" that "is required" if our feasts are to really be celebrated? Before we can answer this question, we should first ask, "What is the nature of a feast?" It is to this question that the present paper is primarily directed. The manner of celebrating a feast flows from the nature of a feast.

    We will consider nine elements which are common to all liturgical feasts: 1) abstinence from work; 2) leisure; 3) clothes; 4) art; 5) community; 6) cause; 7) the divine element; 8) ceremonies; and 9) Christ's salvific acts. The first five of these nine elements are common to any human celebration; the last four pertain more specifically to a liturgical feast. In each case, however, an anthropological approach will be used. We are coming more and more to realize the limitations of the very useful "body-soul" disjunction. If we are to truly celebrate a feast we must take full account of the fact that we are a body. For example, "philosopher Gabriel Marcel puts much emphasis on the body. He sums up his thought on the body by saying, "I am my body.' This is what he means; my body is the absolute mediator between me and the actual world, the vehicle in which the self deploys itself in existence. The body is myself insofar as I am manifest." (Rev. Kevin Coughlin, The Body, Dayton: Pflaum, 1968, p.3.)

    In the considerations that follow, the writer must beg the reader not to weigh isolated words and phrases. The matter under consideration is vague and intangible, and not easy to put into words. The writer can only be sure of not being misunderstood if the reader considers the paper and the general train of thought as a whole.

    1. Abstinence from Work 
    When we celebrate a feast we abstain from work. This is a very human element in the celebration of a feast; we find it verified in all ages of history and in nearly all cultures. Yet there is a special difficulty here for us. Modern, middle-class America finds it very difficult to go without work. A day without work seems somehow unchristian. "A penny saved... "Early to bed, early to rise .... Hard work and thrift have become identified with the good Christian. We are, it is true, created to work, to make, to build the earth. But in a larger perspective, man does not live in order to work; man works in order to live. Work is only one aspect of human life. And on a feast day we live. We are prodigal, spendthrift (words conspicuously absent from the vocabulary of middle-class American morality). We spend in abundance the fruit of our work days.

    This is not "waste" but the truly human experience of abundance in joy. For example at a wedding we "throw away" money on flowers, decorations, fancy cake (a loaf of bread is just as nourishing), fine clothes (which will probably be worn only once). We do not consider how this money could be better spent on a new refrigerator. This is not the time for thrift. "Can the wedding guests fast as long as the bridegroom is with them?" (Lk, 2:19)

    The poverello himself wanted abundance on a feast day. Speaking of celebrating the feast of Christmas, St. Francis said that he wished that people would "strew wheat and other grain along the roads, so that the little birds, especially our sister larks, may have an abundance on so solemn a feast day. . . and out of reverence for the Son of God, whom on that night the Blessed Virgin Mary laid down in a manger between ox and ass, whoever has an ox and an ass shall on that night supply them with the best of good feed; that likewise on that day all the poor ought to be given their fill of good food by the rich." (James Meyer, The Words of St. Francis. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1952), p. 79)

    Even fasting and abstinence, which Francis esteemed so highly, should give way to a feast day. When a brother was going to fast on Christmas Day which fell that year on a Friday:  "Brother, it is sinful of you to call the day "Friday" on which the Child has been born for us. I would like even the walls to eat meat on a day like that, and since they cannot, to be rubbed with it outwardly." (Ibid.)

    In his "Letter to All Clerics" Francis warns those in charge of the Eucharistic celebrations that they "should realize that the chalices, corporals, and altar linens where the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are offered in sacrifice should be completely suitable." (Benen Fahy, The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1964, p. 101.)

    To celebrate a feast we must be able to play. It is a rare thing to find people in this day and age who have not let their ability to play be choked out by the pragmatism of our contemporary society. We are trained to be always doing something, to always have a purpose. (It is especially difficult for priests and sisters to play for they are trained to be always working, to be always busy. Get the collection counted on Sunday, etc.)  "An idle mind is the devil's workshop!"

    The celebration of a feast is an act that is full of meaning, yet it has no purpose. In our human experience there are two phenomena which exhibit such activity: the play of the child and the creation of the artist. "Play is thus an activity that is undertaken for the sake of being active, meaningful, but directed towards no end outside itself. The happily playing child, the virtuoso playing upon his instrument--and how few really 'play' upon it--the genius whose work flows from his fingers with the effortless ease of one playing a game--all these are but realizations of our deep-seated longing for a free, unfettered, eager harmony between body and soul." (Hugo Rahner, Man at Play. New York: Herder and Herder, 1967, p 7.)

    "The child, when it plays, does not aim at anything. It has no purpose. It does not want to do anything but to exercise its youthful powers, pour forth its life in an aimless series of movements, words and actions, and by this to develop and to realize itself more fully; all of which is purposeless, but full of meaning nevertheless, the significance lying in the unchecked revelation of this youthful life in thoughts and words and movements and actions, in the capture and expression of its nature, and in the fact of its existence. And because it does not aim at anything in particular, because it streams unbroken and spontaneously forth, its expression will be harmonious, its form clear and fine; its expression will of itself become picture and dance, rhyme, melody and song. That is what play means; it is life, pouring itself forth without an aim, seizing upon riches from its own abundant store, significant through the fact of its existence." (Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1953, p 179.)

    This is what leads Hugo Rahner to say:  "Man with a true ability to play is man at his highest level of cultural development [for] play is a human activity which engages of necessity both soul and body. It is the expression of an inward spiritual skill, successfully realized with the aid of physically visible gesture, audible sound and tangible matter. As such it is precisely the process whereby the spirit 'plays itself into' the body of which it is a part."  (Rahner, Man at Play, p 6)

    The "human" is necessarily the pre-requisite for the "Christian." Christianity can never be in-, un-, a-human. To celebrate a Christian feast we must abstain from work, rejoice in abundance, and cultivate the ability to play. We are not here to work; we are here to live. "I will go to the altar of God, the God who gives joy to my youth."

    2. Leisure  
    "Compared with the exclusive ideal of work as activity, leisure implies an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being 'busy,' but letting things happen." (Josef Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture. New York: Pantheon Books, 1954. Pg 52.)

    To celebrate a feast, we need plenty of time. A celebration cannot be "timed" to the extent that "we have to hurry up and get finished'' is constantly on the minds of the celebrants. So many celebrations are regulated by clocks, bells, and the need to clear a parking lot. To celebrate a feast we must have leisure. Leisure is an important part of any high culture. It is the requisite for our ritual purity. The ritual purity of the Old Testament holds no meaning for modern man. (For example, on February 2 we do not celebrate the purification of the Blessed Virgin, but Candle Mass.) We need a New Testament ritual purity which consists in the ability to relax and cultivate art. We must be able to relax in a cultivated form. This does not mean to "sit around in old clothes in front of the TV" but the ability to relax, to expel all tension. When we celebrate a feast, we sleep an hour longer. To celebrate before 7:00 a.m. is unchristian.

    For this ritual purity, we need time to prepare. We cannot relax at will. We need time to forget our work-a-day world, to expel our tensions, to put our work away. For example, recall the tension you experience when you try to celebrate and worry about your work at the same time: the feeling you have when you sit down to watch an excellent television special, all the time telling yourself, "I should be getting my work done; I will never get finished on time." One cannot celebrate with this tension. We must concentrate our life forces and become more aware of ourselves-more fully human in the core of our being.
    The first step in achieving this ritual purity is the ability to wait, to expect, to develop an attitude of longing. For example, when I go to see a play at the theater, I arrive early; I wait; I look around; I look over the pro-ram; I think about what is about to happen. I expect. A special alertness grows within me. The lights dim. I wait. The theater grows silent. Perhaps, an overture is played. My senses are purified, intensified. My eyes, ears, my whole being becomes tuned to celebrate, to feast at my leisure.

    This purification of the senses is necessary if we are to celebrate well. It is impossible to watch TV. or read a newspaper and then immediately go and celebrate. I need to look at the trees, the sky, a human face, listen to music to collect my senses and gather my being into an attitude of contemplation. Then when the celebration begins, I can really see and hear and appreciate flowers, candles, color, vestment, song.

    I can then break through the every-day-attitude and really enjoy beauty: to be able to be astonished about something; to stand back and say, "Ah!" "Wow" Modern man often grows very snobbish and sophisticated so that he can no longer be astonished at anything. To be amazed is considered childish.

    Yet how inhuman to go to a festive dinner with the attitude "I have already tasted all things, I eat only for nourishment." What a compliment to the host and hostess to be able to be astonished like a child discovering something for the first time when we bite into a piece of pie, perhaps, and to be able to say, "Oh: How wonderful: I have never tasted pie like this before." How awful for an adult to lose his ability to be astonished like a child and to grow super sophisticated like a precocious, spoiled child, "knowing all things."

    In addition to leisure, the ability to wait, to relax, to enjoy, we must have the ability to come into a loving relationship with value; this ability is the fruit of leisure. It is like the blooming of the spirit, to enjoy, to love colors and music. It is a special attitude which is both active and passive. Passive: the ability to let myself be surprised. Active: the ability to look with alertness; to say, "I will receive a gift."

    3. Clothes  
    It is impossible to celebrate in our work clothes. Our human being is so influence by what we wear, how we look, that we spend endless hours and dollars on clothes and cosmetics. Reflect: how do you feel when you wear a brand new pair of shoes? Or: What reaction do parents get when they insist that their teenage son get his hair cut?

    Clothes are an expression of joy--Sunday clothes, Easter clothes. We feel a little bit a new man. Our life is elevated.

    Clothes are also an honor to the host and the occasion. At a liturgical celebration, clothes honor God. Or do we think that God is beyond this? Do we look upon Christ as a man of high culture, a distinguished gentleman? Or have we falsely let our image of Christ be influenced by inaccurate connotations of "worker," "spoor," "carpenter," "servant"? Christ was certainly aware of the beauty of the lilies of the field, the birds of the air. (Lk. 12:27) And at Cana, he took the trouble to make "the best wine." (Jn. 2:10)
    Concerning the question of liturgical garments, there will no doubt be experimentation in this area; but there will remain some form of liturgical garment. A special garb is needed for the celebration of a liturgical feast to embody the contact with a "beyond," the approach to that border line of our existence where we can touch God. (Here Dr. Goldbrunner takes issue with Harvey Cox in Secular City. Dr. Cox feels that the priest must lay aside priestly garments in the technopolis, for they are the uniform of a long forgotten war. Dr. Goldbrunner, while viewing Secular City as an excellent prognosis, does not feel that Dr. Cox explores the sacramental level of human life.)

    Clothes are an expression of joy, an expression of my inner elevation as I approach the feast, and an honor to my host.

    4. Art  
    Art plays an important part in all our celebrations. We adorn the wedding hall with flowers. We adorn our churches and places of liturgical worship with sacred are. Vatican II states: "Very rightly the fine arts are considered to rank among the noblest expressions of human genius. This judgment applies especially to religious art and to its highest achievement, which is sacred art. By their very nature both of the latter are related to God's boundless beauty, for this is the reality which these human efforts are trying to express in some way." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #122.) Therefore, all things set apart for use in divine worship should be truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful, signs and symbols of heavenly realities. " (Ibid.) Art which is truly sacred, should strive after noble beauty rather than mere extravagance." (Ibid.) The council fathers warn that we must exclude from the house of God those works which offend true religious sense either by lack of artistic worth, by mediocrity, or by pretense. (Ibid.)

    Buddhist monks, who are experts in the depths of human nature, are also experts in flower arrangement. To arrange flowers one needs a special preparation and holiness--an intuition--eyes that look through the materials so that the object becomes transparent for meaning and beauty. It is the attitude we must have in meditation-an attitude of contemplation.

    At a liturgical feast the language must be artistic. The choice of words, the diction, the accent, the modulation of the voice--all are elevated to a new level of enthusiasm and eloquence. Often we sing the words. The voice must be enjoyable and artistic. Yet how rare it is to find such speech in the celebration of our liturgical feasts.
    Giving a homily is like serving a fine wine. One does not drink wine without first giving a toast.  You must look at the person and find something to enjoy. Then you elevate the glass and toast the person, celebrate the drink. As the Spanish say: To our good abilities / which are very, very good / and which increase from day to day.

    So often a homily is prepared for in exertion. But to have a wonderful idea and to say it in the very best way so that the listeners can be elevated, smile with joy--this is to preach, to announce the gospel. To prepare for the Sunday homily one needs a bottle of wine. (At this point in the lecture, the bell rang for the end of the period. Dr. Goldbrunner began the next lecture by saying: When I left yesterday, I had a bad conscience. I do not drink the whole bottle;)

    We also need a music which will help us escape from the world of profit and purpose. At the present time, our liturgical music is in a stage of transition. Rhythm is coming to the fore and we are neglecting melody and flow of line. Many "hymns" have only a superficial, pious melody. But time and artistic endeavor will bring a balance so that the music will aid us to win the wholeness of our nature and experience real enthusiasm--zest for life and living. (Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm: A Historical Study.) As we sing together and achieve a unity of mind and voice, we are more and more drawn to community.

    5.  Community 
    The celebration of a feast requires community for we must share our joy with our brothers and sisters. But we speak here of real community. If the individuals are not mature, they form, not community, but a collective personality which is not conducive to individual growth. But if the individuals are mature and can stand on their own, they can move into community; the "mankind" in us is actualized and we become aware of the social dimensions of our nature.

    Much of this study is only human--yet it is so human. We must cultivate this humanity. Throughout history there has been a problem concerning the relation of humanity and faith--nature and super nature. The relationship changes in the course of time: sometimes we neglect one, sometimes the other. In our present age we often neglect the human. "Gratia supponit naturam." But this does not only mean "presuppose," but super nature builds on nature so that only in so far as we are really human can we really be Christian. From the human to faith is a leap--but a leap which does not spoil or destroy our humanity. Conversion is the leap from the human to the divine. Often a person can listen to Scripture as to human words, but suddenly--a leap--faith--the Scriptures become spirit and life. This "faith" is a gift. We cannot compel anyone to accept a gift, we can only invite them. We can only pray that the conversion will take place. An invitation is a personal category: we are in the hands of the other, he can refuse to accept the gift. We cannot compel him with force. (Even in grade school, we cannot press too much.) We have a two-fold task then: 1) to integrate our humanity; and 2) to convert our humanity.

    6: Cause--Reason--Occasion  
    Here must always be some cause, some reason, some occasion for our celebration. Under this heading, we will make three points.

    First: There is an irrational element, an element that is beyond our control, not in our hands. ("There is also a certain happiness in leisure, something of the happiness that comes from the recognition of our incapacity to understand it, that comes with a deep confidence, so that we are content to let things take their course." Pieper, p 177.) At a birth we are not sure what kind of person the child will become. At a reunion we celebrate; but what if before our celebration one of the parties is killed in a car accident; what if...? There is an area here that is not in our hands; something beyond the human. At a marriage we celebrate that the two have found each other; that their love can create new life. In creation we also find an element beyond the human.

    God, we are told in the first chapter of Genesis, ended his work which he had made and behold, it was very good.  In the same way we celebrate and gratefully accept the reality of creation in leisure, and the inner vision that accompanies it.  And just as Holy Scripture tells us that God rested on the seventh day and beheld that the work which he had made was very good--so too it is leisure which leads us to accept the reality of creation and thus to celebrate it, resting on the inner vision that accompanies it.

    "The strongest affirmation of this agreement is the celebration of a feast, where 'to celebrate is the union of peace, contemplation, and intensity of life.  In all religions, the meaning of a feast has always been the same, the affirmation of man's fundamental accord with the world; and its purpose is to express this accord and man's participation in the world in a special manner." (Ibid., p 55.)

    Second: we celebrate a happening, an event, not an idea.  We do not have feasts in honor of an idea; such a feast is thin and empty. (It has been tried and is being tried: e.g. the Communists; or, e.g., the French under Napoleon with their feasts in honor of freedom, science, truth.)

    Third:  the fact, the happening, must be positive. We do not celebrate a disaster. At a feast I get a gift; I love I enjoy; I desire. "Ubi caritas gaudet, / Ibi est festivitas." (Chrysostom)

    We will now consider the specifically religious elements of a feast.

    7. The Divine Element 

    The "irrational element" mentioned above is related to our seventh consideration: the divine element. The pagan cultures celebrated a feast when a god appeared from the beyond. When "divine Caesar'? appeared, the people felt "here is one with the power of life and death." The irrational element, the part which is "not in our hands" leads us to reach out and touch that "There is also a certain happiness in leisure, something of the happiness that comes from the recognition of the mysteriousness of the universe and the recognition of our incapacity to understand divine element from the beyond. All real feasts are God-founded, for at a liturgical feast we are in contact with the beyond. The priest is a mediator. He is a man; yet he performs the acts of Christ, coming to us from beyond. This is symbolized in the priestly garments (indeed, this is the main reason for priestly garments), We can celebrate without special vestments, but they add a dimension of mystery. For example at the opera, or at a play, the garment of a priest or a king elevates the actor, aids him to receive the special courage needed for this elevation in action and being. At mass the priest drinks from a gold cup. It is something the priest should enjoy: indeed it is necessary to enjoy it for this leads us, with our whole being, to express our gratitude, our thanksgiving, our praise of Almighty God--and the first concern in all our liturgy is the worship of Almighty God. (Guardini, p 177.)

    8. Ceremonies  
    And, as our feasts are celebrated in honor of Almighty God, we want to celebrate them in a fine, wonderful way. But how? How have others done it? Is there something I can use, imitate, from another? This is the origin of rite. A rite gives us a high standard for imitation.

    Rites and ceremonies, however, must be an authentic expression of what we celebrate. This expression changes from age to age, For example, now we cannot kiss the foot of the pope. My only thought would be "I hope he washed his feet." Much of the present liturgical renewal is an effort to make our ceremonies expressive of what we celebrate.

    Elements 7 and 8 above (the divine element, and ceremonies) put together we call cult.

    9.  Acts of Christ  
    To the eight elements above we add the specifically Christian element. The events we celebrate are the salvific acts of Christ. That comes with a deep confidence, so that we are content to let things take their course." (Pieper, Op. cit., p. 52.) They are the reason for our celebration. Yet they happened in the past. Why do we still celebrate them?

    All of Christ's acts have a future dimension. ("The true and final meaning of our Redemption lies in the future, in "the Kingdom of God promised at the end of time; and we will know this Kingdom as our own world transformed." Josef Goldbrunner (ed.), The Dimension of Future in Our Faith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996), p.l. Cf, also: Marcel van Caster, God's Word Today (New York : Benziger Brothers, 1966), pp. 45-48.) Christ acted in history with meaning for the future. These acts are actualized in the present time. The impact of the past is now made actual for us. (A good homily for children is to actualize for them what Christ did; for adults, we must prophesy.)

    This future dimension is the key to understanding what Christ did. His miracles are full of eschatological meaning: there will be a day when there is no more hunger, sorrow, hatred, sickness. As I celebrate these events now, I receive an anticipation of the future. The mother, going to morning mass for half an hour, has a ray of the future feast.

    Conclusion  The celebration of a feast is a dynamic task. Can I grow together with the future in a deeper way? The destiny of mankind is a permanent feast. "And then I heard a sound like the voices of a vast crowd, the roar of a great waterfall and the rolling of heavy thunder, and they were saying: 'Alleluia. For the Lord our God, the Almighty, has come into his kingdom; Let us rejoice, let us be glad with all our hearts. Let us give him the glory, for the wedding day of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. She may be seen dressed in linen, gleaming and spotless-for such linen is the righteous living of the saints!' Then he said to me, 'Write this down: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!"' (Rev. 19:6-9)

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    Spirituality of the Season

    [Reprinted from: Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Spirituality of the Seasons: Moving Around the Mystery," St. Anthony Messenger, 102:8 (January, 1995) p 57.]

    Is it snowing out? I live in southern Indiana and December/January usually means that I can expect snow. Or are you one of those readers who is always "behind" in your reading and don't get around to the January issue of magazines until March and the Spring crocus are already blooming. As I sit here writing this article, it is a beautiful Autumn day. I keep glancing up because the morning sun bouncing off the deep red leaves of my neighbor's dogwood tree looks like something is on fire outside my window.

    I like the variety of the seasons. I'll admit that I hate driving on ice in Winter. And dripping with sweat from the Summer humidity is not my favorite thing either. But still I love the experience the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The wonderful abundance and diversity of nature causes me to be wonder-filled at the beauty and abundance of nature's Creator.

    Besides the natural seasons which speak to us of God, we also have the seasons of the Church year -- Easter, Lent, Christmas, Advent -- which reveal in a special way the diverse and marvelous dimensions of the mystery of Christ, a mystery too rich and diverse to be embraced in any one liturgy or prayer or season.

    While studying liturgy in France during the years following the Second Vatican Council, I remember how frustrating it was to come across a particularly beautiful piece of sculpture and to try to share that beauty with my Mother back in Kansas by merely sending her a postcard or a photograph. There was no way a flat piece of photographic film could capture the beauty of the three dimensional sculpture. Often the best I could do was to walk around the statue and take pictures from different angles and perspectives and in that way try to capture at least something of the richness of the experience.

    The Church's liturgical year is something like that. The mystery of Christ is so rich and diverse that one picture or viewpoint can't do it justice. And so, we move around the mystery during the course of a year, experiencing it from various angles and in different circumstances. In the words of the Second Vatican Council: "The Church is conscious that it must celebrate the saving work of the divine Bridegroom by devoutly recalling it on certain days throughout the course of the year. ... Within the cycle of a year, the Church unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from his incarnation and birth until his ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the Lord's return." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 102).

    It seems that we are all becoming more aware of how important it is to eat well. We are reading the "Nutrition Facts" on food packages. We are counting grams of fat and cholesterol and sodium. Eating well is important for our physical health. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that praying well is important for our spiritual health and the Liturgy is the best of spiritual foods, "surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its effectiveness by the same title and to the same degree." (CSL 7). And while the "liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church," (CSL 9) still, "the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church's power flows." (CSL 10) The Church Year, the spirituality of the seasons, praying the liturgical year at home and in church, is an important part of that "spiritual nutrition."

    The liturgical year does not merely recall past events; it makes them present. Easter is not merely remembering something that happened two thousand years ago. The Second Vatican Council teaches that: "Recalling the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of the Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present in every age in order that the faithful may lay hold on them and be filled with saving grace." (CSL 102) The liturgy enables us to pass from our "past-present-future" time and to enter into God's "time of salvation" so that the grace and mystery of the event recalled is "in some way made present." When we hear the Passion of Christ proclaimed on Good Friday and we sing "Where You There When They Crucified My Lord?" the answer is, of course, YES! I was there! I am there now! I do not have to feel disappointed that I was "born too late" and all the wonderful events of Christianity happened long ago before my time. The wonderful events of Christianity are happening NOW.

    The new Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that "we must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus' life and his mysteries. ... For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them and to continue them in us and in his whole Church." (CCC 521) The Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges that this is a difficult idea to understand and reminds bishops and those responsible for teaching the faith that "this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church's liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it." (CCC 1095)

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    To Think About

    1.  Why is there a liturgical year?

    2.  What are the general principles which directed the reform of the Liturgical Calendar following the Second Vatican Council?

    3.  What is the basic structure of the current ordering of the liturgical year?

    4.  What is the theological difference between remembering the mysteries of the Christian Liturgical Year and a mere historical recalling of the event celebrated? How does the liturgy make the feast "Today"? What is the danger of "historicism"?

    5.  Anthropologically, what are the things necessary for a human to celebrate? What are the things necessary for a Christian to celebrate?

    6.  How did most Christians experience the liturgical year during the years which immediately preceded the Second Vatican Council?

    8.  Vocabulary: List 10 expressions about liturgical year that should be avoided. [e.g. Sundays after Easter rather than Sunday of Easter.]

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    Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it. This site was updated on 03/12/14 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at