The Church And Time

Ryan Hamm describes what he has learned from the church about how to engage the passage of time:

It was a subtle, but meaningful shift when I began to learn about the church calendar. I saw how our everyday lives were, in fact, framed by a way of thinking that meant more than eight hours of work. And the church calendar instructed me that each part of life was savored and used, not discarded in favor of something more palatable.

To a great extent, the church calendar is the reason I learned to sit in mourning (though never hopelessly) instead of demanding that everything be fixed right away. It’s why I learned that Easter is so much richer when you’ve gone though the joy of Palm Sunday, the reflective servanthood of Maundy Thursday, the ache and horror of Good Friday and the weird in-between of Holy Saturday. It’s why I came to treasure the Sunday liturgy that takes us through confession to absolution to the receiving of Christ’s body broken for us and his blood shed for us.

And it’s why my December turned into Advent..

But Advent is also dramatic irony. Because we have to pretend to wait for something that we know has already happened. We know the end of the story. So it's even more ritualistic a waiting, which means an even more contingent relationship with time. And in a way, because the church's calendar follows the same path, in slightly different ways, each year every year, all of it is about waiting, living in time in expectation of something out of time.Which is why it's all, in the end, ritual - the only way of living on earth that has any real approximation of existing out of time.

Longtime readers know how much I can't stand Christmas. A lot of it has to do with bad memories/traumas growing up that are best left between me and my therapist. But some of it has to do with the gap between the meaning of Christmas in a Christian as opposed to a pagan sense. What we are supposed to be waiting for in Advent is the intervention of the force behind the entire universe into human history. I find this idea - the Incarnation - so fantastic a doctrine, so immense and profound a concept that the whole idea of celebrating it by eating, drinking, visiting airports, watching TV and giving presents is just, well, weird.

Of course, I'm not sure how one can adequately celebrate God's sudden appearance on the edge of the Milky Way two millennia ago. But Advent seems much more doable than Christmas to me.