The Cyclical Nature of the Spiritual Life


by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Spiritual Formation Specialist
Re-blogged from: Connect-Engage-Inspire

I have not always loved the liturgical year. It once felt like empty ritual, something distant and unfamiliar. At best, it was a structure for worship that reminded us when it was time to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

Lately, the annual rhythm of living through our Christian story has become formational in my own spiritual life. Living, year after year, through the story of expectant waiting and new birth reminds me of the new thing God is doing within and around me. Living, year after year, through the story of death and resurrection pierces my soul with the truth of what I need to let go for fuller life in God. All the in-between green on the liturgical calendar jars my complacence in everyday living and awakens me to the holy present in the ordinary.

What is perhaps most comforting, or challenging, about living through these cycles of faith is that we never “get there.” Though we see many things in culture through a linear lens, the spiritual life is more like a spiral. This is not a new idea in our tradition, yet I find I need constant reminders! In an achievement-oriented world, what does it mean that our spiritual lives are always a work-in-progress? What does it mean that every Christmas there is still new life, and every Lent there is still more to simplify?

The liturgical year is just one of many vehicles to help us visualize the necessary spiritual cycles. The seasons are another. What do I release in fall? What lies dormant in winter? What comes to life in spring? What receives fullest expression in summer? Ask your own questions—there are many!

Of course, we can go through our daily lives without paying attention to these cycles and miss the formational opportunities within them. We can sit through church Sunday after Sunday and never connect Epiphany to the light within our own souls. We can hear the stories of Jesus and never wonder about the Gethsemane moments of our own lives.

The hope is that as we live through these ancient patterns of faith, we become more like the one we seek. Over time these perennial stories come to expression in the world. It becomes harder to walk past the hungry when you’ve just heard for the hundredth time how Jesus fed the 5,000. You may hold back your own stone of judgment after being reminded again that no one is perfect. You may even find friendship with someone different than yourself after listening to yet another sermon on the good Samaritan.

Blessings on the journey! May your own work-in-progress spiritual life grow deeper in God as you cycle through another year of faith!

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