Sunday, November 24, 2013

Quick Thoughts on Liturgy and the End of the World

Today was, in the Roman rite, the last Sunday after Pentecost, a Sunday which in liturgical terms signifies the end of the world and the Last Judgment when the "Lord with woundes redde will come to judge the quick and the dedde." In the Roman rite, and by extension all the Latin uses except the Mozarabic rite, the liturgical year reflects the process of salvation history. The year begins a week after it ends. The beginning's Gospel actually has something of an apocalyptic tone, picking up on the desolation and judgment themes of the last Sunday. Advent signifies the wait of the Jews and of the entire sin-riddled world for a redeemer, which culminates in the birth of Christ. Interestingly, the first Sunday of Advent is significant because it establishes the need for salvation and the third, Gaudete Sunday, is important because it rejoices in the immanence of that salvation; the other two Sundays, of lesser import, can be superseded by the Immaculate Conception and the Christmas Vigil. After the celebration of His Nativity and the other relevant feasts (Circumcision, Epiphany, Baptism in the Jordan, and the Purification) the focus shifts to His time in the desert and His teachings on salvation in Lent, culminating in His redeeming work during Holy Week and life in the Resurrection during Paschaltide. The time after Pentecost is significant in that it is after the coming of the Holy Spirit, the age of the Church and the Saints. Revelation has ended, but the Divine Life for us believers is constant until the End finally comes. And then it starts all over again.
In contrast the Byzantine rite's kalendar does not focus as much on the seasons as it does on the major feasts on the Church. Days that we Romans would not consider feasts they do, such as Palm Sunday. Feasts dictate the liturgical year. Indeed, in any well appointed Byzantine parish there should be icons on both sides of the nave depicting various events in the process of revelation. One would notice that the icons are arranged chronologically, beginning with the birth of the Blessed Virgin and ending with her Dormition/Assumption at the end of her life. In between would be the events of Her Son's time on earth: the Annunciation (which can compete with Good Friday in the Byzantine rite), the Nativity, Theophany, Palm Sunday, Pascha, the Ascension, Pentecost and more.
In contrast with the broader approach of the Roman rite, with its many seasons, the Byzantine rite's year is very personal and seen through the eyes of our Lady. As one who has experienced both I prefer the Roman kalendar myself, particularly because of Advent, by far the richest and most beautiful time of the liturgical year in either rite (just my opinion).


  1. Unfortunately, most priests can't make heads or tails of yesterday's gospel -- or any of the apocalyptic material in the Bible. The Olivet Discourse, especially as it appears in Matthew, is one of the densest and most multi-layered texts in all Scripture, full of prophecies with double and even triple fulfillments/referents.

  2. What does the Mozarabic's calendar reflect? Is it akin to the Byzantine?

    1. I intentionally neglected to mention it because I do not know much of anything about it! I've read through the Ordo Missae twice and, finding it very peculiar, decided not to purport any expertise on the subject.