UR LITURGICAL CALENDAR is now on the wall. But our hearts are somber to know that our dear Pope Benedict XVI has died. The lighthearted mood of this post reflects late Advent, before any news of the illness of our Pope Emeritus, as we basked in the glow of soon to be opened gifts and tamale feasts.
Pope Benedict was on my mind, since my husband had offered words from The Spirit of the Liturgy, from 2000. That year seems so far away, but it’s only a blink of an eye. Memento mori. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine.
An Advent Purchase • In late November, my husband rushed to interrupt me with an urgent request to discuss a purchase. Wives probably understand my eye-roll hesitation when faced with this situation.
Reader, he had a good idea. It was a liturgical calendar he saw on Twitter.
We ordered it, it arrived, and it has brought us great joy to walk by and gaze at it.
Cardinal Ratzinger on “Sacred Time” • I asked my husband to find some quotes to help me with this blog post, because to be honest, words are not enough to convey its beauty. You really must see it. So instead of me pathetically attempting to describe it, I turn to the words of Pope Emeritus (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) from his 2000 book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, in the chapter called “Sacred Time.” The words in bold are my emphasis.
As we begin to consider the significance of sacred time in the structure of Christian liturgy, we must remember all that we said…about the significance of time and space in Christian worship. All time is God’s time. When the eternal Word assumed human existence at his Incarnation, he also assumed temporality. He drew time into the sphere of eternity. Christ is himself the bridge between time and eternity…In the Word incarnate, who remains man forever, the presence of eternity with time becomes bodily and concrete.
All time is God’s time. On the other hand, as we saw above, the time of the Church is a “between” time, between the shadow and the reality, and so its special structure demands a sign, a time specially chosen and designated to draw time as a whole into the hands of God…But now there is no escaping the question: What is time?
Cardinal Ratzinger proceeds to give us a sort of mental break here, before he continues, “Needless to say, this is not the place to plumb the depths of this question, which has exercised the minds of all the great thinkers of history.”
To which I say phew and thank you for that tiny pause, because this here homeschooling mother hasn’t delved THAT deep into cosmic physics with the children yet!
However, a few hints at an answer are imperative if the contact of the liturgy with time is to be properly understood. The first thing to say is that time is a cosmic reality.
The orbiting of the sun by the earth (or, as the ancients thought, of the earth by the sun) gives existence the rhythm that we call time – from hour to hour, from morning to evening and evening to morning, from spring through summer and autumn to winter. In addition to this rhythm of the sun there is the shorter rhythm of the moon – from its slow growth to its disappearance with the new moon and the new beginning. The two rhythms have created two measures, which appear in the history of culture in various combinations. Both show how much man is woven into the fabric of the universe. Time is first of all a cosmic phenomenon. Man lives with the stars. The course of the sun and the moon leaves its mark on his life.
People Didn’t Understand? • It hurts to remember that Cardinal Ratzinger was once Pope, to see his recent pictures and remember that his time has left a mark on my own life. (I saw him offer Mass in Rome once!) Further along the chapter, he mentions this very liturgical calendar, before the reforms after Vatican II:
The liturgical calendar used before the postconciliar reforms contained a strange transferal of the seasons, a use which, of course, had long eluded people’s understanding and was interpreted in a much too superficial way.
I add to our Pope Emeritus to say, “if people had calendars like this one back then, maybe they would have understood better.” Take a look.
Merry Christmas Season!