Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Lost Calendar

Time is shaped or it is incomprehensible. Scientists peer in vain back at the still time before time which began time and forward through the eons to time's still termination to avoid the eternal presencing through space. A poetical thought few if any minds can live on, man seems to find it simply one damn thing after another. Man must fix time for himself. Art satisfies man as it does for it seems to tame time into something recognizable: film sculpts time, music meters time, and painting stops time. For moments these move the soul beyond the world but they cannot remove his intolerable shirt of fire.

The Christian calendar orients man's world around Christ while we dwell in the world, reconciling the corporeal and transcendent. Scripture and saintly homage, sacred remembrance and theology are all reconciled through the mass. The Christian however calendar is also gone, replaced socially by secular holidays and that most sacred bourgeois feast, the weekend, and liturgically by that ternary bloc of Advent, Lent, and Ordinary Time. The epoch of Christ's redemption, the years Anno Domini, are now the years of the "Common Era," an epithet slapped on by those so indolent, unstudied, and cowardly that they didn't even have the decency to fish for a new date from which to start their age. Even the French Revolutionaries had the decency to do that. Add to this disorder the rotation of scriptural readings and the liturgical breakdowns and we have a true loss of time, season, and center.

You'll notice that the leading image above isn't that of a liturgical calendar. How many of those round doohickies (left) do you see, taped and torn, festooned around schools and church vestibules everywhere? I've never known anyone to find it more inspiring than its color-coding. With it's arbitrary transferring and shifted observances, it's the fruit of tinkering and not tradition. The image above is that of the Labors of the Year, that is, the seasonal organization of life which results from the order of the Christian calendar.

It is no coincidence and to their credit that the online spaces of so many Catholic writers and bloggers become calendars where they mark the feasts, posting paintings, pieces of music, and prayers which they are discovering for themselves. They miss the order, surely, but also the pleasure which shaped time gives, for the calendar gives not only purpose but season to worship as does a Bach cantata or an altar cover of Bernini.

The traditional mass, its shape of and through the year, and the art of its expression are instead of interminably presencing through time, of time, man, his expression, and God a perpetual reconciliation. The alternative is one damn thing after another.

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