In this seminary experience, I’ve had to write a lot (!) of personal essays. One of the most common essay prompts I’ve faced is: share what types of pastoral ‘images’ you identify with. Some people write ‘prophet,’ ‘herald,’ ‘Samaritan,’ etc.
Well, I decided to make one up (like ya do). The pastoral image that I identify with and hope to foster is the ‘keeper of the seasons.'
My pastor is this and it’s one of the things about this vocation that excites me the most. In a lot of ways, we’ve lost our rhythms (seasons) as a species. Pretty sure our ancestors took the seasons way more seriously - maybe because they had to (especially during more agrarian times).
In today’s world, the hours, days, and seasons blend together in one blurry streak of go-go-go. The news cycle is non-stop. When I was a kid, certain shows on TV meant certain days and times. Today, everything is on-demand. People send emails and texts at all hours of the day and night (it used to be rude to call after a reasonable hour) and my social media feed has critical insomnia.
Again, rhythmic time and seasons are all blending together. But liturgical churches put the seasons back into place. Right now, we’re making the transition into the season of Lent. ‘Tis a dreary season (that matches the dreary end of winter for most of the Northern Hemisphere) full of intense self-reflection and egoic awareness. We’re being held to see the underbelly of ourselves in the most vivid ways as we lead up to Jesus’s crucifixion.
Thankfully, the seasons don’t stop with Lent. Right after this, we’re met with the brightest time of the liturgical year, Easter (yes, even brighter than Christmas). Again, this matches (unless you live in Scottsdale, Palm Springs, or the like) the spring season as flowers bloom and the days lengthen.
These rhythms are important. They allow us to shift from one overall mood to the next as the seasons change. In summer, after Pentecost, the liturgy is more simplistic, stripped down, and light. It matches the ideal vibe for summertime. During Advent, we’re asked to delay gratification and not jump into the celebration mode of Christmas so fast. It helps us savor the season for all it holds and uses the darker days to anchor this mood.
A good pastor (in my opinion) takes the seasons seriously. She’ll design the decor in the church in tune with the liturgical season. It becomes a sacred space where the deep rhythms in the human soul are quenched and God meets us in our lightness and darkness, accordingly. This season-keeping goes beyond decor. It sets the tone for the entire liturgy from the opening blessing to the sending.
I’m so thankful that I’ve found a church that honors the seasons. And I pray these seasons are embraced by more and more in this blurry one-season world we’ve found ourselves in today.
Grace & Godspeed,