Liturgical Living in 2023
The Sacred Liturgy is the Church’s public prayer; it is the perfect worship of God. The Second Vatican Council taught that
The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.
The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with “the paschal sacraments,” to be “one in holiness”… From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.
But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10-11).
Thus, the liturgy is essential to the Christian life. If we desire to enter into Christ’s life, into the Church’s life, the sacred liturgy is the first place we should turn. We must prepare ourselves for it, however, if we are to live the liturgy fully and well. I hope to offer some concrete means of entering into the spirit of the liturgy—throughout the year, the week, and each day—so that we can make this new year one that is consecrated to Our Lord, and therefore a truly happy one.
The Liturgical Year
Whenever one sets out on a journey, planning ahead is wise. Of course, we are always in God’s hands. His will may be that our good plans do not work out. But by planning ahead, we offer God something of our first fruits, and give him our invitation to sanctify the upcoming year.
The annual cycle of feasts and observances that the Church puts before us allows us to sanctify time because it makes the life of Christ, his Church, and his saints, present to us. As we begin the journey of 2023, then, it will be wise for any Catholic, and any Catholic family, to sit with a calendar and mark off some important dates. Doing so will keep us focused, and allow us to mark special days in our year to praise God for his goodness or to petition him for his grace.
A list of important feasts in 2023 is attached to the end of this post.
The Liturgical Week
Zooming in, so to speak, we can also consider the flow of each week and how the sacred liturgy marks it. Most of us are familiar with the importance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day, and our obligation to attend Mass each Sunday as we remember his Resurrection. But how can we go beyond weekly Mass to enter into the liturgical spirit of each week?
In this respect, one way we can consider the Catholic week is as a more complete remembrance of the Paschal Mystery. Each Friday, the Lord’s passion is commemorated. Each Sunday, his resurrection. Saturday, we are in waiting. Each week, we can make an effort to commemorate this Triduum and live out the paschal mystery more deeply.
On Fridays, we might consider commemorating the suffering and death of Jesus by intentional penances. Traditionally, each Friday is consecrated in this way by abstinence from meat. Reintroducing this practice for our families is a great way to remember the events of Good Friday each week and to enter into a penitential spirit in a communal way.
On Saturdays, which are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can wait with her in expectation of the Resurrection. In particular, we can prepare ourselves for a deeper participation in the Mass by taking time each Saturday to review the upcoming readings and meditate on them. Or, we could use our Saturdays to begin a habit of weekly confession.
This will lead us to a more fruitful celebration of the Lord’s Day each Sunday. While we know we must attend Mass weekly, many people today have forgotten the other half of our Sunday obligation, namely, to rest from our labors. God set the pattern of the weekly day’s rest because he saw that it was good for us. Let us make 2023 the year that we enter into the Sunday rest. This will allow us to appreciate the sanctification of time which the liturgy accomplishes, pointing us to our future eternal rest. And by resting on Sundays, we make an act of trust in God, saying that we ourselves are not the cause of our blessings, and an extra day of work can never substitute for a day set aside for worship.
The Liturgical Day
Not only does the Church’s liturgy sanctify each year and week, but every day is similarly sanctified by consecrating particular moments to God. This is primarily accomplished through the Liturgy of the Hours. While many people consider this the job of priests and of religious brothers and sisters, the laity are strongly encouraged to take up some part of the Divine Office in order to join in the Church’s daily worship and to sanctify each day.
Consider taking up some of the liturgical hours each day. Morning and Evening Prayer are a great place to start, especially for working people who can use them to begin and end each day’s work. Beginners should know that there are several phone applications available which provide all the necessary texts, without the burden of placing ribbons and flipping through a physical book.
Pope Benedict XVI
On December 31, 2022, the Church lost Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He was one of the foremost Catholic thinkers and churchmen of his generation. He was particularly notable for his concern for the liturgy. One final way in which we could enter into the Church’s liturgy this year is by reading his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy. This summary of his liturgical theology is simultaneously profound and accessible. I have found it a wonderful aid in thinking seriously about the Church’s public worship and I recommend it heartily.
If we do these simple things, we can enter more fruitfully into the liturgy. When we begin to live the liturgy, we begin to live Christ’s life. The liturgy offers perfect worship to God, but it also forms us into other Christs. May this be our goal in the new year.
2023 Calendar of Big Feast Days
A Catholic family should consider the following feasts this year important, mark them down, and look forward to them:
January 8 - The Epiphany (Our Lord is revealed to be God)
February 2 - The Presentation (Our Lord is received in the Temple; Simeon prophecies; traditionally the Church blesses candles this day)
February 5 - Shrovetide/Septuagesima (Lent is only two weeks away, begin planning)
February 22 - Ash Wednesday (Our Lord fasts in the desert; His Church fasts with him)
Fridays in Lent (days of penance; suitable days to pray the Stations of the Cross)
March 19 - St. Joseph’s Day (though it is Lent, we rejoice in the holiness of Jesus’ foster-father)
March 25 - The Annunciation (Mary’s assent brings about the incarnation; nine months before Christmas)
April 2 - Palm Sunday (Holy Week begins; Our Lord enters Jerusalem)
April 6 - Holy Thursday (Our Lord institutes the Eucharist and the Priesthood as he is betrayed and enters his passion)
April 7 - Good Friday (Our Lord dies on the cross to save us)
April 8 - Holy Saturday (We wait for his rising; catechumens are baptized on the most sacred night of the year)
April 9 - Easter Sunday (Our Lord rises from the dead, glorious and immortal; the whole earth rejoices)
May 18/21 - The Ascension (Our Lord ascends to the right hand of his Father; we hope to join him there; Holyday of Obligation)
May 28 - Pentecost (The Holy Spirit descends on the Church; the Veni Creator Spiritus is traditionally prayed today)
June 4 - Trinity Sunday (God has revealed himself to be One God in Three Persons)
June 11 - Corpus Christi (we celebrate Christ’s permanent presence in his Church in the Most Holy Eucharist; Eucharistic processions are common today)
June 16 - The Most Sacred Heart (Christ’s love poured out for us on the cross)
June 24 - Nativity of St. John the Baptist (our Lord’s precursor is born; six months before Christmas)
June 29 - Saints Peter and Paul (The Apostles are the foundation of the Church)
July 22 - St. Mary Magdalene (a faithful disciple of Our Lord, who remained with him at the cross and announced his Resurrection to the apostles)
August 6 - The Transfiguration (We remember the experience of Peter, James, and John, which they did not reveal until after Our Lord was risen)
August 15 - The Assumption of Mary (the sinless Mother of God joins her Son in heaven; we hope to do the same; Holyday of Obligation)
September 8 - Mary’s Nativity (Mary is born to her parent’s Joachim and Anne; she will one day bring forth the Savior)
September 14 - The Exaltation of the Cross (The Church reveres the instrument of Salvation)
September 29 - The Feast of the Archangels (the Angels are God’s ministers and assist mankind)
November 1 - All Saints’ (Innumerable men and women have gone before us in the faith and now rejoice with God forever; Holyday of Obligation)
November 2 - All Souls’ (It behooves us to pray for the faithful who still suffer in purgatory; it is fitting to visit a cemetery during the first eight days of November)
November 9 - The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (the Pope’s cathedral’s feast; we celebrate that every Catholic church is a place we can call home)
November 26 - Christ the King (The final Sunday before Advent; Christ reigns over all men and women, all societies, and all creation)
December 3 - First Sunday of Advent (The Church begins a new year; she looks forward to Christ’s coming in a spirit of hopeful penance)
December 8 - Immaculate Conception (Mary is conceived without stain of original sin; we rejoice at the first manifestation of the Evil One’s defeat; Holyday of Obligation)
December 17 - The O Antiphons Begin (The Church earnestly cries out for Christ to come and save her)
December 25 - Christmas Day (Our Lord is born at midnight in Bethlehem; he comes to save us; Holyday of Obligation)
December 26 - St. Stephen’s Day (the first Martyr, in will and deed; )
December 27 - St. John’s Day (a martyr in will but not in deed)
December 28 - Holy Innocents (martyrs in deed but not in will)
December 31 - The Last Day of the Civil Year (traditionally a day to pray the Te Deum in Thanksgiving for the past year’s blessings)
In order to pray also for those who are dear to us, the following days should be added:
The name days of any family members
Feasts of patron saints
The anniversaries of baptisms
The anniversaries of deaths of our loved ones
The feast of the patron of our diocese and parish