Summer in the Little Oratory–Chapter Four

The Little Oratory
(All Little Oratory posts here)

So, how are you doing with these posts? Are you excited for a Little Oratory in your house? I hope so!

Today we’re talking about calendars. Not the normal calendars, and not planners. But Liturgical calendars.

If you went to Catholic school, chances are you’re familiar with the round Liturgical Calendar that charts the Liturgical Year. Even the most inattentive church goers are aware of the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time.

In Rumer Gooden’s In This House of Brede, one of the nuns describes the liturgical years as a “pageant”, and that’s a great way to think of it. The church, in her wisdom, gives us these periods of fast and feast that shape our lives and seasons.

Right now, for example, we’re in Ordinary Time–the green vestments adorn the priest and the altars. But really, “ordinary time” is a misnomer, because no day is really ordinary in God’s world. Every day is unique and precious.

So chapter four tales about the Liturgical Year, when we “contemplate the events of salvation in order, with Christ in the center, yet ever renewing.” (51)

The Church Year starts with Advent. Yes! The first Sunday of Advent is New Year’s Day in the church. We start the cycle of salvation over again, awaiting the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is a penitential season, a season of preparation. Toss off consumerism and all of that, and focus on Jesus and the preparation. Yes, of course, Christmas is a wonderful season–but keep it in its time.

Then the birth of Christ, Christmas, which lasts until February! FEBRUARY! How many people keep their trees up through the 12 Days of Christmastide? Not many, anymore. But we can celebrate Christmas until Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation, on February 2nd. (Now, if your tree is “live” and won’t make it that long, sure, take it out. But keep up the creche!) It drives me crazy to hear about people taking down the decorations on December 26th or 27th. No! That will not do!

There is a brief return to Ordinary Time before we start Lent, our great penitential season. The three pillars of Lent–prayer, fasting, almsgiving–come to the fore, and bring us to the drama of Holy Week, the most dramatic week of the year. I love Holy Week, probably because I was born on Good Friday. AT the end of Holy Week, the Triduum, the three sacred days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday. And then…

Easter! 50 days of joy! Christ is risen indeed!  Pentecost brings Easter to an end, and then back to Ordinary Time. 

And then, sprinkled in every season, are the feast days of saints and solemnities. We’ve just celebrated many solemnities–Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, Saints Peter and Paul, which was on a Sunday this year. The Assumption is coming in August.  We celebrate the feasts and memorials of the saints–so many days in our calendar are saints’ days!

“The saints are our friends par excellence. They go before us and encourage us. Their friendship is marked by this quality, the very epitome of the meaning of the word friend; they bring us closer to Jesus Christ.” (59:

 

St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena

Everyone has special saints’ days. The day they celebrate their confirmation saint (For me, that’s St. Therese, on October 1); personal favorite saints (for me that includes St. Catherine of Siena (April 29), St. Dominic (August 8), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (January 4), and others), and other special feast days. The saints are our dear friends in Heaven! Don’t ignore them!

Of course, placed in the seasons of the year are our days, weeks, months. This Monday, next Tuesday, the fourth Thursday, etc. “A day is a unit of sanctification” (51), the authors tell us. (We’ll see this more when we talk about the Liturgy of the Hours!). And Sunday, especially, is our Sabbath Day, a day of rest given to us by God.

Here’s how the authors talk about Sunday:

…[H]ere is the Christian way of looking at the week. Monday through Saturday, we work with varying degrees of intensity, because God has given us the whole of creation to sanctify, giving matter itse day of rest.  nobility. [Saint] John Paul II speaks of how ‘work is a good thing for man–a good thing for his humanity–because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being.’ (Laborem Exercens 9).

The Holy Father then warns about man losing his dignity if work is used against him…Sunday is the remedy for this loss of dignity. Even the poorest person can rest on Sunday and can become a philosopher…He rises above his day-to-day needs and simply enjoys what is given to him out of the gratuitous love of the Creator.

The source of this enjoyment and even celebration is worship. Therefore, who would not put Sunday worship, the Mass, in the very first place in his life?

If you put Sunday worship and Sunday rest first, all will be added unto you. You will finally understand life and your place in it. You will see your way clear to solutions and problems that have seemed intractable, or you will be content with the way things are, depending on what God’s will for you is–which you will grasp. (emphasis added)

When a person orients himself to Sunday and is determined to make it a different day…he finds that he is at peace.  (52)

I know this can be hard. Right now, I’m in a show that performs on Sunday. We had Sunday rehearsals before the show opened. But whenever possible–make Sunday that Sabbath day, the day of rest. Try not to shop or do unnecessary things. If it can be done on Monday, do it. If you can do it on Saturday, do it. Try to rest in Sunday.

Now, how does this come back to the little oratory? Well, it helps us to live in the liturgical year, as we’ve been talking about. In Advent, the prayer table can be simple; perhaps the nativity can be placed there, or the advent wreath. At Christmas, we place the Baby Jesus in the creche, and move the Wise Men toward the stable, finally reaching it at Epiphany. Some churches have the blessing of candles on Candlemas; if you can find a church that does this, stock up on any candles you may use for your Little Oratory, and have them blessed at the Mass. (My parish actually provides candles!)

In Lent, the table can be somber, perhaps draped in purple. During Passiontide (the two weeks before Easter), it can be a good practice to drape holy images with purple cloth, to “fast” from their beauty during the end of Lent. (My parish does this with our statues in the sanctuary and outside it.) You can add the Stations of the Cross to your prayer schedule, either at your parish or at home. You can also grow in a habit you’d like to acquire, like lectio divina, daily rosary, spiritual reading, etc.  At Easter, the table can display dyed eggs, or an icon of the Resurrection.

There are so many things you can do to live the Liturgical Year, and I promise that once you try to live that way, it will make your life richer and your religious observance deeper. Really!

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