On the Liturgical Cycle

from "The Soul of the Apostolate"
by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard

Each one of the sacred rites may be compared to a precious stone. Yet how much greater will be the value and brilliance of those that belong to the Mass and Office, when I know how to enshrine them all together in that marvelous setting: the liturgical cycle.(1)

When my soul lives, throughout a certain period of time, under the influence of a mystery, and is nourished by all that Scripture and tradition offer that is most instructive in this subject, and is constantly directed and made attentive to the same order of ideas, it must necessarily be influenced by this concentration, and find in the thoughts suggested by the Church a food as nourishing as it is delightful, and which will prepare it to receive that special grace which God reserves for each period, each Feast of the Cycle.

The Mystery comes to fill me not only as an abstract truth, absorbed in meditation, but gripping my whole being, bringing into play even my sense faculties, to stir up my heart and direct my will. It is more than a mere commemoration of some past event, or an ordinary anniversary: it is living actuality with all the character of a present event to which the Church gives an application here and now, and in which she really and truly takes part.

For instance, in the Christmas season, rejoicing before the Altar at the coming of the Holy Child, my soul can repeat: "Today Christ is born, today the Saviour has appeared, today the angels sing on earth...(2)"

At each period in the liturgical Cycle, my Missal and Breviary disclose to me new rays of the love of Him Who is for us at the same time Teacher, Doctor, Consoler, Saviour, and Friend. On the Altar, just as at Bethelehem or Nazareth, or on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias, Jesus reveals Himself as Light, Love, Kindness and Mercy. He reveals Himself above all as Love personified, because He is Suffering personified, in agony at Gesthemani, atoning on Calvary.

And so the liturgical life gives the Eucharistic life its full development. And Your Incarnation, O Jesus, that brought God close to us, making Him visible to us in You, continues to do the very same thing for us all, in each of the mysteries that we celebrate.

So it is, dear Lord, that thanks to the Liturgy, I can share in the Church's life and in Your own. With her, every year, I witness the mysteries of Your Hidden life, Your Public life, Life of Suffering, and Life in Glory; and with her, I cull the fruits of them all. Besides, the periodic feasts of Our Lady and the Saints who have best imitated Your interior Life bring me, also, an increase of light and strength by placing their example before my eyes, helping me to reproduce Your virtues in myself and to inspire the faithful with the spirit of Your Gospel.

How am I to carry out, in my apostolate, the desire of Pius X? How are the faithful going to be helped, by me, to enter into an active participation in the Holy Mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church(3) which the Pope called the Prime and Indispensable Source of the true Christian spirit, if I myself pass by the treasures of the Liturgy without even suspecting what wonders are to be found therein?

If I am going to put more unit into my spiritual life, and unite myself still more to the life of the Church, I will aim at tying up all my other pious exercises with the Liturgy, as far as I possibly can. For instance, I will give preference to a subject for meditation which has a connection with the liturgical period, or feast, or cycle. In my visits to the Blessed Sacrament, I will converse more readily, according to the season, with the Child Jesus, Jesus suffering, Jesus glorified, Jesus living in His Church, and so on. Private reading on the Mystery or on the life of the Saint being honored at the time will also contribute much to this plan for a liturgical spirituality.

(1) - The Church, inspired by God and instructed by the Holy Apostles, has disposed the year in such a way that we may find in it, together with the life, the mysteries, the preaching and doctrine of Jesus Christ, the true fruit of all these in the admirable virtues of His servants and the examples of His saints, and, finally, a mysterious compendium of the Old and New Testaments and of the whole of Ecclesiastical History. And thus, all the seasons are full of rich fruits for a Christian; all are full of Jesus Christ. In this variety, which all together leads up to that single unity recommended by Christ, the clean and pious soul will find, together with celestial pleasures, solid nourishment, and an everlasting renewal of fervour.
(Bossuet: Funeral Sermon on Maria Theresia of Austria.)

(2) - Hodie Christus natus est, hodie Salvator apparuit, hodie in terra canunt angelis... (Office of Christmas)

(3) - In the very first year of his pontificate, on November 22, 1903, Pius X issued his celebrated motu proprio on Sacred Music, here quoted by Dom Chautard. The passage in full, runs:
"We believe it is our first duty to raise our voice, without further delay, to reprove and condemn everything, which in the functions of the cult and the celebrations of the office of the Church, departs from the right rule which has been laid down. For it is, in fact, our keen desire that the true Christian spirit may once more flourish, cost what it may, and be maintained among all the faithful: and to that end it is necessary to provide, above all, that everything be holy and dignified in the Church where the faithful father together to draw this spirit from its prime and indispensable source: the active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and the public and solemn Prayer of the Church. For it is vain for us to hope to bring down upon ourselves, to this end, the abundance of the blessings of heaven if our homage to the Most High, instead of rising in an odour of sweetness, on the contrary places in the hand of the Lord the scourge with which our Divine Redeemer once chased the vile profaners from the Temple."
Copyright © 1946, Abbey of Gesthemani Inc., Trappist, Kentucky

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