Just as the civic calendar begins a new cycle on January 1, the liturgical calendar begins with the first Sunday in Advent. So happy new (liturgical) year! The liturgical calendar unfolds in two broad sweeps. The first half of the cycle (from Advent to Easter) follows the life of Christ and the second half (from Pentecost to Advent) follows the life of the Church.
Advent is a season of waiting for Christ’s incarnation starts four Sundays before Christmas, and is often celebrated with Advent candles, Advent wreaths, and Jesse trees. It is also a season of anticipating Christ’s return.
Christmas was originally intended to be a season rather than just a day. Christmastide is the “12 Days of Christmas” during which we rejoice over the birth of our Lord.
Beginning January 6, Epiphany follows Christ through His earthly ministry, including the visit of the Magi, His miracles and His transfiguration.
Lent is a season of penance and preparation beginning 40 days before Easter (not including Sundays). The season begins with Ash Wednesday, a reminder of our mortality, and then continues walking with Jesus through His 40 days of temptation and the close of His earthly ministry.
Holy Week, the last week of Christ’s life, starts with Passion (Palm) Sunday. Highly liturgical churches celebrate each day of Holy Week, but most modern liturgical churches only observe Maundy Thursday (the upper room) and Good Friday (the crucifixion).
Easter Season begins with Resurrection Sunday. It is the crux, as it were, of the Church Year and of Christianity.
Pentecost Sunday celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit and the foundation of the Church, and initiates the second half of the church year. Many liturgical churches call the Sundays between Pentecost Sunday and Advent Ordinary Time. Others give it the accurate, but uninspiring name Days after Pentecost. At Church of the Servant, we break this part of the year into two seasons. Pentecost Sunday is extended to Pentecost Season, a time to reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church; Trinity Sunday, which historically falls on the Sunday after Pentecost Sunday, becomes Trinity Season, a full season of focusing on the triune nature of God.
As we join Christians around the world in beginning a new liturgical year, I pray that our devotion to Christ will deepen and that our work and witness as a Church will grow ever stronger.