No. My calendar pages are not out of order. And I realize that today is not January 1st.
But today is the start of a new year according to the liturgical calendar, which is the calendar that guides the seasons of the church year. Advent is the beginning of a new church year and Advent starts today! Thus, it is okay to go around shouting, “Happy New Year!”
Just what is the liturgical calendar?
Unlike the calendars we all carry with us, the purpose of the liturgical calendar is not to mark the passage of time. Instead, it is a calendar that repeats every year: Advent, Christmastide, the day of Epiphany, the season after Epiphany, Lent, Easter, etc, etc. Through this continuous cycling of seasons, we hear the stories of Jesus and the start of the church. It all begins today, with the season of Advent in which we prepare our hearts for Jesus to come into our world as a small baby.
Returning to the same stories?
With an annual revisiting of these stories do we find them a little bit different each time? Perhaps because we ourselves have changed?
As Joan Chittister says in her book, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life…
We are older, wiser, more experienced. We are also more needy, less sure of ourselves, more greedy for life, and less sure of what it really is.
Paying attention to the changing church seasons can make us aware of how we fit into these stories.
Other clues to a changing season?
The liturgical calendar is often displayed as a circle and certain colors mark each season. Look for changes in the colors used in worship – the cloths (called paraments) that cloak the altar or hang from the pulpit, or are worn by the clergy. (They may be purple or blue.) Look also for changed wording in the bulletin.
Happy New Year!
May you live your liturgical year with eyes open to your place in God’s story!