Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Following the Church Year

When I downloaded the Book of Common Prayer to my kindle, I was intrigued by the concept of a church year. Not not a set of holidays and holy days within the realm of our world's calendar, but a stand-alone calendar with celebrations, seasons, and meaning.

The church year is rich in liturgy (a form of public worship) that is typically associated with the "high churches" (Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists ). Liturgy is not a very familiar concept in many churches in the U.S. are "low churches" (most Protestant churches). A low church does not follow liturgy or many rituals and tries to minimize ceremony, whereas a high church emphasizes these elements. The Book of Common Prayer combines the liturgy of the high church with spontaneity of the low church in a delightful way, but references to the separate church year piqued my interest.

I ventured into this foggy realm of church years and liturgy, not sure of what to expect. I was armed with questions about when the church seasons and holy days were held and more importantly *why*. I wanted to know the significance these rituals could have in my life.

One of the first things that I learned was that there are variations into the church year, depending on your denomination. A holy day or season might start sooner or end later. Nonetheless, there are key seasons across the board.

The church year starts with Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas) and lasts through Christ the King Sunday (last Sunday before Advent). The seasons transition from Advent/Christmas/Christmastide (Twelve Days of Christmas) to Lent/Holy Week/Easter and onto Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is not synonymous with "boring time," but rather refers to "ordinal or counted time." This season is the season to delve into the faith and focus on specific aspects of it (i.e. missions, how to interact with fellow believers, etc.)

To the best of my knowledge, the following chart (created by yours truly) shows the main major Christian holidays, when they're generally celebrated, and when they're held in the upcoming church year. The Twelve Days of Christmas require a more in-depth explanation in a future post. It is surprisingly hard to collect information on the Twelve Days of Christmas (when not wanting the song lyrics).



Church Year Holy Days-meaning
Purpose
Important Colors/Meanings
When It’s Celebrated
Advent-coming/ arrival
prepare for Christ
fasting or preparation, expectation, anticipation
Green-hope in God
Purple-royalty, fasting
Pink-Rejoice
Blue-night sky/waters/Genesis-royalty
4 weeks before Christmas
Christmas
celebrate Christ
Red/green-life/hope
December 25th
Christmastide/Twelve Days of Christmas
Twelfth night has king’s cake

December 25th/26th-Januray 5th/6th
Epiphany-to show, to reveal


January 6th (or celebrated through Ash Wednesday)
Candlemas
Feast of Presentation of the Lord in the Temple

February 2nd
Transfiguration Sunday
remember light (Magi come), reflection

Last Sunday before Lent
Ash Wednesday
First day of Lent

7th Wednesday before Lent
Lent-confess resistance to light
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, preparation
purple/red & dark violet-pain/suffering and sin. And royalty
46 days before Resurrection Sunday (not counting Sundays, so 40 days)
Holy Week:
recall Christ’s suffering
Maundy Thursday: Red-Disciples
Good Friday: Black-sin, death, life without God

7 days before Resurrection Sunday
Resurrection Sunday/ Easter
celebrate resurrection

White-purity, newness, hope
Gold/yellow-light of world
1st Sunday after 1st full moon after Spring Equinox
Eastertide
Season of Easter

Sundown the day before Resurrection Sunday Through Pentecost
Ascension Day
Resurrection of Christ and exaltation from servant to Lord/Ruler

40 days after Easter
Pentecost (Trinity Sunday)
church birthday
celebrate hope/Holy Spirit at work, reflection
white and gold/yellow
50 days after Easter
Ordinary Time
Ordinal (counted time)
Focus on faith (especially missions)
red: color of the church

Rest of the Church Year
Reformation Sunday
Luther & 95 Theses
Green
October 31st or Last Sunday of month
All Saints’ Day
Honor martyrs

November 1st or First Sunday of month
Ordinary Time


Rest of the Church Year
Christ the King Sunday
Celebrate coming reign of Christ

Last Sunday before Advent




Church Year Holy Days
2012-2013 Church Year
Advent-coming/ arrival
December 2nd-December 23rd
Christmas
December 25th
Christmastide/Twelve Days of Christmas
December 25th/26th-Januray 5th/6th
Epiphany
January 6th
Candlemas

Transfiguration Sunday
February 10th
Ash Wednesday
February 13th
Lent-confess resistance to light
February 13th-March 30th
Holy Week:

March 24th-March 30th
Palm/Passion Sunday-March 24th
Maundy Thursday-March 28th
Good/Holy Friday-March 29th
Holy Saturday with Easter vigil-March 30th
Resurrection Sunday/ Easter
March 31st
Eastertide
March 30th-May 18th
Ascension Day
May 10th
Pentecost (Trinity Sunday)
May 19th
Ordinary Time
May 20th-October 26th
Reformation Sunday
October 27th 
All Saints’ Day
November 2rd
Ordinary Time
November 4th-November 23rd
Christ the King Sunday
November 24th

So why does this matter to the low church congregations? In my (humble) opinion, following the church seasons brings an awareness and conscientiousness to our faith. It's remembering our past, our heritage (i.e. Reformation Sunday). It's adding an awareness and an anticipation to our year (almost Advent, almost Christmas, almost Resurrection Sunday). No more will we walk into church and be surprised that it's the first Sunday of Advent or Easter, for we will awaiting these days and now when they are upcoming.


Future posts are planned to look more in depth at the Advent/Christmas season, the Twelve Days of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week/Resurrection Sunday, Pentecost, Ordinary Time, Reformation Sunday, and All Saints' Day. More future posts will be on hospitality, fasting, the Book of Common Prayer, and the concept of Sabbath. Eventually I will post about other topics that interest me, such as minimalism and frugality, and also subjects I'm passionate about, such as crafts and cooking/baking.

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