The Way of BeautyStreet time and sacred time

The arrival of November signals that the year is winding down.  Today, All Souls’ Day is dedicated to remembering our departed loved ones. The past becomes present, and perhaps, even for a few moments, we relive some of those times we experienced with our loved ones. Still, the past cannot be retrieved, nor can the future predicted. Only the present moment can be grasped. 

The Church’s Theology of Time 

The Judeo-Christian view of time is directional, cyclical and spiral. In the Judeo-Christian notion, time unveils its own secret meanings. Jews and Christians can take their world in an upward direction with a sense of purpose. This ascent to God in the here and now directs our actions with creativity and with a view to change and progress. The annual cycle of the holy days recalls that the Jews are God’s Chosen People with a mandate to please God and build a better world by living the divine covenant. This mandate is also the Christian’s, but with the new awareness that the coming of Christ has enriched our view of time; we too live in the sacred mysteries of Christ. His Incarnation has made earthly time sacred. Christ lived and worked in time, preached the building the kingdom in anticipation of the heavenly kingdom, and died on that solemn day of days.  His life exemplifies how to sacralize our time.  He did everything to please his Father. 
 
The clock moves us from one little task of the day to the next. We rise in the morning perhaps with a faint awareness that we write part of our life story on the day’s blank slate. The day awaits our imprint. For the Catholic Christian, the daily cycle of little things assumes greater importance because Jesus dealt with minutia.
 
The daily cycle of street time is also the Church’s cycle of sacred time.  The one is lived concentrically within the other, but the Church’s year of grace takes precedence over the ticking of the clock. (The phrase, “the Church’s year of grace,” is the title of the five-volume set of books by Pius Parsch, “The Church’s Year of Grace” (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1962.)  Beauty shall continue to be our subject:  living the beauty of the Church’s year of grace.

Life Lived As Though God Does Not Exist
 
Today, religious faith in the western world is one of many options, and even Catholics have opted for a secular humanism. Moral erosion has eaten into the very fabric of living. A secularized and sexualized culture engulf the family. Moral relativism has been elevated to a civil religion and a public philosophy. For many, life is no longer lived with reference to God and no longer viewed as central or essential to one’s life.
 
The Catholic family who wishes to live a devout faith needs to look beyond our secularized street time.  A secular culture is not synonymous with a secularized culture.  The former is healthy because it recalls Jesus’ caution that what belongs to Caesar is to be given to Caesar, but what belongs to God is to be given to God. Secularization thrives in an atmosphere that not only has no need for God in the public square, but it consciously pursues the attitude that men and women can and should live as though God does not exist. As Catholics, we do not subscribe to this view. We believe in a God-centered and Christ-centered world. We need the support of sacred time to face the onslaught of a secularism that seeks to quarantine Catholic faith and practice from the public square. 

Modern Persecution of Christianity
 
Persecution of Christianity, and in particular, the Catholic faith, has assumed a new virulence here at home as well as in other lands. Persecution takes many expressions, from outright violence in Asia and the Mid-East to subtle fiats in the United States made in the name of justice for all.  With the Church’s high moral standards and her teaching of objective truth, she irritates public officials. Moreover, the Church continues to be the target of governmental intrusion into her moral teaching. At the same time a democratic form of government should know how to reconcile cultural, ethnic, and religious pluralism without radical moral pluralism. In “The Secular Age” (The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2007), Charles Taylor deals at length with these issues.

The Parish Church:  Center of Liturgical Life
 
As societal forces virulently press for privatized religion, the public celebration of the liturgical year in the parish has assumed a new urgency. Parishes that promote a strong liturgical life serve as oases in the midst of a cultural desert hostile not only to the Judeo-Christian moorings of western culture but to virtue itself. The parish staff serves the parish faithful in the name of the Church.  
 
With the influx of new immigrants from other continents, the Church faces new challenges to universalize the Church in the particular. The parish church today supports not just a program of religious education; the parish church itself has become the nerve center for the religious education of the family. And the center of this religious education is the sacramental life celebrated within the year of grace. In John Paul’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Catechesi Tradendae,” catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life. Nothing in the life remains outside the Church’s catechesis: from sports to politics to social justice, from science to the arts to care of the environment. Moral questions about human sexuality and that of marriage and the family call for special attention. The Church is committed to strengthen the family, especially where the culture opposes the standards of the faith. Where public morality has broken down, the parish assumes virtually all aspects of Christian formation. Comprehensive religious education begins with externals, from well-cared for churches and attractively-arranged and informative bulletins to the care with which the sacraments are celebrated to concern for our children and the most vulnerable.
 
Our discussion of the Church’s year of grace continues next week.

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