The Church Year and Spiritual Growth
I have often found that persons are unfamiliar with the concept of the “Church year”. In many congregations, including Methodism, we see and take for granted certain practices without fully understanding them.
The practices I am referring to include the changing colors on the altar, the pulpit and lectern, as well as choir robes and other features. Also, we often see or hear terms that we may not fully understand; Advent, Lent, Eastertide, Kingdom tide, and others may not translate meaningfully. There are even special days that may seem strange, such as All Saints Day, Christ the King Sunday, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday.. What is it all about?
The Church year is about reliving the life of Christ in an ongoing seasonal manner. The year begins with Advent when the promised coming of the Messiah is remembered through specific readings, music, and acts of worship. Advent climaxes with the Christmas celebration of the nativity. The year proceeds with Epiphany in a manner that walks the believer through the public appearance of Jesus, his life and ministry. With the arrival of the Lenten season believers recall his passion, death. The climax here is Easter when we experience the resurrection of the Christ. From Easter we move towards Pentecost and the birth of the Church. The balance of the year explores the important themes of what it means to be the body of Christ in our world. And in general terms, the cycle begins again as we approach Advent.
So, as they say, “What’s the point?” I believe that correctly understood, the Church year can be a valuable tool to allow us to grow spiritually as we meditate upon and study the major movements of our faith. The early church understood the Christian faith as both an organized set of beliefs (credens) and a vital condition of the heart (fiducia) . One played into the other.
We too may find that by reliving the seasons of the year with their focus upon the Gospel message, our own faith will be more completely informed and more deeply felt.
As we approach the Advent season, be on the lookout for resources that will be displayed around the church to aid you and your family in mining this treasure trove of the Church year.