Seasons of the Church Year
All Christians are part of the Christian story. The seasons of the church year help give us a way to experience how this is so. Seasons provide opportunities to observe, commemorate, and celebrate certain events or occasions. The Christian church, following earlier Jewish tradition, has long used the seasons of the year as an opportunity for festivals (i.e., feasts, celebrations) and sacred time set aside to worship God as the Lord of life.While Jewish celebrations revolve around the Exodus from Egypt, Christians focus on the life and ministry of Jesus.
The sequence of festivals from Advent to Resurrection Sunday becomes an annual spiritual journey for worshippers as they kneel at the manger, listen on a hillside, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hear the roar of the mob, stand beneath the cross, and witness the resurrection!
The rest of the church year provides time to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus and his commission to his people to be a light to the world.
The Church Year is ordered according to six seasons that each celebrate a part of Christian faith and life. You can most easily tell what season we are in by the color of the clergy's vestments and the altar cloth hangings. Some seasons have the same color, so that can be a bit tricky, but if you know what time of year it is that helps match the color with the season. Special services, such as Baptism, can also confuse things as we have paticular colors that may not match the season we are in. Don't worry to much about it, someone can always explain it and after a while you'll figure out (and then can help explain it to others). We also try to do little reminders about the seasons of the church year as we move from season to season.
Right now, we are celebrating Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Holy Week, which begins on the sixth Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday. Lent is the forty days set aside before Easter for fasting and prayer. The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert where He endured Satan’s temptations. The purpose of Lent is to prepare ourselves through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial for the remembrance during Holy Week of the events leading to the Death and entombment of Jesus. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter", a celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death.
Lent is a season of self-examination and quiet contemplation of the mysteries of God. Christians prepare for the death of their sins and worldly selves with the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday as they follow his footsteps through Holy Week (during Holy Week we use red for Christ's Passion).
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Holy Week, which begins on the sixth Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter", a celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death.
The color for Lent is purple, signifying the penitent mood of this season.
All Liturgical Seasons & Colors
Advent (Blue): The church year begins with the Advent of Our Lord, the four weeks of getting ready for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. Advent is a time of joyful preparation for the wonderful time when the Son of God came to earth to live as a person among regular people.
Christmas (White) is a short season, beginning with Christmas Day, December 25, and continuing through the Name of Jesus until Epiphany. Christmas is a season of thankfulness for the goodness of God. The color of Christmas is white.
Epiphany (White on Epiphany & Baptism of our Lord, Green after) begins on January 6, the day the Wise Men came to Bethlehem to worship the Baby Jesus. Epiphany is a season of worship, as the whole world follows the Wise Men to find and honor Jesus.
Lent (Purple) begins with Ash Wednesday and is a season of self-examination and quiet contemplation of the mysteries of God. Christians prepare for the death of their sins and worldly selves with the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday as they follow his footsteps through Holy Week (during Holy Week we use Red for Christ's Passion).
Easter (White) begins with Easter Sunday. It is a glorious celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. It is a season of praise, as Christians glorify the risen Christ. There are fifty days of the Easter season that ends on the Day of Pentecost (we use red on Pentecost) when we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (the "birthday of the Church").
Season After Pentecost (or Ordinary Time) (Green) lasts for almost half the church year and how long depends on where Easter falls on the calendar. This is a season where we focus on celebrating the Holy Spirit and how that sends us out in mission through evangelism and outreach.