Does life seem to mimic the liturgical season for anyone else?
These are the seasons that some churches follow marking transitions within the Christian story beginning usually in November. Most people who are vaguely familiar with Advent think it is simply a precedent to Christmas (Christ’s birth) but the ordered calendar points us to his greatest return – the second coming.
The liturgical calendar designates an extended celebration of Christ’s birth long after stores wrap up after Christmas sales. The Christmas season includes Epiphany when baby Jesus is recognized by the Gentiles.
Having not been religiously educated in a church that follows the liturgical year, when I became Lutheran, I understood the liturgical seasons to be simply a reminder or a rote ritual.
I respected the ritual. I acknowledged it as a part of my new church and went along with the motions. On Ash Wednesday (a day leading us into Lent or the season before Easter day) 2012, a change happened.
During church as the minister’s fingers gently smeared ashes and oil on my forehead to remind me of my death, like a split-screen movie scene, miles away in an ambulance, paramedics pounded on my father’s heart trying to evade his death. He died and I began to live the seasons of the church.
The liturgical seasons grew from a ritual to a spiritual practice.
“The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life of Christians with 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 — followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God.” ~ Joan ChittisterThe Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life – The Ancient Practices Series
With the practice of the liturgical season, God had seized my attention and jolted me out of the mediocre.
“The liturgical season is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.” ~ Joan Chittister The Liturgical Year
It is the ebbs and flows of life that join me in the Bible narrative of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection.
Phyllis Tickle wrote:
It is the observance of the liturgical year that tells over and over again through all the years of our lives the Story that informs us and that we are fulfilling.” Forward from The Liturgical Year
Fulfilment. We are a continuation of the liturgical season, never meant to be done without real life participation. It seems that just becoming aware of, or willing to be present is when God is able to fulfil the Scriptures in me.
As the Christmas season moves into Epiphany, another one of those liturgical moments is fulfilled in my life.
Soon after my father died, my mother had a debilitating stroke and because this was her second stroke, she became emotionally recalcitrant about her physical recovery. She refused to continue long-term physical therapy and refused to move much outside of her wheelchair. Even though the inpatient physical and occupational therapy had improved her mobility tremendously, she felt her laboriously clunky gait was not good enough, and she obstinately sat in the wheelchair refusing to exercise or build on her current progress.
Often my husband and I would make suggestions like a swim class for the disabled, a stroll in the neighborhood, or simply walking around the house indoors instead of sitting. These subtle suggestions happened for nearly 4 years.
Then, the week of the fourth Sunday in Advent when our attentions move from waiting for the coming of Christ in darkness and uncertainty, to a shift into the hope of his coming; my mother answers her front door standing, without her wheelchair, looking at me face-to-face.
She said that morning she received a revelation, an epiphany that she should leave the wheelchair in her room for the day, and walk about the house to strengthen her body.
Similar to Mary who sings the words of promise as written in Luke when she encounters her old pregnant cousin, I have seen the liturgical seasons leap into life and the epiphany of the Christmas gift come alive once again.