Monday, May 31, 2010

Because of the Liturgical Year

I've been a Catholic my whole life, and yet I always have more to understand about our faith. Yesterday during Mass, for instance, was the first time in my 47 years I understood why Trinity Sunday falls when it does during the Liturgical Year. I have not always been a faithful Catholic, so I have denied myself the lessons the Liturgical Year teaches. It exists to help us understand the dogmas of our faith.

In my twenties, I attended Mass erratically. While it was a blessing, I kept returning to the Church, one of the many problems with irregular Mass attendance is, we don't "get" the whole picture. I visited a family member in South Carolina one weekend when I was 26 and—lo and behold—discovered it was Trinity Sunday. I remember thinking, Oh, that's interesting. But the day felt random. I didn't understand why it fell when it did.

The Liturgical Year is a guide for believers. The faith is so deep and cycles of the year help poor souls like you and me understand the richness and complexity of the life of Christ. The year begins on the first Sunday of Advent and guides us through various seasons that tell the story of Christ's life - Advent, Christmas, Lent, the Triduum, Easter and Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is so called not because it is ordinary, but because we use ordinal numbers to mark the weeks. The Liturgical Year ends with the Feast of Christ the King.

Of course we believe, for example, in the Resurrection during the season of Lent. But the Church offers us Lent as an opportunity to meditate on the sufferings of Christ so we might better appreciate the miracle of His Resurrection. Each season of the Liturgical Year has its moods, its colors, its prayers and psalms, and its Bible passages.

And so it is that Trinity Sunday comes to us, not as I once thought, as a random day of the year, but rather as the climax of a series of feast days that instruct us, step by step, in the central mystery of the faith, the comforting dogma that our God is one God in three persons. This relationship is based on unconditional love and interdependence and we can attempt to model our loving relationships here on earth on the Trinity.

As yesterday's exquisite reading from the book of Proverbs tells us, God the Father existed before time.
"When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
when he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race."

Thus, the first person: God the Father.

Yesterday's second reading resonates with the Easter miracle. Without Easter morning, there would be no Christianity.The second person: God the Son. 

As St. Paul told the Romans and tells us:
"Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God."

Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate Pentecost. The third person: God the Holy Spirit. 
St. Paul' s letter continues: "Not only that but, we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

And so, the following week we celebrate Trinity Sunday, which describes the whole picture: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Within the Liturgical Year, there are many different rites or ways to observe. The Sarum Rite was a variant of the Roman Rite and once was used throughout England. The piece we five choristers sang a cappella during the offertory yesterday came from the Sarum Rite.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.

Isn't this lovely? How comforting to know Our Triune God is present to us always, through every season of the Liturgical Year and every season of our lives.