A Rough Guide to the Liturgical Calendar
The 4 weeks leading up to Christmas, Advent (meaning “arrival” or “coming”) is a time of preparation for the final coming of Christ. The first Sunday of Advent is the Christian New Year’s Day. The colour purple symbolizes penitence and a readiness to learn.
The Christmas season, beginning the evening of Dec. 24, lasts for 12 days. The colour gold or white celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ – God’s coming to be with humanity.
Epiphany (January 6) concludes the Christmas season and begins Ordinary Time. Epiphany celebrates God’s appearance to the world in Christ – at the Magi’s visit, at Jesus’ baptism, and at the wedding in Cana. The colours used are white, gold, and green.
A 40-day period of fasting beginning Ash Wednesday, Lent is a time of self-examination and repentance in preparation for Easter. The colours purple, grey, and red draw attention to the tragic evils of the world and the saving sacrifice of Jesus. Lent ends Maundy Thursday (immediately before Easter) in the Western tradition.
Holy Week – the 7 days before Easter – begins with Palm Sunday, which marks the entry of King Jesus into Jerusalem. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper. Good Friday remembers the passion and death of Jesus. No colour, red, or black is used. Holy Saturday observes the burial of Jesus.
Easter – the oldest and most important festival of the Christian year – celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. The Easter season lasts 50 days. Each Sunday in that time celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Gold or white is used during Eastertide.
The Ascension of Jesus to heaven is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter. The Ascension recalls that Christ reigns with God.
The 50th and last day of Easter, Pentecost marks the birth of the church when God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples. Pentecost is often a special time for baptism of new Christian believers. The colour red symbolizes joy and the fire of the Spirit.
Ordinary Time means “the counted weeks.” Ordinary Time resumes following Pentecost. Green is the colour of this season, which celebrates growth in the life of individual disciples and the worldwide church community. Ordinary Time includes the following events and feasts:
Trinity Sunday – the first Sunday after Pentecost celebrates the doctrine of the Trinity, the three Persons of God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
World Communion Sunday – celebrated the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time to remember churches around the world.
All Saints’ Day – celebrated Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day marks the faithfulness of God throughout the history of the Church, as witnessed to by the generations of believers who have gone before us.
Christ the King – falling on the last Sunday of the Christian year, Christ the King celebrates the all-embracing authority of Jesus as King and Lord over all creation.
Note: the colours refer to the priest’s vestments, altar decorations, banners, etc.
The lectionary organizes selected passages of Scripture readings for every Sunday worship service. The purpose of the lectionary is to allow churches to hear most – if not all – of Scripture over a 3-year cycle.
Lectionaries typically include 4 readings: 1 from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a portion of a New Testament letter, and a Gospel passage. Lectionaries are organized so that year A focuses on the Gospel of Matthew, year B Mark, and year C on Luke. The Gospel of John is read during Easter, as well as at Advent, Christmas, and Lent.