With Advent starting and the Christmas season following it, it’s time to think about all the 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 while also showing us the special days of sacred time.
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.”
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.
And here are the festive posts that relate to the season:
- Some Victorian Advent Reading
- Have Yourself a Dour Victorian Christmas
- Christmas with Hopkins
- 6 Hopkinsian Observations on the Epiphany
A version of this post originally ran on March 19th.