Gross divides the liturgical year into three cycles: Light, Life, and Love.  These were helpful divisions, although there is overlap in the seasons of the Church year.  But, it gives a general theme by which the seasons are organized.  The Cycle of Light is Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  The Cycle of Life is Lent and Easter, ending in Pentecost.  The Cycle of Love begins with Pentecost and goes through Christ is King Sunday (Ordinary Time).  The point of the liturgical year is to enter into God’s story.  Gross notes that we are not looking for God in our story but coming to understand our story in light of God’s Story.  Gross likens the church year to a dance.  As you learn the rhythms, you concentrate less on the steps and learn to enjoy it as a means of grace.  As with any dance, it is helpful to know that there is room for creativity and adaptation.  It is not a rigid form but serves as a helpful guide to following Christ through the year.  In addition, the Church year helps us to “mark time because it has marked us.”  There is something significant that happens in amnamnesis besides mental recollection.  We are being formed as people.  In fact, that is the heart of liturgy – the work of the people – which is offering our time as a sacrifice to God to transform us!

            Gross notes that there are 7 seasons in the Church year (as opposed to 8 seasons in Kimberlee Ireton’s work).  The main difference is not counting the time between Epiphany and Lent as a season.  7 seasons could be counted as the “fullness” of time, in some sense.  This would be double in meaning – the fullness of the life of Christ and the fullness of eschatological time.  Gross moves to a four-fold pattern for encountering God throughout the Church year: reverence, repentance, inviting God’s presence, and responding. 

            Advent is the season of waiting and “enlarging.”  It deals with both first and last things – “looking back and leaning forward.”  I really appreciated both of these concepts, especially in considering the story of Mary as a model for this season.  Anticipation, waiting, and enlarging.  We long for Christ’s coming, for God to right all things, and for God’s presence with us.  Christmas focuses on incarnation.  It is a season of celebration where we consider the mystery of “eternity in the womb.”  God becomes everything that we are so that we might become everything God is by nature.  God is with us in every way.  We wait expectantly for God to be birthed in us.  Epiphany looks toward the magi, Jesus’ baptism, and the miracle at Cana.  It is about the manifestation of God’s life in our midst.  It is the journey from baptism to transfiguration.  This can be a significant time for discipleship, especially in regard to baptism.

            The next Cycle moves us to Lent where we are confronted with our “mortality and moral culpability.”  We are confronted with death, beginning with Ash Wednesday.  Lent leads us to sojourn and journey, both as individuals and communities, through the wilderness.  This culminates in the Triduum.  During these three holy days, we journey through the Pascha with Christ – our Paschal Lamb.  We walk the way of sorrow and pain with Christ.  We see the Light extinguished.  We begin by remembering the new commandment to “love one another.”  We live this out by serving one another, by washing each other’s feet.  We eat the Last Supper with Jesus and hear his gut-wrenched prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We see his betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.  Saturday, we feel the heaviness of silence.  Gross emphasizes the “spiritual” dimension about Lent, but it should be noted that this time must also be embodied. 

            Easter focuses on resurrection of the body and a transformed heart.  It is resurrection of the whole person.  Thus, we celebrate the victory of God over all.  It is the “euchatastrophe” – the good God brings from what is catastrophic.  Easter is a season of 50 days, which is seven weeks of seven days.  This seven seven’s points toward fullness of time and the fifty days point toward the salvation of Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor.  The emphasis on Ascension Day was also helpful, as it helps us remember the completion of Christ’s work.  In other words, Christ has given us every good gift through which we might draw close to God and have victory over sin and death.  This comes to fullest light in Pentecost – the Spirit’s empowerment of God’s people, the Church.  Pentecost also marks the beginning of Ordinary Time and the Cycle of Love.  God’s love embodied in us to God’s world.  Thus, our focus is discipleship.  Three didactics are helpful to consider: world and church, neighbor and self, and work and rest.  We wrestle with the tension between each of these poles.  Gross suggests “receiving the day and releasing the day” as helpful spiritual disciplines to guide us during this season.  We receive God’s mercies each morning and release each day, both our successes and failures, to God’s care.

            Overall, I thought this book was a fantastic guide through the Church year.  Although no guide can be entirely comprehensive, Gross’ work does a fantastic job of providing a solid foundation for understanding and entering into the Church year.  I look forward to using this as a personal and ministerial resource through each Church year.

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