Happy New Year. Summer in Aotearoa New Zealand is a great time for a holiday. Note the word “holiday” is a contraction of two words “holy day”. There is something very sacred about time taken away from our “plain, ordinary” work-a -day lives to spend outside that framework. The problem is that we often don’t place that time aside into another framework, so the time isn’t even wasted-it’s fritted away and shatters into a thousand incoherent pieces.
Can we make our holidays “Holy Days”, and intentionally focus on our own recreation- and the recreation of our significant relationships, too? Can our parish liturgical life find ways of encouraging this? One way we have tried to do this is by combining the 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock services. Someone commented they finally have caught up with someone after 4 years because they attend different services and the 9.30am services in January changed that. So, rather than just reducing our worship activities, or “closing down” for summer, can we find creative ways to change our common liturgical life so they can reflect summer holiday realities?
We are now in our Summer Ordinary time in the church year and although it is not a season, and doesn’t have the kind of focal theme as do Advent/Christmas (incarnation/revelation) or Lent/Easter (passion/death/resurrection). Ordinary time does have a theme-Sunday- the Lord’s Day. Contemporary Scholars are now converging on agreement that Sunday is the first Christian festival-predating even Easter (the Paschal feast). In ancient liturgical texts, Sunday is not styled the first day of the week, but the eighth day-eighth day of creation, when humanity is redeemed by the resurrection of Jesus. And, in Ordinary (regulated/counted) time this becomes our focus.
However, the question still hangs here- with so many other calls on our time on Sundays, not just employment, but children’s sports, family time, personal time(“it’s the only day of the week I get to lie in”) how can we find ways to gather as a praying community to break bread and share the Cup of the New Covenant? This requires as much ingenuity for us today as it did for the members of the early church (made up, as it was, of people who had similar demands and claims upon their Sunday time). Dom Gregory Dix, in his seminal work “The Shape of the Liturgy”, describes a second/third century Sunday congregation that gathered at 5am for about twenty minutes of liturgy, then everybody was off for a full day’s work. Maybe we can find ways of developing an occasional relaxed Sunday liturgy that respects the need for family and leisure time. Maybe we need to develop congregations that meet earlier in the day, or later in the day, or early evening in the week? What do you think?
Happy” holy days” everybody.
(adapted from” A time for everything”: (Notes on the Liturgical Year)
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