Marking Time With Meaning


Convivium, 3 May 2018

Against the ephemera of a “trending” time, Father Raymond de Souza contrasts the enduring calendar of holy days.

Religious believers live according to at least two calendars. There is the civil calendar, which largely governs our common life together in relation to commerce and government. Then there is the religious calendar, with its own cycle of festivals and observances. 

The existence of an alternative way of marking time is something of a liberation from the mundane tyranny of what is going on today, or as we lamentably say now, what is trending.

Living according to different calendars reflects that we belong to different communities with different missions. For many families, the academic year calendar dominates as their school-age children determine the family rhythm. The fiscal year shapes the rhythm of the year for a business owner. Accountants are under the gun as tax filing draws near. A traditional family gathering, or an annual reunion of friends, may have more importance than matters academic or commercial.
In pagan religions where the forces of nature are invested with divine status, the religious calendar largely overlaps with the recurrence of seasons and the cycles of the sun and the moon.

For Christians that cycle of seasons is also incorporated into the religious calendar, but superseded by a calendar shaped by the events of salvation history, principally those of the life of the Lord Jesus, who Himself lived according to the calendar of Jewish feasts laid out in the Mosaic law.

For some Christians – certainly for us Catholics – the calendar of the saints also gives shape and texture to our marking of time.

Three examples recently confirmed this for me, with the calendar of the saints liberating my own thinking from the tyranny of what is happening right now.

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