Around this time of year, amidst the normal things that go on every day at the office, we’re getting ready for the season of Advent and the celebration of Christmas. Even when we get started months ahead of time, there is much we must do to be ready! At this point, we’ve already prepared and printed the Christmas Card, scheduled the Masses for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (believe it or not, you are allowed to go on Christmas Day!), plan for extra confession times in Advent, and half a dozen other things that are somewhere in the back of my head.
When I start thinking about the seasons of the year, I inevitably end up thinking about the seasons in our Liturgy. When the season changes, lots of things in the church change: the vestment colors, the decorations, and even the music. For example, during Advent and Lent, the use of instruments for music at Mass is supposed to be more subdued and primarily to assist the singers; however, during Christmas and Easter seasons, all these limits are gone so we might have an extremely joyful celebration of the mysteries of salvation. Just like our civil calendar, the cycle of liturgical seasons repeats yearly.
This yearly rhythm is something I’ve come to look forward to. The familiar cycles of the liturgy are a comfort, especially when sometimes we must plan things months away. The consistency of our liturgical cycle through the years reminds me of the consistency of the Church. I don’t remember where I read this, but I recall reading some thoughts on this yearly cycle of our church from a monk who lives at a Benedictine monastery. No matter what happened in the day, the consistent rhythm of life from day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year gave him a sense of the eternity of the place. Long before he came there, there was a monk doing the same thing he was, and long after he meets our Lord, a monk will continue doing it. Similarly, long before any of us were born, Catholics celebrated these feasts and seasons, and long after we meet our Lord, Catholics will continue to celebrate these feasts and observe these liturgical seasons.
To some this might be a bit of a frightening thought: that eternity can be found in our normal practices of loving and serving God, but I find it inspiring. We touch the eternal and receive Him Who Is at Mass, and anything that helps my feeble mind grasp at that is a grace. The beauty of this cycle is that there is one person throughout that moves it forward, day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year: Jesus Christ. When we live our lives with him and work every day to walk in his ways, he moves us forward, and because we grow with Christ every moment, we encounter the familiar rhythm of our year as if everything has been made new again.