“Live in the moment!” It’s useful advice. I hear it a lot when I’m worrying or over-planning. Maybe you do, too.
It’s at least as old as the Gospel, where Jesus said: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34).
We should live in the moment. And yet, for a lot of people, that means an almost constant, instinctive striving to make the moment more interesting, more pleasurable, or just more bearable.
For too many people, living in the moment means anxiously checking their smart phones in case they’ve missed a message. It means refreshing a screen in the hope that something different will appear in the feed. It means taking the senseless clickbait in the futile hope that it will make today seem somehow different and better than yesterday.
But our technology isn’t going to make it happen. It’s four hundred years since Shakespeare had Macbeth complain about the “petty pace” of “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.”
No, the only way out of that dreadful round is to get out of it. Leave the things of time for the things of eternity.
Jesus is the infusion of eternity in time. He’s the presence of heaven on earth. He brings the permanence of the spiritual amid the decay of the passing world. He is the meaning that overcomes the futility and boredom of passing time.
God has always lived beyond time, above time. God transcends time. But in Jesus he entered time and transformed it. He enriched it. He re-enchanted every moment.
We can see this, as Catholics, in the way the Church marks its feasts. It’s a riot of color and sound and flavors and aromas. Our altars are filled with incense and our kitchens with baking. December brings us from Immaculate Conception and Guadalupe to Christmas and beyond.
And it doesn’t stop with the end of the calendar year. The Church year is just getting started. The opening days of January bring us big celebrations. Mary, Mother of God, on January 1, is a holy day of obligation and a great way to start the year. Epiphany Sunday brings us squarely into the story of the Three Kings. On weekdays early in the month we remember the lives of great American Catholics, St. John Neumann and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
For the larger society, the New Year marks a kind of letdown. Department stores take the sparkle out of their windows and relegate the unsold merchandise to clearance bins.
It doesn’t have to be a letdown for us. For a Catholic every day is enchanted. It’s a different experience, a new song, a portal to delights for the senses and the spirit.
The Church calendar gives us access to another dimension in our ordinary days. It shows us that we’re part of a big story — the greatest story ever told. It gives us momentum, and propels us forward in joyful hope, in blessed hope.
Life is richer because we have Lent and it leads us to Easter — because we have Advent and it leads us to Christmas — because we share seemingly ordinary days with a variety of saintly companions. When we tune in to the calendar, we submit ourselves to something infinitely more beautiful and powerful than the clickbait of marketers. We live the life of God.
So many people want to grow deeper in their knowledge of the faith. So many people want to learn more about culture, art, poetry, music, and history. The Church’s calendar gives us an easy, painless program for a life of constant learning and enrichment. With every feast come different songs, artwork and stories. With every feast come different customs celebrated by diverse peoples of the world and of our local Church.
Jesus showed us how to do this. He followed the calendar religiously. From the time he was a child, he went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days. As an adult, he celebrated them with his friends. He got into the rhythm of weekly attendance at synagogue and periodic trips to the Temple.
Why did he do this? So that we, too, would know how to do it.