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The Church calendar reorders us in time. How so? For example, the ecclesial calendar helps us see ourselves in communal relation to the saints who have gone before us over the span of the centuries and in communal relation to the saints dispersed across the expanse of the earth today. As it relates to the church of the ages and global church, the span of the centuries concerns “through time” (diachronic) and the time frame of all people alive today (or at any one period) across the earth concerns this time or “together time” (synchronic). As we consider the lives of saints who are honored during the church year, and as we recite the liturgy and pray in unison every week in churches across the earth, we find that the church calendar reorders our past and present to expand our sense of community. We are not alone. There is a great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us.
In the last two entries on the church calendar, we discussed the assumption (exaltation to heaven) and dormition (mortal sleep) of Mary, who in my estimation, is the first great patron saint of the church as Jesus’ mother. Iconic paintings of Mary’s mortal sleep picture her with the Apostles Peter and Paul at her head and feet and elders and bishops in the church standing around them (with Christ above them). We belong to this great cloud of witnesses, as I noted in the entry on Mary’s dormition.
Text - Cloud - Imagery - Hebrews - Cloud
The biblical text for the “great cloud” imagery is found in Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (ESV). This “great cloud of witnesses”...
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