Ancient-Future Time by Robert Webber
Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year by Robert Webber is an excellent introduction into using the Christian Year as a guide for Christian worship practices in the church.
Webber promotes the idea of using the Christian year as a guide for personal spiritual formation. He states (32):
“Consequently, the past and the future converge on the present in such a way that it makes a difference in the worshipers’ experience now.”
Relying on the Christian year would be best for spiritual formation because it would the Christian develop a rhythm that keeps one focused on Christ throughout the year. Webber shows how a Christian develops that rhythm as they focus on Christ in worship during the seasons of the church year. Webber describes these seasons (which he group into two cycles: cycle of light and cycle of life) and discusses their importance in helping the Christian keep a proper spiritual rhythm. These seasons include:
Cycle of Light
Advent – A Time When God Breaks In On Us
Christmas – A Time When Christ Is Birthed Within
Epiphany – A Time to Manifest Christ
Cycle of Life
Lent – A Time to Repent
The Three Great Days – A Time to Die to Sin
Easter – A Time to Be Resurrected
After Pentecost – A Time to Experience God’s Renewing Presence
Both the cycle of light and life reveal a pattern of expectation, fulfillment and proclamation (96). The Three Great Days (known as the Great Triduum) are (1) Maundy Thursday – the day when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, (2) Good Friday – the day when Jesus died on the cross, and (3) Holy Saturday – the day when the disciples had a vigil waiting on Jesus (122-141).
The Sundays between Easter and Pentecost address different themes that help the new Christian integrate into the Christian life within the church, to develop what Webber calls resurrection spirituality (141-158). These themes include (1) Easter Day, (2) Church, (3) Worship, (4) The Good Shepherd, (5) Ministry in the Church, (6) The Spirit, and (7) The Prayer of Jesus. The two most important Sundays after Easter are Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday (158-164).
The time between Advent and Pentecost is called extraordinary time. It is extraordinary because of the supernatural events that happened during this period of the year. The season between Pentecost and Advent (which covers the summer and fall) is called ordinary time. The emphasis during this ordinary time is on Sunday after Sunday worship (166-167). Webber explains the importance of Sunday worship in the chapter about Ordinary Time. He ends by describing the importance of Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving Sunday, and The Feast of Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday before Advent (170-178). Webber states that churches are encouraged to worship and preach a series using lectio continua during ordinary time. Lectio continua is an expository series through a book of the Bible (175).
As a pastor, I found this book a refreshing read. I have recently been challenged to use the lectionary for my own spiritual formation. Following the rhythm of the church year in my personal life has been invigorating. I can see how following the church year can be helpful for churches. One advantage is that following the church year will help the church to celebrate worship with an entire community of churches (Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic). This will help the church be in sync with other churches and broaden their worship perspective. This can help to give the church an appreciation for the entire world-wide church family. Churches tend to be individualistic in the way they approach worship. I like how the church year can help me as a Christian connect with other Christians throughout the world. Even though I don’t agree with other points of theology, I can connect with others through the reading of the same Scriptures on a daily and weekly basis.
Ancient-Future Time is a great book for any Christian to read. For liturgical Christians who are familiar with the church year, this book will be encouraging, For evangelical Christians, this book can give an education and insight into a new way to grow spiritually. I look forward to reading other books in this series by Robert Webber.