As a way of nurturing our spiritual lives, Anglicans keep the seasons of the Church Year. Each season organizes our scripture readings, prayers, hymns and sermons using the Revised Common Lectionary.
In Year A, we focus on the Gospel of Mark. Matthew is read in Year B, and Luke in Year C. John’s Gospel is read during the Easter season of all three years.
Every year focusses on three events
- The Incarnation of Jesus Christ and His Revelation to the world
- (Advent – Christmas – Epiphany)
- The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus
- (Lent –Holy Week – The Triduum – Easter), and
- The sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the life of the Church
Advent – Beginning in on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Christian Church observes the season of Advent. Advent, which is also the beginning of the church year, is a time of anticipation. Throughout this time we anticipate two things. First, we wait for the birth, or Incarnation, of the Son of God which happened over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem on what we now call Christmas Day. We also anticipate, however, Jesus Christ’s coming again. The liturgical colour for Advent can be blue or purple, to symbolize a time of preparation and solemnity.
Christmastide – Christmas Day marks the first day of Christmas, a liturgical season which lasts, as you may have guessed, twelve days! Throughout this time we celebrate the Incarnation of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is the moment in time when Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God, was born in human flesh, beginning the reunion of the physical world with God’s self.
“Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.” (Prayer for Christmas Day, Book of Common Prayer)
Epiphanytide – Epiphany, which happens on the 6th of January (after the twelve days of Christmas) is the day in which we celebrate the physical revealing of Christ to the world. Some traditions see this as the arrival of the three Magi/Wise Men after His birth, where others see this as the day of His baptism in the Jordan River.
Lent – Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is the period of forty days which leads up to the crucifixion on Good Friday. It recalls the period of time when Jesus, after his baptism in the Jordan River, journeyed through the wilderness for forty days. Jesus encountered Satan, who tempted him three times, but succeeded in overcoming this trial, leaving the wilderness to begin his earthly ministry.
Holy Week – Beginning on Palm Sunday, Holy Week follows Jesus’ last days, from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem to his death on the cross and burial in the grave, culminating in the commemoration of the Resurrection. Holy Week ends with The Paschal Triduum, which lasts from Thursday night to Sunday morning, and are the holiest day of the Christian year.
Paschal Triduum – On the Thursday evening we commemorate the Last Supper, washing each others’ feet and sharing the holy meal which Jesus called his body and blood. On the morning of Good Friday we recall his death on the cross, offering prayers of penitence and petition, and having an opportunity to pray at the cross. On Holy Saturday we keep Vigil, telling stories that make sense of death and resurrection, culminating in the renewal of our baptism vows and the celebration of the Eucharist.
Easter – On the morning of Easter Sunday, we gather on the Day of Resurrection for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and our annual Resurrection Party. The celebration continues for the Fifty Days of Easter, the longest, most joyous festival of the year.
Pentecost – On the Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of God’s Spirit and the birth of the Church.
“Ordinary Time” – The Christian year is divided into two main ‘halves’. The time from Advent, through to the end of the Easter season are about the earthly ministry of Jesus. The other ‘half’, sometimes known as “Ordinary Time”, but also sometimes simply described as “The Sundays After Pentecost (or Trinity)”. This half shifts the focus onto the earthly ministry of the universal Church, which began at Pentecost, and was described in the Acts of the Apostles.
Other important days throughout the Church Year:
We distinguish between the various seasons and celebrate their unique character using a variety of colours. The association of each season with a particular colour goes back hundreds and even thousands of years.
Green – Sundays and days not otherwise designated a colour
Violet/Purple is the colour of penance and humility, and so is used throughout Advent and Lent, Holy Saturday, and for other penitential services
Blue can be used in Advent instead of Violet/Purple, or on days on which we celebrate the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
White is the colour of celebration, new life, and light, so it is used throughout Christmastide, Holy Thursday, Epiphany Day, Feasts of Our Lord (except His Passion), Saints who were not martyred, All Saints, Baptism, and other important or joyous occasions.
Black is the colour used for the solemn remembrance of the dead. It is used particularly on All Souls’ Day.
Red is the colour of both fire (one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit), and martyrdom. It is used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost, Feasts of the Passion of the Lord, Feast days of martyred Saints
Rose – Can be used on the Third Sunday of Advent (also known as Gaudete Sunday) and the Fourth Sunday in Lent (also known as Laetare Sunday)