For most adherents of organised religion, certain days or periods are seen as more important that others. A liturgical calendar of some sort gives structure to the worshipping community. Obvious examples are Christmas, Diwali, Pasach or Ramadan.
For others, calendars are something of an oddity. They may even stand in opposition to core beliefs (such as in evangelical tradition, and possibly Buddhism) because of an emphasis on the spiritual and de-emphasis on rituals of time and space.
But if you are interested in liturgy and worship, eventually you come around to the question of special days and calendars. There are many calendars; many saints, many causes, too much to take in. I have had a quick look at several calendars, Catholic, Anglican, Coptic, Orthodox and African, to see what days or causes resonated with me.
At this stage, only two seem to have any meaning. Firstly, the Jewish; many Christians like to celebrate Pasach and the like, and I can see the appeal of this, especially when approaching the festival from a fresh, new testament angle.
But even more relevant it seems, especially from a Creation Spirituality point of view, is the pre-christian, Celtic Wheel of the Year. It is used by pagans, Wiccans and Celtic-oriented systems. The strength of this approach is it’s honoring of Nature; and for me by close implication, the Creator.
Many Christians are skeptical or hostile towards such an approach, seeing it as representing anti-Christian religion. “Pagan” is a word used by orthodoxy to describe non-Christians, hedonists, or savages. However, its meaning is most accurately understood as “of the country”, (from the Latin paganus, “an old country dweller, rustic”). This is distinct from “Of the City”.
I think it is fair to say that although Jesus spent much of his time with simple folks, country people, that Christianity itself has become a very urban religion. It has deep misgivings about those close to nature, and it can be argued that much of its most distasteful legacy – witch hunts, crusades and the like, were efforts to destroy what it perceived as wild, untamed and uncivilized.
If we look at modern Christendom, it comes down fairly strongly on the side of industry, with its attendant disregard for the creation. George Bush style “Christianity” typifies the duplicitous approach whereby an appeal to “Fighting for God” hides a deeply invested interest in oil and a flagrant disregard for the effects of consumerism on the planet.
Traditional Christianity can be seen as urban chauvinism, and most of its legacy in western culture demonstrates alienation, estrangement, suspicion and incompetence when it comes to knowing our place in the cosmos.
So it seems like this is a good time to reconnect with our aboriginal roots. In a case like mine, that is complex, descendant as I am of colonials. Am I African, or European? I have asked this question hard and as of now, I understand myself as a European in Africa. Whatever, I look to a pre-modern source of connection with nature, as a milieu for the sacred.
Here is a summary of the 8 sabats of the Wheel of the year, with their “Christianized” equivalent, with thanks to the liturgist Sea Raven, in her thesis “The Wheel of the Year“. I think there is great potential to rethink a calendar for worship based more closely on world as created by G-d.
|Northern||Southern||Pre-Christian Celtic Festival||“Christian” Liturgical Parallel|
|1-Aug||1-Feb||First Fruits: Lammas/Lughnasadh||Abundance; First Fruits of the Spirit|
|22-Sep||22-Mar||The Fall Equinox: Mabon||Harvest|
|1-Nov||6-May||Samhain (Halloween) Honoring the Ancestors||Feast of All Saints|
|22-Dec||22-Jun||Winter Solstice / Yule||Christmas|
|2-Feb||1-Aug||Imbolc||Candlemas; the return of the light; Epiphany|
|20-Mar||Sep-20||Celebration of Spring Equinox: Ostara||Easter; Resurrection; Life, Death, Rebirth|
|1-May||1-Nov||Now is the Month of Maying: Beltane||Communion as a Feast of Love; Pentecost|
|22-Jun||22-Dec||Summer Solstice||Midsummer; Growth, Commitment|
If we take a nature-first approach to the question of calendar, we might use Southern dates. But 3 of them might not shift very easily (Christmas, Easter and Halloween), without considerable weirdness. (Christmas in June anyone?) because of the association of the natural festival with a Christian tradition.
Still, it’s a start.