The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics
To be Catholic is to have a faith that marks our hours, counts our days, and measures our months and seasons. Our liturgical calendar is marked by special days – feasts – which are all celebrations of Jesus Christ, reminding us who we are as people of faith. These feasts form a kind of catechism, a rich depiction of Jesus’ life which represents the fullness of creation and redemption.
In a new book released today, The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics, my coauthor, Mike Aquilina, and I explore the meaning behind these feasts and the role they play in our life of faith. Mike and I collaborated on two other books – The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition, and The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home. We conceived this new work as a companion to those two earlier volumes, in which we invited readers to take a fresh look at the things most familiar to us as Catholics.
So many of the key events in Jesus’ life occurred around feasts, from his first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, to his being joined by his closest followers and friends, the Apostles, around a table at the Last Supper, to the supper at Emmaus, when the risen Lord revealed himself by the words he proclaimed and by the bread that he broke.
As we celebrate feasts today, we remember the past, and anticipate the future – the heavenly destiny to which we are all called. Thus, past, present and future converge when we celebrate the feasts.
From the Creation account in the book of Genesis, we know that God rested on the seventh day, establishing it as a day set aside for spiritual renewal. Thus the Sabbath became the original religious festival, the prototype of all the feasts. The biblical feasts are times of great joy, yet they are only a foretaste of the true feast to come – the heavenly and eternal banquet to which our Father invites us.
The Gospel’s pre-eminent feast, of course, is the Last Supper, at which Jesus established the Eucharist as his memorial, to be observed till the end of time. We experience that gift at each Mass, at church, the place we Catholics call home.
Offering a walk through the Church year, The Feasts examines how we commemorate the key events in Jesus’s life. We examine how, through the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Christ continues to live and act in His Church. We also look at the feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Solemnity of All Saints. The book offers a closer look at the seasons of Advent and Lent, and explains how the three days of the Sacred Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday – illuminate the whole Church year, and all of the feasts.
The feasts form us. They help to make us and remake us according to the pattern of the life of Jesus Christ. We number our days as we walk in his footsteps, from his birth to his baptism, from his baptism to his resurrection, from his ascension to his sending of the Spirit to make us saints. We do this faithfully every year, and it defines us.
As they have for 2,000 years, the feasts bring Christ to us, day in and day out. The feasts are days set apart, but they give life to the whole year. They bring Christ’s life to us, a life we are meant to celebrate, and they enrich our faith, a faith that we are called to share.