Monday, March 31, 2008

Reconciliation and Liturgical Time

The current Christian Reconciliation Carnival's topic, proposed by our kindly host, is:
How are divergent or competing understandings of the liturgical year an obstacle to reconciliation? Conversely, how does the idea of liturgical time open up possibilities for greater unity? In any event, how do we live out our Christian discipleship among fellow believers who approach liturgical time differently?
There is a sense of unity from celebrating the same thing at the same time. It’s unfortunate that the shared date of celebration of Lent and the Resurrection has been lost -- and after the efforts gone through to obtain a shared date in the beginning! I wonder whether it would be possible to use the calendar as a low-key way to inch back towards unity: when the theological issues cannot be resolved at this time, to at least resolve the calendar issues. I know there are some die-hards who take the calendar issues more seriously than I would. But as Mark suggested, there remains for us in the West a chance to go celebrate Holy Week with our friends to the East this year.

The differences between the Western calendar and the Eastern calendar seems more like awkward timing but less of a serious division. I have more difficulty feeling kinship with those Christians who of the low church/free church variety who do not recognize a Church Year at all. An acquaintance of mine once went to visit another church when her church would have been celebrating the resurrection, only to find they were in the middle of a sermon series on marriage and were not going to interrupt it to preach on the resurrection. I feel far more kinship with those who recognize any of the Christian calendars than those who recognize none.

I suppose some of the newer-minted churches see pagan influence under everything not mandated in Scripture. However, a liturgical year is rooted in Scripture all the way back to the Exodus and the commands to observe certain celebrations at the same time every year. From there, according to the Talmud, even beginning with Moses during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness there came the tradition of reading the portions of Scripture corresponding to the current celebration, such as Passover or Pentecost, and so the liturgical year and the lectionary were born. The connections between Passover and the Passion of Christ are probably known to most Christians, and Pentecost has been so thoroughly absorbed that a few Christians are unaware it was one of the yearly pilgrimage feasts commanded in the Torah (the Feast of Weeks was one of its names, and Pentecost the name in the Greek-speaking Jewish community). Most years (though not this one), the Western calendar and the Jewish calendar coincide, giving me subtle chances to witness to the Jewish roots of Christianity -- or the fulfillment of Jewish hope among the nations through the Messiah -- among my Jewish in-laws. There is a view to reconciliation on a large scale: for Israel to receive her Messiah.

I wish the Eastern Churches and Western Churches would take this step when our Festivals of the Resurrection do not fall on the same date: I wish we would have sister churches, so that we invited them to celebrate with us and sent our people to celebrate with them during such times. We would have a foot in each others' doors, and that could only be a good thing.

No comments: