The liturgy of the church is based on seasons of the church year, which can be found on the Ordo Calendar
. Most of the seasons commemorate specific events in the life of our Lord; Trinitytide is a season about the theological doctrine of the church.
The liturgical seasons are:
The word Advent comes to us from the Latin meaning “to reach, arrive, to come.” The season of Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year; the first Sunday of Advent is the Christian New Year and falls on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew. There are always four Sundays in Advent.
Advent is a season of preparation and penitence.We prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but we also look forward to his second coming.
The liturgical color for this season is purple (or violet) reminding us of the Kingship of Jesus and that Advent is also a season of penitential preparation. Rose-colored vestments may be used on the third Sunday of Advent, signifying for us a lightening up of the penitential nature of the season as we draw closer to Christmas.
The season of Advent provides us a period of spiritual preparation before Christmas.Our calendar reminds us of the orderly progression of time by using the Church seasons to mark and celebrate the events of Jesus’ life and ministry.The Church has wisely given us periods for meditation, self examination, and prayer before these feasts.
Our scripture readings during Advent remind us of the day when Christ will return. The collect for the first Sunday of Advent, which is to be read every day until Christmas, reminds us to “cast away the works of darkness” – making a new start in this, our Church new year so that we may have victory in this life and eternity with our Lord when this life is over.
Many churches, and families as well, have adopted the charming and ancient custom of using an Advent wreath for family devotions during the four Sundays of Advent.This is a wonderful way of introducing the calendar to children, explaining the teachings of the Church, and establishing the habit of family prayer as the collects and lessons of the day are prayed again.
As we come to Advent, we stand at the end of one year and at the beginning of the next, looking forward to celebrating His first coming and refocusing ourselves to be ready for His return in glory. That’s why the prayer of the Church from the beginning has been the ancient Hebrew word Maranatha — come quickly Lord!
May we use this season of Advent to renew a room for Him in the inn of our hearts. And, Happy New Year!
Text by Donna Downen
Christmastide begins, of course, on December 25th. This season lasts 12 days, ending on Epiphany on January 6th.
While Christmas is the first feast of the incarnation in the liturgical year, it is not the first in the calendar year. The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 25th is also a feast of the Incarnation. These two dates (March 25th and December 25th) are significant in that they teach what the church believes: that Jesus, while being fully God, was fully human — it took nine months for him to be born, just like the rest of us! And creed and calendar tell us what the Church teaches us.
The Christmas season is a short and joyful one, but it must be noted that the day after Christmas we remember St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. This is followed by the Feast of St. John the Evangelist on the 27th and Holy Innocents on the 28th. This is a reminder to us that in the midst of great joy there is pain, suffering, and hardship, which helps us to keep our balance in an ever changing world where the only thing that we can depend on is the love of God.
The collect for Christmas Day is to be read throughout the Octave (8 days) of Christmas. It reminds us that “we being regenerate” -or born again- in our baptism, are children of God and that we need to be renewed daily on our journey. Being ‘born again’ isn’t a one shot deal — we must call on God daily.
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.
The feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord also occurs during Christmastide. This first act of obedience to God in the Old Testament Law shows us by His example to will the things of God. This feast comes eight days after Christmas and according to the Law it was at this time that he was given His name. And as foretold by the angel He was named Jesus.
At Christmas we remember that Jesus the Word “was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” May we all take time during this holy time of Christmas to ponder the mystery of the Incarnation.
Text by Donna Downen
Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th commemorates the visit of the Magi, the Wise Men from the East, to the Christ Child. This feast is also known as the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.
The number of Sundays in Epiphany depends on the date of Easter. There can be between one and six Sundays before Septuagesima Sunday. White is the liturgical color for the day and green for the rest of the season.
Text by Donna Downen
After passing through the Pre-Lent season, which includes Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays, we arrive at Lent. Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima all come from the Latin, meaning 70, 60 and 50 days respectively, indicating to us that we have in round, approximate numbers 70, 60, and 50 days before Easter.
On Shrove Tuesday in most Anglican churches, we mark the occasion with pancake suppers, coming from the custom of using up all the fat and cooking oil, which was forbidden during Lent. People also went to confession on that day to be “shriven” or stripped of their sins. Shrive comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “scrifan” and it means “to hear confession of; to pardon the sins in confession.”
The next day, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent. The date of Ash Wednesday depends on the date of Easter. Easter always falls between March 21 and April 18th, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are fast days for Anglicans, and the forty days of Lent require “a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion” according to the Book of Common Prayer. (p.li)
The liturgical color for Pre-Lent and Lent is purple.While flowers adorn the altar during Pre-Lent, they are not used during Lent since it is a penitential season.The fourth Sunday in Lent is known as “Mothering” or “Refreshment” Sunday when rose-colored vestments may be used.The name Refreshment Sunday comes from the Gospel reading of Our Lord feeding the multitude.
The Fifth Sunday in Lent is Passion Sunday, as we begin to concentrate more on Our Lord’s suffering. During Passiontide all crosses, statuary, and ornamentation are veiled as signs of mourning, and the veiling remains in place until Easter Eve.
The following Sunday is Palm Sunday, when palms are distributed with processions as we remember Our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week.
In Holy Week, Maundy Thursday commemorates the institution of the Holy Communion. Maundy comes from the Latin “mandare” which means, “to command.” Our Lord said to us: “This is my command: Love each other.” (Jn.15: 17) and “do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk.22: 19) We recall the events of the last night of His earthly ministry in the symbolic act of foot washing, which is practiced in some Anglican Churches, in celebrating the Eucharist, and in stripping the altar. In some places, the Reserved Elements are placed on the “altar of repose” during the all night vigil as we respond to Jesus’ question “could ye not watch with me one hour?”
The next day is Good Friday, when we commemorate the Crucifixion. There is no consecration this day, and if there is to be Communion, it is from the Reserved Elements from Maundy Thursday.
Holy Saturday or Easter Even is the day that the Church recalls that Our Lord’s body rested in the grave and that He preached to the “souls in prison.” (1Pet. 3: 17) The name for the last three days of Holy Week is Triduum Sacrum; they are the most solemn days of the Church Year.
All of the 40 days of Lent lead us to the Great Feast of the Church, Easter Sunday. Splendid music, rich vestments, and beautiful ceremonies are all a part of the Triumph of the Resurrection of Our Lord.
As we approach Lent we remember that fasting is a Christian duty — that Our Lord expected us to fast. “WHEN ye fast…” (Matt. 6:16) If we read this whole passage of Scripture we will see that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are linked together by Our Lord. As Dr. Pusey says, “fasting, prayer, and almsgiving — that is denial of self, love of others, and devotion to God, are the three heads under which Our Lord brings all Christian duties.” Prayer delivers us from the devil, fasting subdues the flesh, and almsgiving loosens the hold of the world.
The church in her wisdom has set aside certain times of prayer, fasting, and penitence.In a world that constantly tells us that “more is better” and urges us to “supersize” everything we eat and drink, Lent can become for us a refreshing period of saying “NO” to the world, the flesh, and the devil and “YES” to Jesus. If we keep a holy Lent, then Easter will surely be a day of rejoicing and a true feast after the fast.
Text by Donna Downen
Easter is the single most important event in the history of the world. The way the Church celebrates it tells us just how important it is.
First of all, we take a whole season to prepare for it. We begin Lent with a penitential service and the imposition of ashes. Then we use the next several weeks to fast and abstain, to pray and meditate, to look inward and then to do outward acts of charity.
We recall the events of Holy Week beginning with the glorious Palm Sunday service. On Holy (or Maundy) Thursday we recall the institution of the Lord’s Supper, including Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. This service is given to us to remind us to be servants to each other, and it is also a great lesson in humility.
After the altar is stripped and the Church is emptied of all ornamentation, we are invited to spend an hour with Jesus in prayer as we keep the vigil with Him until our Good Friday service.
Once again we follow Jesus to Golgatha in the Stations of the Cross. This reminds us that there is suffering in the Way of the Cross. We keep Holy Saturday with the Church as we enter into the contemplative silence of the tomb, which is the final preparation for the Resurrection.
Finally, we are ready for the Resurrection; and the Church celebrates the glory of the Resurrection in all the Splendor that She has. We have beautiful music, rich vestments, colorful flowers, and joyful processions – all the best that we have because HE IS RISEN!
In the Resurrection we are assured of our own resurrection. He has trampled down Hell and the Devil, opened to us the gates of Heaven and Eternal Life, and we know that we will live with God forever in heaven. Here and now, we can live lives of faith and hope in the sure and certain knowledge of the Resurrection.
Not only do we have that assurance, but we experience the healing power of Jesus in renewed and healed relationships; we leave behind lives damaged by sin as we accept the forgiveness of our own sins; we recover from serious illness and are able to live the remainder of our lives as God sees fit, with renewed strength and health. We also know that Christ is with us in our pain and suffering as we suffer the loss of loved ones. He stands with us as we grieve, and we no longer grieve like those without hope.
He has overcome suffering and death for us, and this Easter may we come to a deeper experience of the Risen Christ in our faith and in our daily walk with Him!
Text by Donna Downen
Ascension commemorates the ascension of Our Lord into heaven.
Father Chip’s liturgy lesson for Ascension:
Ascension Day commemorates our Lord’s ascension to the Father in Heaven. We keep this day 40 days after Easter, because Jesus ascended 40 days after the Resurrection. This was the final act of His earthly ministry and final proof of His divinity, removing all possibility of doubt from the Apostles’ minds and was the perfecting of His work of Atonement—His primary mission among us in the flesh.
Ascensiontide lasts 10 days, beginning at Ascension Day, and ending at Whitsunday, or Pentecost. It’s also important to note that He ascended bodily, in a perfected flesh, acceptable for Heaven—as we will one day, as well, since Scripture teaches us that “…where He is, we shall be also” and “…shall be like Him” for we shall see Him as He is (St. John 14 & I St. John 3).
Moreover, our Lord, before He ascended, gave instructions to the disciples, to wait for empowerment in Jerusalem—setting the stage for the Church Militant’s most powerful day—its birthday, Pentecost. So we should, as the angel instructed the disciples, not stand staring into a cloud, but look expectantly for His return in glory, with a new prayer—Maran’athah (Maranatha), meaning, “our Lord comes.” Even so, come quickly, Lord!
Pentecost or Whitsunday commemorates the coming of the Holy Ghost to the apostles, enabling them to speak in tongues so that all the listeners heard the words in their own language. It marks the beginning of the Christian church and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.
Fr. Chip’s liturgy lesson for Pentecost, commonly known as Whitsunday:
Pentecost! The very name conjures the image of that first empowerment of the Church Militant as documented in Acts 2. On this day, we commemorate the Holy Ghost’s pouring Himself on Christ’s disciples, as they waited before Him, obedient to the Lord’s instruction. We regard the day as the Church’s birthday, because the gift of the Holy Ghost was then bestowed on the new Christians, filling and baptizing them with power to work for the Kingdom, as Christ promised—launching them on their apostolic mission to carry the Gospel to the world.
Taking place 10 days after the Ascension, on the Jewish Festival of Shavuot (Weeks)–sometimes called “the Day of the First Fruits”—it was a significant time for the new Church, as God the Holy Ghost, for the first time, began to manifest the Gifts of the Spirit outlined in 1 Corinthians 12, while growing the first Fruit of the Spirit enumerated in Galatians 5.
We call it “Pentecost” from the Greek word pentecoste, meaning “fiftieth,” since the holiday occurs fifty days after Passover and Easter. “Whitsun” is similar–a corruption of the German “Pfingsten,” and also means “fiftieth.”
The liturgical color is red, representing the fire of the Holy Ghost and the Blood sealing the third and final Covenant God made with mankind.
Preceded by the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, this New and third Covenant rightly sets the stage for the Church’s longest season—Trinity (Three) celebrating our new relationship with our triune God and the season of growth and spiritual plenty blessed by the fullness of God—Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Come, Holy Ghost—fill us with celestial fire!
After Pentecost, we enter into that “long green season” of the Church known as Trinitytide. The Trinity season is the longest season of the Church having between twenty-two and twenty-seven Sundays.
Most seasons and feasts of the Church, such as Easter and the Ascension, commemorate historic events in the life of our Lord. But Trinity is different; it represents a theological doctrine of the Church. Trinity Sunday, which marks the beginning of the season, comes the Sunday after Whitsunday (Pentecost Sunday) and was introduced into the calendar c. 1000 A.D.
The Christian Calendar is a reflection of the life, faith, and teaching of the Church as the Church experiences the action of God in Her life. The first part of the Christian Year, Advent through Pentecost, celebrates the events of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus and prepares us for His second coming. The second part of the calendar celebrates the continuing work of Christ through His Holy Spirit in His Church.
The color of this season, manifested in the altar hangings and the priest’s vestments, is green. Green is the color of living, growing things, reminding us that as part of God’s creation we are constantly living, growing, and learning. As we live and grow we learn to become more like our Lord and we mature into fruitful Christians.
The God we worship and serve is the God of Creation. Not only did He create all things, but he is active in the world even now as He directs and sustains the created order. We are reminded of God’s work in the world, in history, in His Church, and in our daily lives during this Trinity season, which celebrates the revelation of God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — to us.
Trinity is also a rich season of the saints of the Church. The liturgical colors (red and white) we use for saints days break up the stream of green during Trinity as we remember “greats” of the Church.
Trinity ends with the “Sunday next before Advent,” and once again the glorious cycle of the Christian Year completes itself.
Text by Donna Downen