We live in time.
God is immortal and not bound by time. He is the creator of time.
When the Son of God became man, however, he entered time and as a man of flesh and blood he died on the Cross for our salvation.
To paraphrase Tolkien, for the Christian life is only a question of how we use God’s gift of life and time.
Time and Eternity Joined Together
Christ Our Pascha tells us that the Church's Divine Services are a "memorial of the saving mysteries of Jesus Christ."
It is in the liturgy that we "reach the unreachable God" and become "divinized."
When we celebrate the Eucharist and partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we experience "the union of the seen and unseen, the earthly and the heavenly, the human and the divine--of time and eternity."
Linear and Cyclical Time
Time for us is chronological and historical, or linear, as well as cyclical or circular.
Each of us has a beginning, we are born, and an end, we die.
In the time between these two points, we pass through the days, weeks, months, and seasons of a year and then repeat them year after year as we move forward toward our end.
As Christians we believe that if we use our time wisely and follow Jesus Christ, if we truly live by his commandments, when we die we will spend eternity with him in heaven.
The liturgical time of the Church, with Christ’s Pascha at the center, is daily, weekly, and yearly, and so follows this same linear and cyclical pattern.
The Horologion, or Chasoslov in Church Slavonic, is a compilation of the daily liturgical prayer services.
With liturgical prayer, we mark the hours of each day as we move through each week, month, and season throughout the year.
Liturgical time is organized to help us attain our goal of spending eternity with Our Lord.
Memorial to Light and Darkness
In Genesis we read:
“And God said: Be light made. And light was made.
And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness.
And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day.” (Genesis 1:3-4, Douay Rheims Bible)
We read further:
“And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years:
To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. And it was done.” (Genesis 1:14-15, DRB)
Liturgical prayer is a memorial to light and darkness, day and night, the years, and the seasons created by God. It is a memorial to salvation history.
Our daily cycle of prayer, found in the Horologion, consists of nine services prayed in this order to mark the liturgical day:
During this daily cycle of prayer, which Christ Our Pascha calls “an icon of the history of salvation,” we:
Each of the days of the week has a special significance.
Our weekly cycle of prayer begins with Sunday, the Eighth Day, the day of Our Lord’s resurrection.
Each Sunday, therefore, is a little Pascha. Christ Our Pascha states:
“Every Sunday is a commemoration of Pascha, when at the Divine Liturgy the Risen Christ manifests his presence. Sunday is an icon of the glorious second coming. In this way the Resurrection, as the Feast of Feasts, enters a person’s entire life; it sanctifies it and transfigures all of it into a feast.”
The prayers and hymns of our liturgical services are chanted in the tone of the week. There are eight tones that cycle one through eight from Thomas Sunday, the first Sunday after Pascha, to Palm Sunday, or the Sunday immediately preceding Pascha.
Christ Our Pascha notes the Paschal connection of the tones and states that they:
“... resemble the rungs of a spiritual ladder which joins the present time to the Day of the Lord’s coming. Each year the building of this ladder begins on Thomas Sunday and concludes on Palm Sunday. Thus, the Paschal time of the weekly cycles encompasses, as it were, historical time and allows us to accept all of life in light of Paschal joy.”
The tones are found in the liturgical service book called the Octoechos—from the Greek octo for eight and echos for sound.
In addition to the Octoechos, we also use the following books for our daily cycle of liturgical prayer (and so our weekly, monthly, and weekly cycle):
During the year, we have services that our immoveable, or fall on the same date each year, and services that are moveable, or fall on different dates.
The liturgical year begins each year on September 1 for those using the Gregorian calendar and September 14 for those using the older Julian calendar.
The calendar was reformed in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII to bring it in line with astronomical cycles.
The Julian calendar continues to be used the Orthodox and Orthodox Catholics. There is a thirteen day difference between the two calendars now.
The difference is most noticeable in the celebration of Pascha, a moveable date not always celebrated on the same date by those who use the Julian and those who use the Gregorian calendar.
The same is true of the immoveable date for Christmas. Those using the Gregorian calendar celebrate Christmas on December 25, while those using the Julian calendar celebrate Christmas on January 7.
During Great Lent, we use the Triodion for the four weeks leading up to Lent and the weeks of Lent.
During Lent, we “set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat,” as we sing at Vespers on Cheesefare Sunday, the Sunday before Lent. Lent then begins on Monday.
Each of the four Sundays of preparation for Lent has a theme:
St. John Chrysostom writes that through fasting “we shall come by little and little to the very summit of virtue.”
Each Sunday of Lent also has a theme:
Major dates our our immovable cycle include (dates are Gregorian/Julian):
[Notes from our catechetical talk based on Christ Our Pascha, pages 179-193.]