The Liturgical Calendar

For those who are unfamiliar with the liturgical calendar, this page is meant to be a brief introduction into the rhythm and seasons of the Church's year. It is a broad overview of how the Church cycles through time and how it proclaims the Good News of Jesus through its calendar. 

The Rev. Dr. Phillip Pfatteicher writes, "the Church's year is not simply a calendar of festivals and seasons to remind us of the basics of the faith. It is in fact none other than the Lord of the Church living in his people, walking with them in their pilgrimage through this world. The seasons and feasts of the liturgical year unfold step by step the mystery of Christ from his coming into the world, to his passion, death, and resurrection, to his promised return in glory. He lives not in majestic splendor apart from his Church, but lives and works with and in and through his gathered baptized people who are the body, his body, of which he is the head."- Journey Into the Heart of God, Oxford Press, 2013.


The Church year begins—usually at the end of November or beginning of December—with the season of Advent. In Advent (which means, " coming") the Church remembers Jesus' promise to come again. We watch and pray along with Revelation 22:20, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Our hymns and our scripture readings for those Sundays are filled with watching, waiting, and preparing for Him to fulfill His promise and come again. Advent ends with the celebration of His first coming among us, as the blessed Savior born to Mary in the cave at Bethlehem at Christmas. Advent is signified by the color blue. 


Many people, if we were to ask them, would not think of Christmas as a season, but rather a day. Not so is it in the Church. The funny thing is that while most people don't associate Christmas to being a season, they have at least heard a song about it.  On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me....On the second day....etc. The twelve days of Christmas sung about is about the Christmas season of the Church (December 25 through January 6th, Epiphany). In this season we focus and celebrate the birth of our salvation and the beginning of our deliverance from sin, death, and the devil. Christmas is such a joyous time and with Easter mark the high points of the Liturgical Calendar. For this reason Christmas and Easter share the same color, white. 


The next season, Epiphany, is filled with hearing the miraculous deeds that Jesus did during His lifetime. That season, which varies in length, is bookended by two major festivals, the Baptism of Our Lord and the Transfiguration of our Lord. Those two festivals share a common element. On both occasions the voice of the Father booms from heaven and proclaims of Jesus, "This is my beloved Son." The Season of Epiphany is marked by the color white and green. 


Lent follows, which is given as a season of preparation for the celebration and joy of Easter. Of all the seasons of the Church's calendar, Lent is likely the oldest. Lent functioned in a couple of different ways for the early Church (3rd-4th Centuries). It was chiefly a time for preparation of catechumens who were to be baptized at Easter. During this time, those who would be baptized fasted, prayed, and focused their study of the Christian faith. Lent was also a time for the faithful who had fallen into grave sin to repent and rejoin the faithful to receive Holy Communion. Because the Christian faith is a communal faith, the whole Church took up prayer and fasting with both the catechumens and the penitents. During this season everyone is encouraged to deepen their own lives of faith by the ancient spiritual disciplines of prayer, giving of alms, and fasting. Lent along with the Season of Easter are the only seasons of the Church that have a specific number of days. Lent is forty days long, symbolic both of Israel's forty years in the wilderness and Jesus' forty days of fasting in the wilderness. It is marked by the color purple. 

Holy Week

Lent ends with a focused retelling and reliving of Jesus' last week before His Crucifixion and Resurrection. It begins on the Sunday before Easter, known as Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. On this day the Church commemorates Jesus' entry into Jerusalem to begin His final work of our redemption. On Palm Sunday we live out the Biblical story by waving palm branches of our own and crying out "Hosannah to the Son of David." On Palm Sunday we will also hear Jesus' Passion. The week ends with the Triduum, also known as the "Three Days." It begins on Maundy or Holy Thursday, where we remember on the night of His betrayal how he washed the disciples feet and how he took bread and wine and instituted the great gift of Holy Communion, saying, "This is my body....this is my blood." The service doesn't end on Thursday, but rolls into the events of Good Friday, just as the Gospels report. On Good Friday, we venerate the cross and hear Jesus upon the cross take away our sins and win for us our freedom from the wages of sin. The third of the Three Days is the Easter Vigil celebrate don Saturday evening. It is a long service which watches and waits for the dawn of Easter Sunday and celebrates Jesus' resurrection. 


Like Christmas, most people think of Easter as one day. All of our secular calendars mark it only as a single day, but for the Church the celebration of Jesus' resurrection can't be really done in a day. It really can't even be done in a week or even a life time. But the Church has given, according to the Biblical witness, (Acts 1–2), 50 days of celebration. Just as Jesus appeared to the apostles for forty days after Easter and then on the fiftieth day (Pente-cost) He sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Easter then is a week of weeks (seven weeks) that we sing and celebrate Christ's resurrection from the dead, trampling down death by His death. During this time at Church we regularly greet one another with the words, "Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!" 

Time after Trinity (after Pentecost)

The Time after Trinity (also known as the Time after Pentecost) comprises the second half of the Church's year. Where the first half was devoted to following the events of Jesus' earthly ministry, this half is given to the growth of the Church's faith and life through hearing His teaching, preaching, and miracles. It is marked by the color green to signify the Holy Spirit's continual work of growing the Church. The Church's year ends with the Feast of Christ the King always the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent.