I am writing this on the eve of spring; as the northern hemisphere transits from the season of death to the season of rebirth, so too the Church transits from the season of Lent to the season of Easter. Because Easter is dated on the lunar calendar used to calculate Passover, we do not always have Easter so close to the start of spring, so it is a perfect time to write about the importance of seasons to the Christian life.
Recently I attended a men’s conference at a local church because one of the seminars offered was “Mentoring Youth.” Prior to the seminars we had a worship service in the style of that church. I am no stranger to their style of worship, and it is authentic worship of our Triune God by people who genuinely love our Lord Jesus Christ; however, my personal worship experience was jarred by the constant use of the exclamation ‘alleluia.’
Not all churches follow the practice of “burying the alleluia” during Lent, and the Sundays in Lent, like all Sundays generally, are, in a very real sense, “little Easters;” however, I have always felt that such practices heighten the awareness of the important distinctions of our church seasons. I like them, and the Lutheran church’s incorporation of the seasons of the church year—and the various liturgical practices connected to them—into its worship has a strong appeal to me.
Unless one lives in Camelot where “the climate must be perfect all the year,” we all experience temperate seasons as well as more symbolic seasons of life like the season of youth or the season of grief. Seasons of all sorts (even sports seasons!) help to regulate our lives. Church seasons reflect this natural aspect of being part of creation, and they point us to the God of seasons. They assure us that the Lord of creation is also the Lord of time, the Lord of transition, the Lord of change.
Being attuned to the changing seasons of the Church is as important as being attuned to the changing seasons of nature or of life. Rather than being quaint or archaic, seasonal practices can enrich our personal prayer and our corporate worship and also help us develop spiritual discipline by nurturing spiritual structures.
Jesus lived and suffered and rejoiced in all ways common to all people, so it is fitting and instructive that our Church seasons reflect the seasons of His life. Though extraordinary in every way, we sometimes forget He even lived quite a bit of His life in “ordinary time.” (Kathleen Norris wrote a brief and wonderful book called The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work” that properly connects “ordinary time” to worship.)
Christ is found in the rhythms and patterns of life. In fact, he reconciles them as well as us for He “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
Now that it’s Easter, can I get an alleluia?