A Subversive Calendar of the Heart

Scholars have taken the dynamite of the church, have wrapped it up in nice phraseology, placed it in a hermetic container and sat on the lid. It's about time to blow the lid off.—Peter Maurin, Easy Essays

Now if we want to know when there's a crime wave of civil disobedience coming, we consult the liturgical calendar.—Oakland County sheriff's deputy joking to a reporter, Advent 1983

Something is happening and it isn't clear how far it yet may go. Communities of faith and conscience are rediscovering the church's liturgical calendar as a rubric for prayer, discernment, and public political witness. I come to this from a lower-church preaching tradition. And while there is in Protestantism currently a somewhat faddish renewal of interest in the lectionary, my own involvement "backs in" by way of the recent history of public witness.

The Detroit Peace Community, of which I am part, has moved prayerfully piecemeal into the cycle. We began by marking first those days in which the suffering and fate of victims were made visible. For five or six years, we faithfully walked the "stations of the cross" through the streets of our own city on Good Friday, stopping for prayer at sites of oppression—corporate headquarters, draft boards, the IRS; or compassionate ministration—soup kitchens, shelters for the homeless; or visible suffering—vacant lots, run-down apartments, welfare bureaucracies. As others do in similar cities, we exposed a local geography of Christ's passion.

In like manner we have remembered the blood of children on the Feast of Holy Innocents, seeing Herod's slaughter of the Bethlehem infants in the military violence of our time. And we have scattered the ashes of Hiroshima on that anniversary, which weighs in our hearts much like Good Friday.

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