Tuesday, June 24, 2014

St. John the Baptist, Ordinary Time & Us

source: wikipedia.org
"This is my first time wearing a green stole," said the gleeful deacon, recently ordained on St. Joseph's day during Lent. It was the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and a deacon, priest, and his all Traddiness were in the sacristy of an English church preparing for Mass. "I like Ordinary time," he continued.
"There is no such though," I rebutted.
"Now don't get me started!"
"Gentlemen," interjected the priest, "it is time for Mass now."

To this day I do not believe in "Ordinary time," that prolonged green season turgid with readings that have no natural cycle to them and which, somehow, masks all but a few feasts. Recently we relaxed our festivities after the fifty days of celebrating the Resurrection and then the octave of Pentecost. Now we should be returning to a more general consideration of the mysteries of Christ and a penitential spirit. Personally I interpret the kalendar differently from most traditionalists and reformers. In my view the temporal and sanctoral cycles could be eschewed as categories in favor of "Time of Christ" and "Time of Mysteries." The period from the first Sunday of Advent until Pentecost Sunday re-live the actual life and ministry of Christ, His salvific work on our behalf, His Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. The second part, the "Time of Mysteries"—a poorly concocted and spontaneous title—is the time to reflect on what the things Christ did actually mean and how they should influence us. The Church does not return to strict penance and fasting after None on Ember Saturday, but rather begins the celebration of Trinity Sunday, finally celebrating the Godhead completely revealed to mankind. The Jews knew God, but only as one person and not as a Father. Christ revealed Him as a Father and, after the Resurrection, was known to His Apostles as God. And through the Holy Spirit the Triune God became known to the entire world. Of course the Trinity was revealed at the Baptism in the Jordan, but the Trinity was not comprehended or realized until some time later, after the Ascension.

Then we came to Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body of Christ. The Church is a Sacramental body, the "Body of Christ" as St. Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth. The Eucharist is, more than bricks and mortar, the fabric of the Church. 

Now, only two weeks removed from Pentecost, we are asked to celebrate and consider St. John the Baptist. Pentecost, as I wrote here, is a feast concerned with baptizing people into the Risen Christ and diffusing the Church through the whole of the world. With John the Forerunner we return to Baptism. St. John is, more than any other saint I think, the archetype of what the Christian should be. He was given a name different from his father's, one that was to be special to God. St. Ambrose wrote:
"His name is John that is, it is not for us to choose a name now for him to whom God hath given a name already. He hath a name, which we know, but it is not one of our choosing. To receive a name from God is one of the honours of the Saints. Thus was it that Jacob's name was no more called Jacob but Israel, because he saw God face to face. Thus was it that our Lord Jesus was named before He was born, with a name not given by an Angel, but by the Father. "
He was a holy man from the womb, proclaiming the presence of Christ before birth and continuing to do so more perfectly after. And above all he pointed those attracted to him towards Jesus. Is this not our lot?

We did not proclaim Christ in the womb perhaps, but at Baptism we became saints, "holy ones," in a new birth, having been reborn of "water and the Holy Spirit." At Baptism and Confirmation we are given names used before God and the Church. In our Baptism we are called both to repent, as was John's call of baptism, and to live a new life sanctified by the Resurrection of Christ, as is the Baptism of Trinity. And above all we must point to Christ for others. Most of us will not have particularly interesting or noteworthy lives. Our spiritual battlefield is the office, the classroom, the home, the restaurant. There are myriad ways to show God in these settings if only we have the fortitude to ask for the opportunity. Before Christ rose from the dead and gave us the Trinitarian Baptism, St. John showed us what Baptism does, completing his place as the Forerunner to our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

1 comment:

  1. Rad Trad. You mentioned Ember Saturday thereby violating prudence; you may have fired the memory cell of a Liturgist who'll now want to begin the practice of walking on fire as the way to celebrate such days.

    No,seriously; one can't put anything past them