A little over a month ago we ushered in the new year. I’m referring to the beginning of the Liturgical year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent. Although we might not realize it at first, the liturgical year is much more significant than the secular calendar year. If you remove the religious holidays from the secular calendar, what do we look forward to besides a year’s increase in age and the celebration of mankind’s accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong, these events can be worthy of recognition and can even enhance one’s culture, but they can also remind us of the exhausting and monotonous lives we sometimes feel trapped in.
However, the liturgical year provides a renewed hope, compelling invitations to conversion, and an ever constant reminder that we’re destined for more than what this life offers. In its recalling of past religious and historical events, through the sacramental life, the liturgical year is actually lived anew each year. This is feasible by our encountering the supernatural, the transcendent coming down to us, and our being drawn out of our mere earthly existence; we are truly exposed to a reality above and beyond this world. Simply put, the liturgical year offers us an opportunity to walk with Jesus Christ, to follow Him as a Catholic disciple.
No one exemplifies this better than our Blessed Mother Mary, who’s feast day, as the Mother of God, we celebrate on the first day of the calendar year. It is a most fitting reminder that our secular lives should fit into our spiritual lives, not the other way around; and modeling our lives off Mary’s true discipleship offers us the fullest of existence, union with her Son. As Pope John Paul II said: “If Jesus is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life. If Jesus is Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope. If Jesus is Peace, Mary is the Mother of Peace, Mother of the Prince of Peace. Entering the New Year, let us ask this holy Mother to bless us. Let us ask Her to give us Jesus, our full Blessing, in whom the Father blessed all history once and for all, making it become the history of salvation.” A most perfect new year’s resolution then would be to reflect more closely on Mary’s life throughout our liturgical year.
When Christ is absent from our everyday life, our spiritual lives undoubtedly evaporate, sucking the true hope and joy from our lives. St. Paul reminded the Ephesians that before they encountered Christ, they were “without hope and without God in the world.’” (Eph. 2:12). May our world always maintain its hope and ensure that God remains at the center of our lives.
Fr. Andrew Bergkamp