Christmas is also a Church season, running from December 25th to Epiphany (January 6th). It is this twelve-day period that is sometimes referred to as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Christmas is the Season when we proclaim the unique nature of our God – that He does not stand aloof from us, but fully enters into our lives. The first liturgy of Christmas is the Eve of (prior to) that day. The late night liturgy, called the Christ Mass is a high-light of our year. Other liturgies are offered earlier that afternoon and on Christmas morning. The season of Christmas lasts for 12 days, beginning on the 25th and ending on the 12th night, or January 5th. The color used in Christmas liturgies is white, symbolizing purity, joy, and hope.
“Lent” From an Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, meaning, “spring,” the time of the lengthening of the days. Lent is one of the six seasons of the church year and is the forty-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). The period is actually 46 days, but since Sundays are feast days, they are never included in the count.
The traditions of Lent are derived from the season’s origin as a time when the church prepared candidates, or “catechumens,” for their baptism into the Body of Christ. It eventually became a season of preparation not only for catechumens but also for the whole congregation. Self-examination, study, fasting, prayer and works of love are disciplines historically associated with Lent. Conversion—literally, the “turning around” or reorientation of our lives towards God—is the theme of Lent. Both as individuals and as a community, we look inward and reflect on our readiness to follow Jesus in his journey towards the cross. The forty days of Lent correspond to the forty-day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and the forty-year journey of Israel from slavery to a new community.
“Holy Week” During Holy Week, the congregation follows the footsteps of Jesus from his entry into Jerusalem (Palm/Passion Sunday) through the Last Supper (Maundy Thursday) to his death on the Cross (Good Friday).
Red, the color of blood and therefore of martyrs, is the traditional color for Palm/Passion Sunday and the next three days of Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday, White or Gold symbolizes the church’s rejoicing in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But at the end of the Maundy Thursday celebration, the mood changes abruptly: all decorations are removed and the Holy Table is stripped bare. The church becomes as empty as a tomb. On Good Friday, either Black or Red is customary—although the use of no color at all is also appropriate. The Red of Holy Week is sometimes a deeper red than the brighter scarlet color associated with Pentecost .
“Easter” Easter is a movable feast, which means it does not always fall on the same day each year. Easter is always the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox (first day of Spring). By this calculation, Easter could occur anytime from March 22, to April 25. The length of Epiphany and the Season after Pentecost, as well as the dates of Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday are all determined by the date of Easter. Easter is also a Church season, spanning the 50 days (six Sundays) after Easter, to Ascension Day
Pentecost,” The Festival Sunday that comes fifty days after Easter in which we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the twelve Disciples after Christ’s Resurrection (Acts 2). Pentecost is traditionally seen as the birthday of the church, and is also the beginning of the longest season in the church – the season after Pentecost. The season after Pentecost runs from the day of Pentecost to the first Sunday in Advent. Prior to the 1979 prayer book, the day of Pentecost was known as Whitsunday.
The last Sunday of the Season after Pentecost is often called Trinity Sunday or the Sunday of Christ the King. It is a day of triumph of our Lord and his final victory in the heart of the community. Then, since we are as yet imperfect people in an imperfect world, we begin the cycle all over with Advent. Waiting for God to work His miracles in our hearts.
“Ordinary Time” Also known as Season after Pentecost; Kingdom tide
This longest season of the liturgical year is a continuation of the “Time of the Church” that began on the Sunday after Epiphany. It explores the mission of the church and uses the color of Green, symbolizing growth. During this season, the Lectionary offers two options for readings from Hebrew Scripture: the first, topical option selects readings thematically related to the Epistle or Gospel texts. The second, sequential option reads through an entire book of Hebrew Scripture in sequence.
There is nothing “ordinary” about “Ordinary Time”. Ordinary Time is not about common, run-of-the-mill. Ordinary Time comes from the word “ordinal” as in “ordinal numbers”: “Ordinal Numbers” tell the rank, they answer “what position?” Ordinal Numbers are first, second, third, fourth, etc. while Cardinal numbers answer “how many?”