This morning, April 4, I opened my electronic daily office app and quickly realized that I was reading the lessons for the feast of the Annunciation of Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Over a week ago I registered a blip that several of my liturgy geek friends were commenting that March 25–the feast of the Annunciation–was coinciding with Good Friday. This is an oddity on the Church calendar that only happens every few centuries, because Easter moves around based on the moon, and the feasts relating to Christmas are fixed.
Now I know that many of my readers and friends come from traditions where this is complete nonsense–so please bear with me. The monk in me is still formed by the liturgical calendar, and I have learned that God speaks a lot through days, seasons, and the set Bible readings for these days. This year, 2016, is turning out to be a year when the times and seasons are being turned upside down, when the reaper is overtaking the plow.
I pay attention to dates. This year the Jewish calendar added a month, putting Passover a month behind Easter. And this year happens to be a Jewish Jubilee. Pope Francis also declared this a Jubilee year for Catholics–the Year of Mercy. And then there is this oddity I write about today. Because of the primary importance of Good Friday and the Easter Octave–eight days after Easter–the Feast of the Annunciation was pushed forward a week and half (the technical term for this is “transferred”).
I’m working on a book about Mary right now, and how Mary as a person embodies all of the important themes I preach and teach to artists. This feast is all about saying “Yes.” What if Mary had said no to God? It’s about taking a risk based on the word from an angel. Yes, that sounds nutty.
Times and seasons are a big part of God’s prophetic voice, and this year God is speaking through them in a creative way. For our ministry, dates have been very important, and especially the feasts relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We started on August 15, 2006, the feast of the Assumption, and the principle Marian feast. This pattern has continued for 10 years and it should be no surprise that a Marian feast was moved to coincide with an important date for the ministry–I leave today to strengthen and encourage our ministry friends in England, Wales, and Scotland. Paying attention to times and seasons open our eyes to a whole new dimension of how God speaks and how creative his communication really is.
As you can tell, a lot of this is weaving a prophetic eye into a lot of things that many would say are “the traditions of men.” God uses everything, and God is always speaking. The church calendar is even more powerful because every day is interpreted by Bible readings, and these readings have been associated with different days for centuries. No longer is this just a subjective “prophetic interpretation.” This is the voice of Scripture speaking into our daily rhythm. And this rhythm and these cycles become an amazing “grid” on which to build our creativity. This practice has caused me to become more connected to the world around me, the rhythm of nature, and the rhythm of life. This is very different from the 24-7 fluorescent tube pulse of our world that buzzes and zaps with no days of rest or reflection. This is death to the human soul, and the death of human culture.
Paying attention to times and seasons connects you to your humanness and to the God who made you. Let it be to us according to His word.