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Religion Library: Roman Catholicism

Sacred Time

Written by: Cynthia Stewart

Another way that Catholics mark sacred time is through the liturgical seasons of the year. Through the course of each year, Catholics re-enact a particular series of events from the life of Jesus, creating a sacred arc from the events prior to and surrounding his birth to his death and resurrection. The liturgical year includes:

·                Advent, a season of waiting and hope that re-enacts the Annunciation to Jesus' mother, Mary, that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God;

·                Christmas, a roughly two-week celebration of Jesus' birth and the incarnation of God into human form;

·                Lent, a six-week period devoted to repentance and fasting in preparation for Easter; and

·                the Paschal season surrounding Easter, marking Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, which are the holiest days of the Christian year.

These are the major seasons, but in, through, and among these are a whole host of other holy days and feasts. Prominent among them are Pentecost, which recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the apostles after Jesus' ascension; the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorating Mary's bodily assumption into heaven; All Saints' Day, dedicated to all those who have attained heaven, immediately followed by All Soul's Day, which remembers the faithful who have died but have not yet reached heaven. There are a multitude of other feasts and holy days; in fact, every single day of the year is devoted to a particular event in sacred history or remembrance of particular saints in the Catholic pantheon.

Study Questions:
     1.    Describe the Catholic understandings of sacred time. How are they directly related to salvation?
     2.    When have the most sacred events in Catholic history taken place? Why are they not considered the “high point” of history?
     3.    Why could the Eucharist be called a timeless activity?
     4.    How does the liturgical calendar transform time? What are the major events within it?


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