The Orthodox Christian Liturgical Year – ‘Theosis’ is the True Ultimate Purpose of Human Life.
Orthodox Worship proclaims the Centrality of Christ, expresses and represents the salvific events of Christ’s Incarnation, Life, Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension to heaven and Second Coming. The aim of all Christian living – worshipping, praying, studying, working and resting, is to bring us before the awesome and renewing reality of the kingdom of God and also the living anticipation of the kingdom to come. Although God’s kingdom may be described by many words, God’s will, rule, power, lordship, majesty, glory and grace, rather put simply, it is God’s Personal Holy Presence. To live in the reality of God’s kingdom is to live in the holy Presence of God – with a sense of wonder, joy and thanksgiving in all circumstances and for all things.
The starting point of the Christian system of feasts is the commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Resurrection Sunday is thus the foundation of the Christian year. The liturgical year celebrates the presence of the mystery of Christ, in the life of the Church and seeks to make the living Christ a renewing life-source for every Orthodox Christian. It is not a year of simply commemorating the past events of the life of Christ. They are made a present experience. We can get into the rhythm and flow of the Christian story, to experience it, to learn it, to participate in it, to relive it through the telling and the doing. Thus, fused to the civil calendar, the liturgical year becomes a body of sacred signs. The cycles of the movable and immovable feasts with their manifold celebrations of sacred memories creates a rich and varied landscape and sanctifies life. The festal calendar is a result of continuous development, that began in Christian antiquity and it is always “in progress.”
What is a Liturgical Year?
To define the Liturgical Year, is difficult. Our liturgical year is expressed as a calendar, much like the secular calendar.From ancient times, man has been deeply tied to the seasonal cycles of the year. One year, is one revolution of earth in its orbit around sun, thus we have monsoon rotation and various seasons. Orthodox worship proclaims the centrality of Christ. Church follows similar pattern; reads scriptures, remembers, celebrates and completes the principal events of our Lord’s redemptive activities in a year- cycle so that the faithful constantly grow in Him. ……… we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Eph 4: 15).
There is a certain order to the Church’s presentation of the Gospel teachings and the primary events of our Sacred History. To participate in the yearly cycle of festal services, as well as the daily and weekly cycle of Church services, certainly has a profoundly educational effect on the faithful. Sacred word and image come alive in these services, offering the participant the greatest encounter with our Living Tradition.
The liturgical year fulfills of both personal and corporate aspects of our lives as Christians. Far from being simply a calendar, the liturgical year in the life of the Church is the life of Christians living in community as brothers and sisters – in awareness of God’s kingdom, remembering the entire communion of Prophets, Apostles, Saints and all of God’s people on earth and in heaven, being renewed by God’s saving love, helping one another, witnessing to Christ’s good news, and waiting for the fullness of the coming kingdom, according to God’s timing.
What is the significance of the liturgical year?
The liturgical year is a way of discipline in prayer, a pattern of worship, an anchor of support for the life of the Church. Worship is a response to the call of God who has already made known His redeeming love to us through decisive events culminating in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. Worship has two major aspects: remembrance (anamnesis which means not only historical remembrance but also re-living the events commemorated) and thanksgiving (including praise and doxology).
The most important feast days of the year celebrate the good news of His life, His work and we enter union with our Lord, the Annunciation, His Birth, Presentation in the Temple, Baptism, Transfiguration, Triumphal Entry, Passion Week, Easter, Ascension and His gift of the Spirit on Pentecost day, all of which are based on the New Testament.
Do we not remember and re-live His death and Resurrection on each Sunday (Kyriake, which is, the Lord’s Day) and in each Liturgy?
Do we not continuously hear about Jesus’ teachings, miracles and encounters with men and women from all walks of life?
Even the Feast days of the Prophets, the Apostles, the Theotokos and the Saints, properly understood, point to the centrality of Christ, the Saviour and Lord of all. In entering and participating in these eternally present events, we are changed; we are transformed. This allows us to proclaim with Saint Paul:
Just as reception of the Holy Eucharist forms the Body of Christ in us, so too does celebration in the Liturgical Year form Christ in us, as we are also collectively transformed into the Body of Christ – from humble birth to the full stature of a human life transfigured in the divine light of Theosis, or deification. This is the path of sanctity, the path of ‘sainthood’. This is the essential message of the Orthodox faith. Christ lives and desires to be one with us in a union of holy love. He is the Leader of our life and the Celebrant of the sacraments. He is the Good Shepherd who continues not only to seek out the lost but also to feed those who are already in His flock.
Are we prepared to hear His call?
Are we willing to open our hearts to Him?
Do we seek Him as eagerly as He seeks us?
Unspeakable riches are provided to the faithful through their involvement in the Liturgical Year! Our beloved Church, in her wisdom, provides for us the structure, the nurturing, the nourishing, to live the Way of Christian piety. She provides us that uniquely ‘other-worldly’ atmosphere overflowing with abundant Joy and Eternal Life. Celebrating the Liturgical Year strengthens the bonds of communion between all the faithful throughout the whole world! For God is well pleased to preserve His children who seek to worship Him in SPIRIT and in TRUTH.
Sanctification imports variety of meanings such as clean, holy, set apart and dedicate for service of God….. The faithful of the Church as whole is to purify themselves and seek forgiveness of sins from God and brethren. All this effort culminates in the ultimate goal of the Christian and the dynamic essence of the Liturgical Year: a means to bring about our UNION WITH CHRIST. The Church invites us, through our participation in the Liturgical Year, to relive the entire life of our Lord Jesus Christ.