Christ Is Born, Christ Was Born: The Timelessness Of The Church Calendar

“You mean she will some day be reunited to the god; and you will take off her veil then? When is this to happen?”

“We take off the veil and I change my robe in the spring.”

“Do you think I care what you do? Has the thing itself happened yet or not? Is Istra now wandering over the earth or has she already become a goddess?”

“But, Stranger, the sacred story is about the sacred things — the things we do in the temple. In spring, and all summer, she is a goddess. Then when harvest comes we bring a lamp into the temple in the night and the god flies away. Then we veil her. And all winter she is wandering and suffering; weeping, always weeping. . . .”

-From Till We Have Faces, Lewis

In this passage from Lewis’s greatest work of fiction, Orual goes searching for her lost sister and discovers that, since she saw her last, she has become a god. Here, Psyche’s priest explains the nature of sacred things to Orual. Sacred things do not “happen” like common things happen. Sacred things are always happening. Sacred things do not come and go. We come and go, but sacred things are.

Unlike the pagan sacred, the Christian sacred does not happen over and over. Rather, within the Christian sacred, a thing happens only once, but in happening once, it happens always. For pagans, Dionysius was crucified every year when the grape vines were cut apart. Within a Christian theology of the sacred, Christ was crucified once, but that single, historical instance of crucifixion is the same crucifixion which is celebrated whenever the Eucharist is celebrated. In the passage from Till We Have Faces, the priest speaks of what the goddess “is” and not what she “was” or “will be.” When we say “He is risen” on Easter, we mean “He is risen today” and not “He was risen and He is (still) risen.” We say “He is risen” because the present is being drawn up into the timeless. Similarly, when we greet one another on Christmas, it is fitting to say, “Christ is born!” and not “Christ was born!” When we come into the presence of God, we are not merely coming to a place, but a time, and time works differently in heaven than on earth.

Within the infinite being of God, all things are present. In this sense, the Crucifixion is always present before God, but so is the Resurrection and the Annunciation. God is not subject to hours and days and years like we are. I am writing this on November 28, 2016, however, this is not what day it is for God. God is not beneath the calendar, but outside it. God sees me on November 28th, but He sees me on the day I was born and the day I will die, as well. Because man is finite, he cannot contemplate and dwell on the Annunciation, the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, the baptism of Christ, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Pentecost and so forth all on the same day. The Church calendar gives space for finite, temporal man to be drawn into the myriad, timeless revelations of God’s love for man. The Church calendar is the redemption of the Gregorian calendar. The Church calendar removes the sting of death which invariably hangs about the Gregorian calendar.

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