This year I’m going to do something I never wanted enough to do before, but now realise I need: invest myself in the church year. My tradition rejected anything like this that smacked of “Catholicism” – Catholics worshipped Mary, so we wanted nothing to do with that kind of heresy. We were good Protestants after all. Since then I’ve discovered that we kind of threw many babies out with the bathwater with the whole Reformation thing, and maybe there are some we can recover. But I haven’t been ready for this one until now.
Basically the church year lives out the whole story of Jesus, and along the way gets to celebrate many of the saints who, throughout history, have done amazing things that are worth celebrating not only as part of our heritage and story, but as lessons to learn. We Protestants have kept Christmas and Easter but they just kind of float there, isolated, like little buoys in a sea of contrary lives.
To this end, I have set up a little sacred space in my office, where I will try to, daily, enter into the holiness of that day and the presence of God in it:
I’d resisted sacred spaces because I didn’t want a separation between the “sacred” and what we often call the “secular” – there is no difference (more on that soon). So really this is a space free of clutter, in which to put things that focus my attention on things that are worth my focus; literally a place in which to be different, in a way that habit undoes in me in other places. Largely this decision to follow the church year is a realisation that I need to invest myself deeply in two things: the first is a story, namely the Christian story; and secondly in the practices that accompany that. And what better way to invest myself in that story than to take up some of the practices that have mediated God to humans throughout history.
And so I begin, appropriately, with the solemnity of the Epiphany (tomorrow). The “revelation”; the “unveiling”. To that end, I share Richard Rohr’s reflections on today with you. I’m not going to argue Catholic vs Protestant theology here: just enter into it, let it sink deeply into you:
“Every time Catholics celebrate Eucharist, we take something of this earth, of this world, bread and wine, and we say – daringly, unbelievably – it’s God. I don’t know any other religion that ever does that. Most of the world’s religions – Hinduism, Buddhism and many forms of Protestantism – are always trying to get you up into transcendental holy thinking: ideas, explanations, and principles, visions. The Catholic worldview is always saying, “Get us into history, get into the flesh, get into the bread and wine, get into the material.” Get into this world and the world will still be the mediation point of the spiritual.
That’s our greatest strength. The fancy word for that is incarnational Christianity. The most popular feast is not Easter. You’d have no doubt about it if you have ever been to Europe, or any countries where Catholicism held the strongest sway. The big feast is Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, the proclamation that God became flesh in a little baby. Easter’s redemption is just the logical conclusion.” (originally from “Why Be Catholic?”, quoted in Richard Rohr “Radical Grace: Daily Meditations”.)