Dancing Through Time and Tradition
Michael Judge writes in The Dance of Time: The Origins of the Calendar: “Embedded in our technological age, there remains an ancient artifact, a reminder of the days before mechanical time, when the rhythms of earth and sky matched those of man and woman. This strange survivor still recalls an ancient way of seeing, still celebrates the seasons and their different moods: the sun ... moon ... stars, and the habits, sacred and profane, of mortal beings. It has, over many centuries, woven the festivals, observances, and customs of humanity into a tapestry on which the lineaments of human life may still be traced. It is called the calendar.”
I work daily by the calendar, writing and compiling resources for Christian ministries that use the Revised Common Lectionary worldwide. A Lectionary is a plan that specifies the Scripture readings that will be used on any given Sunday. This means that I am currently working on May 2012 subjects, having gone to press with the earlier months’ lessons quite a while ago (allowing for production time and mailings).
Attuning oneself to the rhythms of the year by way of Scripture and holy tradition produces a certain kind of dance—of the mind and spirit. Phyllis Tickle has written that “Religion has always kept earth time. Liturgy only gives sanction to what the heart already knows.”
The parables of the Gospels, stories Jesus told about earthly objects that serve to point to heavenly principles, are frequent themes. The vine and the branches, sheep and shepherds, weddings and lamps and coins and treasure in a field ... all offer some point of reference and invite reflection on what it means to be human—and what our measured days on earth might really be about.
I am constantly discovering and re-discovering aspects of this mystery myself, as I read and ponder and knit together thoughts from a variety of other minds I am privileged to learn from each day of each year.
Michael Judge also says of the calendar: “Unlike a watch or a clock, the calendar does not presume to duplicate time. Instead, it serves as a landscape of time, a description not of the thing itself, but of what the thing may mean; a cry not for scientific precision but for emotional understanding. Unlike other timekeeping devices, the calendar is organic: a social contract reminding hurried modern creatures of their debt to nature and to the past.” And in our tradition, also to God.
The calendar, and especially the liturgical calendar, keeps me grounded in this human drama, this story in which we are all bound up. It may not bring what I think I need with each turn of a page. But surprise is also part of the tale, and openness to what it actually brings—and stumblingly learning one’s own part in its plotline.
So here’s to the dance of today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next! Life weaves itself in just such personal particularity, through time and tradition—and it is a privilege to be a part of it.
Isabel Anders is Managing Editor of Synthesis Publications (www.SynthesisPub.com); and the author of inspirational books including the forthcoming Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold (Circle Books, 2012).