There is so much overlap between literature and liturgy. Sometimes a liturgy will take central place in a novel, such as the baptism in Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles or the wedding at the end of any marriage plot. Many liturgies themselves are a collection of literary genres, ranging from myth to poetry to exhortation, blended with ritual forms. And, in a way, everything is a genre, whether a sermon, a poem, or a sacred text. Lawrence Hoffman even describes liturgy as a form of literature, and one that “exists not for private reading or meditation but for repeated public recitation.” As Kirstie Blair notes, both literature and liturgy are made up of forms, whether ritual gestures or literary conventions of genre, that are already present in the minds of the congregation or audience.
One important form is the liturgical calendar. Like our modern calendars, it would situate us in time, letting us know the days and months and the beginnings of seasons. It would also show us the special days of sacred time following two interlocking cycles: the sanctorale (fixed days like saint’s days) and the temporale (movable feasts like Easter).
Poems and novels may also follow this calendar. Perhaps a specific day will inspire the poet, such as in Thomas Hardy’s “Quid Hic Agis,” Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “Oh Death, Death,” or T. S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday.” A poem like “The Menologium” may even run through the liturgical calendar with what Eleanor Parker describes as “interlocking cycles of sacred time and seasons” so as to seek out “the holy times that man must hold on to.”
I’ve been exploring the close connection between liturgical feasts and the occasional poems that celebrate or subvert them over the past few years, and I thought I would collect all of them together into a calendar of our own.
Below is a calendar of all the liturgy and literature posts that can be anchored in a special day. Each should have a “read more” link that will take you to the post. We’re entering an important time for many of the writers I work with, so quite a few posts are coming up. As I write more posts about liturgical time, I’ll keep updating this calendar.