Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why I like Church discipline

Slightly provocative title to draw attention! What I am about to say, though, shouldn't be terribly provocative itself, just a reflection...

What I mean about liking Church discipline, is appreciating the discipline of the Church liturgical year. The C of E, of which I am a member and minister, follows the ancient discipline of 'lections' - set readings for every day of the year, Sundays on a three year cycle using the 'Revised Common Lectionary' as its base and weekdays on a two year cycle. We also follow the seasons of the Church year, which is more than obvious in my past few postings as I have majored on 'Advent' - the time of preparation which mirrors Lent in encouraging prayer, fasting and reflection in the lead up to the major festival of Christmas.

As a child, growing up in non-conformist traditions, there was no real observance of any structure to the church year - Christmas was observed as a matter of 'every one else is doing it so we probably should' and there were no carol services, christingles or anything like that, just an extra service on Christmas day. Easter was observed again as an extra service, and was obviously important but wasn't special, or didn't feel special.

On the other hand, the liturgical observance of feast days, holy days, fasts, preparations etc etc that runs through the traditions of the ancient churches (by this I mean 'roman catholic', 'orthodox' and 'Anglican' (though there may be some dispute about that, and people may want to add 'lutheran' and 'methodist' and others)) anchor me in the story of the history of faith, the life of Christ and the early church.

I appreciate all the more the incarnation because of the yearly observance of the birth of Jesus, who came 'emptied' of his divine glory to the life of a human family and to share in our lives. I feel enveloped by the grief of Good Friday by spending three hours in contemplation and prayer on the desolation and pain of the cross, then overwhelmed by the joy of Easter Day when we celebrate the new life that comes in resurrection, and the hope of resurrection not just when we die, but the true 'coming to life' of Christian faith. I am reduced to awe (or is that inspired to awe??) by the glory that shines through the transfiguration, or in Jesus' ascent into heaven, and reassured and challenged when we remember the birth of the church at pentecost and the promise of the power, energy and grace of the Holy Spirit. And there's more, the discipline of lent, the light of the world remembered at Ephiphany, the lives and deaths of the saints remembered throughout the year. All of this has only served to enhance my appreciation and understanding of the depth and richness of our faith, not through 'mindless repetition' (as some accuse liturgical churches of - though i had more experience of that in my charismatic days) but through being immersed in God's story of salvation, and drawn to contemplate the deeper meanings of what we believe by having my attention grabbed again and again through each year, as the cycle repeats and the familiarity of it all, far from breeding contempt, breathes new life into ancient truths.

Thanks be to God!

No comments: