Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why We Keep the Christian Year

Ordinary Time

Or, Why Lent has Nothing to Do with Chocolate

I've been thinking about Lent (which will be upon us in two weeks) and how Friday is a really inconvenient fast day. I'm just being honest, here. Y'all were thinking it, too. See, even though I'm a student, I actually get up pretty early in the morning, and go to bed at a reasonable time in the evening. Friday and Saturday are party nights. Hasn't anyone explained this to the Church Catholic?

Oh yeah, wait.

The Christian Church has a particular story that it tells about the world. It begins with the creation of the world by the Triune God who loves it deeply and passionately. However, it suffers under the weight of the great Fall, a story told in terms of disobedience and expulsion from God's garden. This God created and nurtured a particular people out of all the tribes on earth to be the ones who would bear his name, and invite everybody who was far off to come and worship and know that God. That people, Israel, suffered their own narrative of creation, judgment, exile, and hoped-for return.

In the work, death, and vindication of Jesus the God-Man, God brought the judgment of Israel and the destitution of the wider world together upon his own shoulders. All of the world's evil was absorbed into the life of God.

Now that this has been done, God is building together a community of redeemed and saved people that participate in his renewal - his re-creation - of everything. Everyone has been called to get on board with this agenda, to turn from evil, and align themselves with this agenda, this Reign of God.

This is the story that the Church tells about the world, and this is the framework by which Christians learn to understand their own lives. The story of Jesus is at the center of this wider epic, and we believe that in following it closely, and telling that story over and over again, it will shape our imaginations and the way we live our lives.

Keeping the Church year and remembering the seasons is one way that we order our lives according to that story. This isn't merely "February" - it's Ordinary Time, after the Epiphany. We remember that after the revelation of Christ's love and renewal, only now is time really ordinary: we have been brought into fellowship with God, and things are becoming as they are supposed to be.

Now we follow the life of Christ into the season of Lent, that cadence of mourning and hope, of repentance and works of penance, and sorrow that leads to life rather than death. As he in the midst of announcing God's Reign turned toward Jerusalem, and the suffering and death he would face there for all of us, so we also change our tempo to remember that we too will face death, and must seek to divest ourselves of the sin we treasure.

It's not about feeling badly and it's not about giving up chocolate. It's about being mindful, and choosing for this time to walk in the valley of the shadow of death.

So yeah, I think I'll be keeping some kind of Friday fast during the season, so that I can remember with Christ's Church that these rhythms of sin and repentance and death and new life are the primary ways of telling time, rather than those of "work weeks" and "weekends."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Kyle.

I'm looking forward to really 'engaging' with Lent this year. I've got Alexander Schmemann's 'Great Lent' to help inspire the journey.

He raises your point about 'reimagining' the journey from death to life, and the importance of Lent in helping us catch our vision up into Resurrection life (from the depths it often sinks in to).

Interestingly Western and Eastern Easter (and Lent) coincide this year (for those on the Gregorian calendar anyway!) and it's great to join with the church catholic and orthodox in taking this journey.

Only wish it could be like this every year... ;-(