In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis tells us that “(t)he horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable possessions we have produced in the human heart…” We hate monotony, sameness. Some of us constantly ask “what’s for dinner?”, expecting a new and interesting answer. Some seek a new destination to travel to, or perhaps just a new route to work. Some change their clothes or shoes or decor again and again. However it is expressed, we all crave variety in some way.
At the same time, we all love permanence. Something needs to be predictable and steady – our income, the person waking up beside us, a steady job, a roof over our heads – to make the pursuit of variety possible.
Speaking of God, Screwtape writes that “He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He had balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He had contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we can Rhythm. He gives them the seasons…” God gives us seasons: physical seasons, life seasons, and liturgical seasons.
We’re moving closer to spring; it’ll be here in a few weeks. We’re leaving the winter. This gives us variety – new activities that weren’t possible a month ago, new sights and smells that were absent in winter. It also gives us a permanence, because we’ve been in spring before. It’s familiar and it’s new.
In this same month that it becomes spring, I’m turning 40. Some of you reading may think that I’m quite young, some may think I’m quite old. I’m neither, I think – I’m just 40. I’m in a particular season in my life, and like all of us in the coming spring, there are things that I can enjoy now that I couldn’t before. There’s both an excitement of change and a wonderful sense of permanence (after all, I’ll be “in my 40’s” for a while). Like the earth, God has given us, too, seasons to experience.
And surrounding all of that – the seasons of our world and the seasons of our lives – we have the seasons of liturgy. These seasons frame both the change and the permanence in the great context of the universe. They fix events in the context of our faith which is, as St. Augustine said, “ever ancient, ever new”. They put before us the one permanent reality – the birth of Jesus in time, the once-for-all sacrifice of Him on the cross, and the resurrection to new life that prefigures and makes possible our own. The liturgical seasons put these singular events before us in cycles, to center us in the most permanent of things, presented in the most temporary of ways.
Copyright 2018, Joe Wetterling