As we begin the church year on the first day of December, Advent I, we retrace the first steps in our journey into the heart of God. We are not doing anything new, of course: we are walking the same path traveled by those before us through centuries of Christian practice.
And yet, there is something new about it. After a year of listening, discernment and planning, we as a congregation have chosen to more intentionally embrace the sacred rhythms and feasts of the what Joan Chittester calls “the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life:” the liturgical year, in which the days and weeks of our everyday lives are given depth and meaning by the life of Jesus.
The very first goal of our Mission and Renewal Plan speaks of our hunger to be a community that models and nurtures a life of prayer, a life of both grace and adventure that animates our days and sends us out into the world with hearts to serve.
How exactly do we do this? How do we accomplish this seemingly nebulous goal of “defining ourselves by prayer, liturgy and learning?”
We begin, I think, by drawing from our tradition the gift of the liturgical calendar and claiming it as something both vital and sacred. At St. Andrew’s we will use the liturgical calendar as the primary point of focus for planning, preparation, and communication. That means you’ll be hearing about it a lot! We will speak of it from the pulpit, highlight it from the website and teach it throughout the year and even in the pages of the newsletter.
“The liturgical year,” Chittester writes, “is the arena where our life and the life of Jesus intersect.” (Joan Chittester, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life). The calendar of the church year allows us to turn away from the many competing narratives in our world today and to instead claim that our lives are an indispensable part of a larger story, the story of God’s presence in creation. When this is our narrative, our lives take a very different shape and trajectory.
In this season and the many seasons to follow, I encourage you to explore the meaning and experience of the church year. Our practice as Christians, especially as Episcopalians, is centered on the sacred liturgies that both tell the great stories, and bind our lives to them.
As the year begins we start simply, with some of the most beautiful hymns and prayers in our tradition. Through our Sunday liturgies and Wednesday night services, we will explore Advent prayers and evening hymns as we enter the darkness of December and look forward to the light of the incarnation.
I look forward to traveling with you through the blessed season of Advent. Always, we begin again.