Blog Template Theology of the Body: Therefore let us keep the feasts: the importance of observing the liturgical year

Monday, January 15, 2007

Therefore let us keep the feasts: the importance of observing the liturgical year

The commemoration of the feasts and fasts of the Church honors Christ by imitating Israel's mandate to mark holy days and seasons: "blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly..." (Joel 2). When the Church faithfully observes her traditional holy days and seasons, she enacts her confession that God Himself established boundaries between times as part of His creation of the very universe that is redeemed, in time, by Christ.

These "festivals" of the Church reflect the Christian's commitment to a living faith, whereby the basic repository of belief and prescriptions contained in our written texts may be transmitted lovingly, personally, and conversationally from old to young within the community, as that community strives to live and internalize its faith through vivid, active practices. The Christian feasts demonstrate the communal nature of Christianity's continual interpretation and enactment of God’s Word under the lively authority of tradition.

Secondly, the Church's festivals answer the unique challenges of being Christian in the contemporary world. Festivals answer the challenge of living in diaspora among the nations, by providing a universal pattern of celebration that unites Christians from various cultures and backgrounds. Festivals answer the challenge of connecting the Christian's life and faith with the historical past, in as much as each festival serves to synthesize diverse accounts of history with theological and communal meaning. Festivals also answer the challenge of sustaining the Christian family and the rites of the Christian home by drawing on the resources of the home and family, and by affirming traditional family roles. Festivals answer the challenge of nurturing the Christian community by drawing it together in common sympathies for common remembrance; and most importantly, festivals answer the challenge of connecting the people with their God, in as much as each festival incorporates worship, and in as much as the festival itself becomes an act of obedience to God’s direct commands to consecrate certain days and events for holy commemoration.

Finally, we find the Christian festivals vividly enacting the integrity and inseperability of Christian public life and private worship. The feasts and fasts of the Church demonstrate the Christian's refusal to adopt a perceptual dichotomy between “public” life and “private” religion; according to the Christian worldview, all of life is sacred, and public duties and structures must themselves constitute acts of worship. In the Christian festival, the commemoration of God’s work takes public form; the community gathers together to celebrate as a public act, and commercial and political structures may themselves be caught up in worshipful commemoration through rest and celebration.

The Christian festivals are critical moments of connection for a people dispersed from Heaven, from one another, and from their God by their sin, in as much as the festival enables historic observance in modern times, and allows for the performance and remembrance of the commanded duties of holiness, obedience, and faith. On the whole, the traditional Christian feasts and fasts should enjoy a prominent place in the life of the Church, in as much as these celebrations extend the celebration of Christ's salvation into the public sphere, vividly bridge modernity’s gap between public and sacred life, reminding the Church of her status as a consecrated "nation" wherein no such gap may persist, and calling the Church's children into the contemporary realization of the ongoing tradition and dramas of Christ's people.