Sunday sets the rhythm of Church time. It is “the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1), and therefore the first of the seven days of creation. But it is also the eighth day, the new time that began with the resurrection of Jesus. For Christians, therefore, Ratzinger says, Sunday is “the true measure of time, the unit of measurement of their lives,” because at every Sunday Mass the new creation breaks forth. Each time, the Word of God becomes flesh there.
The Scriptures illustrated by Benedict XVI in each of his homilies are naturally those of the Mass of the day, to which they impart a distinctive character. And this brings up another great expression of Church time, which is the cycle of the liturgical year. On top of the basic rhythm, the weekly rhythm marked by Sunday, a second rhythm has been added since the early Christian centuries, an annual cycle centered upon Easter and with Christmas and Pentecost as two other centers of gravity. This second rhythm highlights the Christian mystery in its distinct aspects and moments, along the entire span of sacred history. It begins with the weeks of Advent and continues with the season of Christmas and the Epiphany, with the forty days of Lent, with Easter, with the fifty days of the Easter season, with Pentecost. The Sundays outside of these special seasons are those of ordinary time, “per annum.” And there are feasts like the Ascension, Holy Trinity, Corpus Domini, Saints Peter and Paul, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption.
But the liturgical year is much more then the serial narration of a single great story and its main characters. Advent, for example, is not only the memory of the anticipation of the Messiah, because He has already come and will come again at the end of time. Lent is indeed preparation for Easter, but it is also preparation for baptism as the source of Christian life for each individual, a sacrament that is administered, by ancient tradition, at the Easter vigil. The human and the divine, time and eternity, Christ and the Church, the experience of all and of each one are surprisingly interwoven at every moment of the liturgical year.
Sandro Magister has collected and introduced a collection of Benedict’s homilies.