Churches that operate according to liturgical traditions often do so by observing different seasons throughout the year. Each season has its own purpose. Some are for reflection and repentance, while others are meant to foster hope and anticipation.
Feast days are just as important as the other days of the liturgical year. They are times of celebration and solidarity. While other days may teach believers how to live and make good, moral choices, feast days are designed to remind them how to come alive.
Acknowledgment of God's Provision
One of the prevailing themes of feasting is gratitude. No matter what is going wrong in the lives of people of faith, there are usually a lot of things that are usually going well too. Feasts take many forms, and they can include any number of elements:
- Shared meals
- Conversations about daily joys
- Time to rest
By taking the time to enjoy all the blessings they have received, church members are reminded how much they have to be thankful for. This recollection can spur them to generosity as they share their bounty with others.
Commitment to Faith Practices
All rituals and sacraments have meaning. Those who are new to a faith community may not always know why their church does certain things. Even those who have been members for decades can forget the underlying reason for some of the rituals. A feast day is an opportunity for a renewal of members' understanding of the reasons the church practices faith the way it does.
For example, Easter is a long season of feast days that is practiced in many different ways throughout the world. Regardless of the specific food that is eaten or how celebrations are structured, though, the season itself points to resurrection and new life. These concepts are reflected in the sacraments of baptism and communion, which are essential practices of many faith communities. Feasting breathes joy back into rituals that may seem commonplace but comprise the foundational structure of faith.
Fulfillment of Scripture
There are several different viewpoints regarding the extent to which specific feasts should be observed. Some scholars who study various scriptures argue that the old feasts are no longer relevant and thus are not necessary. Most spiritual traditions, however, have a habit of feasting as a fulfillment of what they believe, and their holy texts provide the backdrop for understanding the celebration's significance.
The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha is a feast that commemorates the story of Abraham's willingness to obey God despite the personal cost. For Pagan communities, festivals are a way to mark new seasons and the corresponding shifts in focus. The Psalms of the Bible declare that every new day is one that God has made and thus a reason for rejoicing. Regardless of the spiritual text in question, feasting seems to be a theme that they all share to some degree.
Enjoyment of Community
There are few experiences that help you get to know people better than sharing a meal with them. Feasting provides the opportunity to gather with your faith community and enjoy each other's company. Whether it's a potluck to which everyone contributes or a catered meal, eating together is a time to bond.
It can also be a chance to welcome others. Food is a great way to reach out to those in the surrounding community. It doesn't require anything of them but to show up and partake of what is offered. You may be surprised, however, at how much you are blessed by their presence.
There are times for solemnity and reparation, and there are times for repentance. Churches must also make time for joy, though. Feast days give people of faith a taste of heaven on earth.