Liturgical Calendar

The church's year

The Liturgical Year

The Christian church has a separate calendar to the secular one called “The liturgical year” which allows events in Jesus’ life and special occasions for the church to be commemorated. Its main celebrations are Christmas and Easter and the date of Easter in particular determines many of the other dates in the calendar as it changes every year. The readings and prayers used in church services reflect the changing church seasons through the litugical year. The colours used in churches on communion tables, hangings and vestments also change to reflect the season. Advent and Lent use purple, Christmas, Epiphany and Easter use white or gold, Pentecost and various other special days use red and ordinary time uses green.

Season Date Sundays
Advent 27th November 2016 The First Sunday of Advent
There are 3 more Sundays in Advent
Christmas Eve
Christmas 25th December Christmas Day
The First Sunday of Christmas
The Second Sunday of Christmas
Epiphany 6th January 2017 Epiphany
The First Sunday of Epiphany – The Baptism of Christ
There are 2 more Sundays in Epiphany
29th January Candlemas – The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
Ordinary Time There are 5 Sundays before Lent
Lent 1st March First day of Lent – Ash Wednesday
5th March The First Sunday of Lent
There are 4 more Sundays in Lent ending on Passion Sunday
26th March Mothering Sunday
2nd April Passion Sunday
9th April Palm Sunday
13th April Maundy Thursday
14th April Good Friday
Easter 16th April Easter Day
There are 5 more Sundays after Easter Day
25th May Ascension Day
The Seventh Sunday of Easter
4th June Pentecost – Whit Sunday
Ordinary Time This is resumed on the Monday following the Day of Pentecost
11th June Trinity Sunday
There are lots of Sundays after Trinity
5th November All Saint’s Day
26th November The Last Sunday after Trinity
The Fourth Sunday before Advent
The Third Sunday before Advent
The Second Sunday before Advent
The Sunday next before Advent – Christ the King

Advent

The season of Advent marks the start of the Christian year, and is a season of expectation and preparation as the Church looks forward to celebrating the birth of Christ.

Commercial pressure makes it a hard season to observe but the Church’s preparation for the coming of Christ is a powerful reminder of the real meaning of the season.

Advent falls at the darkest time of the year, and the lighting of candles on the Advent wreath helps us to reflect on Jesus as the Light of God coming into the world.

The Advent Bible readings speak of John the Baptist and then, of Mary, as she prepares to give birth to the Saviour.

Christmas

The celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas, the incarnation, is one of the two pillars of the Christian year, along with Easter.

Christmas is much more than simply re-telling the story of Jesus’ birth: it is a time when we reflect on what it means for God to born as a human being. One of the titles of Jesus is “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”.

Christians continue to reflect on this for 40 days after Christmas in stark contrast to the secular world!

Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th January is the celebration of the visit of wise men from the East. In the season of Epiphany Christians continue to reflect on the ways in which Christ reveals himself to be the Son of God: the celebration of the baptism of Christ by John, when the voice from heaven declared Jesus to be God’s beloved Son; and Jesus’s first miracle, when he turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana.

The end of the 40 days of reflection that began at Christmas is marked by Candlemas on February 1st.

Ordinary Time

The Calendar includes two periods of Ordinary Time: an extended period after Pentecost, and a much shorter time between Candlemas and Ash Wednesday. Ordinary time allows for more uninterrupted reading of scripture in sequence and is traditioanlly known as the time for “growing Christians” which is why its liturgical colour is green.

Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the start of observation of Lent the most solemn time of the Christian Year. The season is traditionally marked by self-examination, fasting and preparation for Easter. Its 40 day length reflects the time Jesus spent in the wilderness being tested by Satan.

Christians often use the time for study and self-reflection.

As Holy Week approaches, the atmosphere of the season gets more solemn. Bible readings begin to anticipate the story of Christ’s suffering and death. Holy Week begins with the re-enactment of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This is the beginning of a journey which takes us to the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and Jesus’ betrayal, trial and crucifixion on Good Friday. Easter Eve is a day like no other, a day of desolation and despair when all seems lost.

Easter

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian year. Traditionally an Easter candle is lit and held aloft with the proclamation: ‘The light of Christ’. This passing from darkness to light offers hope to all the faithful, as the Church celebrates the risen Christ.

The season of Easter is celebrated for fifty days culminating in the feast of Pentecost. On the fortieth day there is the celebration of Christ’s ascension to heaven which marks the end of his earthly ministry. The feast of Pentecost celebrates the account of the Holy Spirit coming on the disciples empowering them for mission and is often referred to as the birthday of the church.