Reason # 10: The Liturgical Year. One of the beautiful aspects of Catholicism is the way our very calendars become a call to holiness. The Catholic year is divided up into seasons, which correspond to the life of Jesus and our journey toward Him.
In Advent we long for Christ and look for Him to come again. We anticipate it much as did the ancient Israelites, who waited for the coming Messiah. The readings and prayers of this season feature Gospels in which Christ describes His coming in glory and our need to be ready. The secular world is done with Christmas on December 26 and everything goes on sale. But we are just beginning! We meditate on Christ’s birth, His circumcision on the eighth day, His Holy Family, His Epiphany, the flight into Egypt, and the murder of the innocent children by Herod. And while we meditate on the Word becoming flesh, we also consider how we must allow the Word to become flesh in us as well. We do this by reading the First Letter of John in daily Masses.
For a brief period we then enter into something called “Ordinary Time,” during which priests wear green vestments. During this first section of Ordinary time, we ponder how Jesus began his public ministry, called his first disciples, and began to teach the multitudes.
Soon enough the season of Lent is upon us. We step out of Ordinary Time and ponder more directly the events that led to Jesus’ death. We do this because it was during the spring, from what we know, that Jesus suffered, died, and rose. During Lent we read Gospels of conflict and glory in which Christ runs up against his enemies as he makes his way to Jerusalem for the last time. We also use this time to meditate on our own sins and why we need the Lord Jesus to go to the cross for us. This all leads to the greatest week of the Church’s year: Holy Week. It opens with the Palm Sunday Procession. On Thursday of that week, we enter the Upper Room with the Apostles as Jesus celebrates his Last Supper and institutes the Eucharist. At the end of Mass, we walk with Jesus and the disciples across the Kidron Valley into the Garden of Gethsemane by processing with the Blessed Sacrament to an Altar of Repose. At midnight, the time when Jesus was arrested, we remove the Blessed Sacrament to the safe and lock the Church. On Good Friday, we often gather at noon and at 3:00 pm for the Stations of the Cross, walking with Christ on his way to Calvary. At night we gather to pray together, much as the disciples must have done that fateful night. On Saturday evening, we light the Easter Fire, and after numerous readings from the Old Testament, we sing the Gloria and the Church comes ablaze with light. Hallelujah, He is Risen!
For the fifty days of Easter, we celebrate by reading stories of the risen Christ and celebrating the new life he has given us. We then see the Lord ascend to heaven on Ascension Thursday. Ten days later, just as the Lord promised, the Holy Spirit comes upon us at Pentecost. The Church is alive with the life of the Spirit.
Finally we step back into Ordinary Time and experience an extended period during which the Lord teaches us about discipleship through his Scriptures.
What a gift it is to walk with Christ through the whole cycle of His life. The whole year is laid our for us in a marvelous way. Here’s a great reason to come back to the Church and walk this journey with Jesus!