Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Liturgical Eclipses

It's one of those wonderful liturgical clashes as the Lunar season dances with the Solar Kalendar. Here in Passiontide, we celebrate the news of the Christ Child to be born, the very Child who, next week will be crucified. All the statues and paintings of Our Lady are shrouded in our Churches as befits this season of austerity. Our minds, while focused upon the incipient suffering of Our Lord are surprised by joy.

Of course, this gives us conflicting emotions. Should we celebrate this feast, or should we transfer it out of the fasting season?

I'll leave that to the liturgists, content that my Breviary reminds me that the Annunciation is a Double of the first class and thus I commemorate Wednesday in Passion week at Lauds and Vespers.

Yet we have a really, truly wonderful fact that our two Kalendars dance from year to year. I've reflected on this before, but it's worth noting the relationship between the moveable feasts - those bound by the lunar Kalendar - and those that are bound by the solar Kalendar. Saints' days are Solar in nature, but so are Christmas, the Circumcision, Epiphany, the Annunciation, and the Transfiguration. The Triduum, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi are Lunar in their occurrence. We human beings, in the West at least, usually live and work in the Solar Kalendar. Those of us who celebrate birthdays have them on a fixed date; our diaries work on a January to December basis; our tax year goes from April to April. Yet, Jan 1st is a rather arbitrary day to start a year. It doesn't correspond to any specific event on Earth, or in the Heavens. It just is. Thus the Solar Kalendar is a human Kalendar, born out of human nature.

However, there is a solar event that seems to pass by unnoticed. This is the Vernal Equinox, when the Sun crosses the plane formed by projecting the Equator of the Earth out into space. The days and nights are of equal length, and the date usually signifies the beginning of spring. It is an inconspicuous little day, either March 20th or 21st, which doesn't really relate much to the Solar year. It is how this even corresponds with the Moon that determines the Lunar Kalendar. Easter Day is the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This is purely celestial in origin and comes about from the interacting of Lunar and Solar Kalendars. The other moveable feasts align themselves with Easter.

For me, this is a reflection of the inseparability of the Human and Divine Natures of Our Lord. The days of His incarnation are in the Solar Kalendar; the days of His Resurrection are Lunar. Both interact to determine the Triduum and the fulfillment of the Divine mission.

Last Friday (20th March) we would have been treated to an 80% total eclipse of the Sun had the British weather not eclipsed everything else! The Moon passes in front of the Sun causing that wonderful effect that seems to come practically once in a lifetime, yet there are three eclipses each year, both lunar and solar. Liturgically, eclipses happen frequently, but possess the potential for wonder if one takes the trouble to think carefully upon them.

Today is a case in point - a lunar eclipse - in which the Solar Kalendar eclipses the Lunar. We reflect on Our Lord's human nature in which He is conceived by the Holy Ghost and His Mother given the tidings of great joy by the Angel Gabriel. He is conceived in order to redeem us by his blood, to suffer as human beings suffer, and to die as humans die. His humanity is that of His mother taken without change into the Divinity of His Father. The light of God always shines through liturgical eclipses to our enlightenment. We just have to be prepared to use our liturgy for the purpose it was designed for - to bring our consciousness closer to God - and to enjoy any liturgical conflicts that the resulting eclipses engender.

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