One of the underlying stories of Christianity is the debate about when to celebrate Easter. During each major time period of the Church’s history, this topic has somehow managed to resurface. Gregory the Great helped settle the matter for a minute during the 6th century. Roughly 1000 years later in the 16th century Gregory the VIII suggested replacing the Julian calendar with his own. This, the Gregorian Calendar, was soon adopted by all Western Christians and is the calendar which you and I currently use. Different branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church have continued to use the Julian calendar for both civil and religious purposes even to this day. The date of Easter has been both an impetus and an implication in all of these circumstances.
I think quite often about the problems of calendaring that exist in our world. My calendar is a total mess at times. Not because I can’t keep it up, but because I can’t seem to keep stuff from getting added to it. I’m connected to way too much stuff. Committees, teams, networks, missions, ministries, small groups, family, schools etc… Each of these groups has a different calendar that I’m somehow supposed to amalgamate into my own. Either I try and fail (often the case) or I simply start pruning and find myself unable to participate fully in any of these smaller communities.
This isn’t just my story though, it’s your story too. And it’s the story of every person I know with the exception of babies and some retired people. We’re just way too busy and we get connected to way too many things. This becomes impossible to manage and either overwhelms people to the point of complete withdrawal or slowly leads them to burnout. If anything, it just leaves us in a fragmented mess; everyone doing different things at different times and wondering what happened to our sense of “togetherness”.
The calendar has a strange and often overlooked theological dimension to it which will literally help or hinder the application of our faith. Think about Israel for a second. I’ll leave the Bible study to you, but when you read the law in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, we see very clearly that God offered his community a rhythm of life, or what some refer to as a “calendar”, to live by. From the simplicity of the Sabbath to the more complex days like the Year of Jubilee, this idea was integrally a part of their theology.
I’m starting to see the calendar as a profound and even prophetic theological symbol which adds both ethos and intentionality to its use as a practical tool. On a personal level, it can help or hinder our practice of Sabbath rest. On a corporate level, it affects our practice of true community. I suspect that it may also affect many more things, even if indirectly through a lack of rest and/or community. At this point however, we are not living as though the calendar is a theological symbol. Nor are we using it with the intentionality of a legitimate tool. Rather, most of us relate to our calendars merely as victims. We accept appointments and those appointments dictate our life. We live in chaos because we have let the calendar become our master rather than making it our servant. Ultimately, I think the majority of people, let alone our Christian communities, would benefit greatly from reevaluating both their perspective on and use of the calendar.
PS-It wouldn’t be right to post on the Calendar without addressing the end of the Mayan calendar this Friday. I’d like to dedicate this post to them, having given up their entire civilization in an attempt to warn us 21st century westerners about the end of the world.