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The Christian Calendar


The Christian Calendar is made up of seven seasons and 12 special Sundays or other days. The seasons of the year are centered around the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and our part in the Kingdom of God. Special Sundays and other days within the Christian Year serve as times to celebrate particular events of importance to us as Christians. Different seasons of the Christian Year have liturgical colors and other symbols associated with them to remind us of the meaning of the season.


The Christian Year begins with the season of Advent. This first of the seven Church seasons is a preparatory season of four weeks including four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. The term Advent derives from the Latin adventus, meaning "coming". The season proclaims the comings of the Lord Christ -- whose birth we prepare to celebrate again, who comes continually in Word, Sacrament and Spirit, and whose return in final victory we anticipate. The liturgical color for Advent is purple (or blue), representing both penitence and royalty. The primary symbols of Advent are the Advent Wreath and the Chrismon Tree.



Christmastide, the second of the seven Christian seasons, is a season of praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, and consists of Christmas on December 25, and the eleven days following (a total of 12), leading up to the Day of Epiphany. The term Christmas comes from the Old English Christes maesse (Christ Mass), meaning "festival of Christ." The liturgical color for the Christmas season is white (or gold), to represent the purity of Christ's humanity and the holiness of His divinity. The symbol for the Christmas season is the manger.



The third season of the Christian year is Epiphany, which begins with the feast of the Epiphany, on January 6, and continues until the eve of Ash Wednesday, which begins Lent. Epiphany (from the Greek epiphaneia, meaning "revelation" or "manifestation") refers to the Star of Bethlehem appearing after the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and to the dove, tongues of fire and voice of God appearing at His baptism. The liturgical color for the Feast of Epiphany is White, and the color for the season of Epiphany is green, to signify the growing Church and the spreading of the Gospel. The symbol of the season after Epiphany is the baptismal font, signifying the baptism of new believers in the Gospel.



The season of Lent (from an Old English word meaning "lengthen") lasts for forty days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Eve, not including Sundays. Lent commemorates the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the Christian, Lent is a renewal season and a time of penitence and self-denial, and of intensive cultivation of the life of the Spirit. Since the date of Easter is not fixed, but is instead based on the lunar calendar, the period covered by the Lenten season will vary (see here for a table of Lent and Easter for the next several years). The liturgical color for Lent is purple, again to represent the royalty of Christ as King. On Good Friday, the commemoration of Jesus' death on the cross, the altar is stripped and left bare of any color until Easter. The symbol of Lent is the Cross of Christ. During the season of Lent, the Altar Cross, Chapel Cross and Processional Cross are draped in purple reminding us of the Body of Christ nailed to the Cross of Calvary.



Easter is the high festival of the Church, celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Easter Season, also known as the Great Fifty Days, begins at sunset Easter Eve and continues through the Day of Pentecost. It is the most joyous and celebrative season of the Church year. It focuses on Christ's resurrection and ascension as well as the givings of the Holy Spirit on the first Easter (John 20:22-23) and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The ancient Christian name for this festival is "Pasch" (from the Hebrew meaning "deliverance"), thus connecting the Resurrection to the Exodus. The origin of the English word Easter may have come from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess "Eastre". The liturgical colors for Easter are white and gold, representing the purity and divinity of our Risen Lord. Flowers, especially lilies, are symbols of Christ's resurrection. The royal crown placed on the Altar and Chapel crosses represents His dominion over death. The processional banner displaying the cross and crown joined together symbolizes the reward of the faithful in life after death.



Pentecost (from the Greek pentecoste, meaning "fiftieth") begins the sixth season of the Christian year, the Season after Pentecost. Pentecost commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all people fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The event of Pentecost is the fulfillment of our Lord's promise to bestow the Holy Spirit on all of His people. Pentecost is also the birthday of the New Testament Church. The season of Pentecost continues until the last Sunday in August and emphasizes the ministry of the Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as the instrument of God's will in the world. The liturgical color for Pentecost is red, signifying the fire of the Holy Spirit. The symbols for Pentecost include the descending dove, tongues of fire, and the mighty rushing wind.



Kingdomtide is a uniquely Methodist Christian season which begins on the last Sunday of August and continues until Advent. Kingdomtide stresses the principles of the Kingdom of God on earth and our social responsibility as members of the Kingdom. The liturgical color for Kingdomtide is green, signifying the advancing Kingdom of God among the peoples and nations of the world. The symbol for Kingdomtide is a Triangle, signifying the Trinity (God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).