David Russell Mosley
First Week of Advent
2 December 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Dear Friends and Family,
I want to begin this post with a disclaimer about the title. When I talk about being a (non-Roman) Catholic Evangelical, I do not mean this a slight to my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. I am not trying to suggest that Roman Catholics cannot be evangelicals or that being a (non-Roman) Catholic Evangelical is inherently better than being a Roman Catholic. I am simply trying to describe myself. I am not a Roman Catholic, and that for very specific reasons I will willingly discuss with anyone. However, I do view myself as Catholic as well as Evangelical. This letter is meant to serve both as an explanation of who I am as a Christian, that is, how I express my faith in Jesus Christ, and to serve somewhat as a call to those who might view either Catholic or Evangelical as pejorative terms to reconcile these two views.
There are many things I mean when I say I am a Catholic Evangelical. It means I like to read and study the Scriptures, but it also means I like to use incense, written prayers, and icons in my faith. It means that I believe in the Church Universal (the Church Catholic), that I like reading Creeds and take seriously the Tradition of the Church, but that my faith at an individual level is also a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It means I think there is something more going on in the Eucharist than mere symbolism or remembrance; but it also means that I’m not totally sold on priestly presidence over the Sacraments (for that matter, it means I talk in terms of sacraments). I could write an awful lot about each of these things, but the one I want to focus on today is the Church Calendar.
Readers of my blog will know that I often write letters on the various seasons of the Church Calendar, sometimes even writing about specific feasts. If you know much about the Restoration (or Stone-Campbell) Movement, however, you might find this odd. In my tradition, there are often, at most, two major Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter. Even then, I have several friends who don’t even observe these holidays because, ‘We ought to celebrate Christ’s coming and his Resurrection every day’. For others, the circular nature of the Church Calendar, minus Christmas and Easter, is perceived as too structured, too limited. I want to challenge that.The Church Calendar provides us with an opportunity to view the year differently. Rather than the year beginning with a big party, the year begins remembering the waiting the world did for the first coming of Christ and the waiting we do for the second. Christmas then becomes a celebration of the first coming. Epiphany reminds us of aspects of Christ’s earthly life. Lent reminds us of the cost of our sins. Easter reminds us that we have a risen saviour. Ordinary time reminds us that most of God’s actions throughout history take place in the everyday. The Feasts and Festivals throughout the year remind of God’s faithful who lived and died for Christ and who can encourage us to do the same. This is part of what the Church Calendar can offer us.
However, it also offers a check to world. It shows the world that we need not be bound by secular structures or working time and time off, of work weeks and weekends. It is, in essence, an evangelistic tool (as well as a tool for discipleship). It shows non-Christians the intentionality with which we live as Christians. It shows non-Christians that we are an inherently celebratory people, that we live to celebrate, to feast, to party. But it also shows that we know temperance, that celebration requires preparation, contemplation. We feast, but we also fast.
This is a large part of what it means for me to be a Catholic Evangelical. It means that I want to live in this world recognising that God is sovereign, that the way I think of the year is bound up in God’s actions within this world. But that I also see this as evangelistic, that it tells the Good News both to those who believe and those who do not.
If you, like me, come from or are in a tradition that takes little heed of the Church Calendar, I highly recommend that you start. Start in your personal life, in you home. Encourage others in your church to do so. See what kind of impact it can have. If, however, you come from a tradition who makes liberal use of the Church Calendar, make sure that you don’t forget what its purpose is, to proclaim the Gospel to believer and non-believer alike. Make sure you really live the Church Calendar, that it invades and pervades you body and soul.
If you want some resources for how to go about using the Church Calendar, I recommend looking at my previous letters on the subject. Also, I highly recommend going here, and look at some prayers and readings you can do to keep the Church Calendar at the front of your mind.
David Russell Mosley