After the holidays, what now?

13 January 2023

‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’ (Eph. 4, 11-12).

Now that a great part of the festal cycle in our life has been completed, the Church leaves us with a command for how to proceed: the need to equip ourselves. It’s not enough that we’ve celebrated the great events of our faith. Many of us have attended services. We’ve fasted; we’ve gone to confession; we’ve taken communion; and we’re glad at the joy of the hymns. We’ve likely given alms and made a resolution to take small new beginnings in our spiritual life. The holidays [i.e. ‘holy days’] are over. The Church has instituted them as a time and an opportunity for us to experience all the above. For us to be strengthened in the faith. But, because life goes on, none of the above exhausts the need for us to be better equipped in matters of faith. Not only in terms of knowledge and behavior, but also on the level of transfiguration, that is a change of heart.

If we’re honest with ourselves, every time we experience a festal cycle, we’re aware of our spiritual emptiness. Our stagnation. The lesser or greater passions which don’t allow us to be at peace with ourselves, to feel the power of love prevail in our life, to feel our faith in Christ giving us the strength to shoulder the crosses of our life without complaint. We’re glad of the feast. But we still feel where we’re empty. Even if we’ve made spiritual progress, we still realize that our mind requires nourishment. And that we aren’t as well versed in the dogmas of the Church as we ought to be. That the hymnology escapes us. Because we don’t have that completing love which makes us feel that every moment is there so that we can glorify, give thanks, share and enjoy, with whatever our faith and the tradition of the Church has provided us. And also to give to others some of what Christ is for us. The feeling, that we’ve partaken of the body and blood of Christ and that we’ve made a fresh start with zest for life and love, may well exist, but it doesn’t last long. The concerns of life, temptations, the lack of concentration in the mind and the heart all make us aware of that harsh question: ‘And after the feast, what then?’.

Saint Paul urges us to listen to all those in the body of Christ who have gifts: those who can function as apostles, that is, those whose mission it is to awaken us with the word of God, prayer and the communion of the Eucharist; prophets, who remind us of the need for repentance; evangelists, who continuously call to our mind the existence of Christ, his love for us, and the fact that his Gospel is ‘a fount of water leading to eternal life’; pastors, who are concerned with our progress and who remind us of the truth about ourselves and the world; and teachers, who are in a position to provide learning for the mind and the heart which will direct us to the truth, i.e. Christ. Let us seek their words. Let us share their experience. Let us work with them in building up the body of Christ. They may be our bishops and priests. Monks and nuns. A book. A radio talk or something on the internet. The silent prayer of those humble people we see next to us. The Life of a saint. Sometimes those in the world who, it may be, motivate us or restrain us with their good or difficult words, and who, in either case, teach us.

Being well-equipped isn’t merely a matter of knowledge. It’s also ascetic effort, love and the experience of faith. May the festal cycle which has just finished be a time of new steps in our life in Christ.