What is a Liturgical year?
The liturgical year is the celebration throughout the year of the mysteries of the Lord's birth, life, death, and Resurrection in such a way that the entire year becomes a year of the Lord's grace. Thus the cycle of the liturgical year, and the great feasts, constitute the basic rhythm of the Christian's life of prayer, with its focal point at Easter.
The liturgical year begins in late November/early December with Advent, the season in which we anticipate the coming of Christ into the world. Advent begins with the Sunday closest to November 30th (Feast Day of St. Andrew). Christmas is the first of the "great" Christian festivals and the climax of the season. The Epiphany of our Lord and the Sundays that follow trace out Christ's manifestation of Himself to the world through His public ministry and miracles. The Transfiguration of our Lord, the last Sunday after the Epiphany, signals the end of the first part of the Christian calendar.
Lent ushers in the beginning of the second part of the liturgical year. This 40-day period begins on Ash Wednesday, a day of repentance and self-examination, and culminates in Holy Week, the commemoration of our Lord's passion and death. Once again, we reach a climax on the second "great" Christian festival, Easter, the joyous day of Christ's resurrection. After celebrating our Lord's victory over sin, Satan, and death for seven weeks, we conclude the second part of the Christian calendar with the third and final "great" festival day, Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit in wind and fire.
It is late spring (mid-May to mid-June) as the church enters the longest part of the liturgical year, the Season after Pentecost. This season begins on Trinity Sunday and concludes on the Last Sunday of the Church Year. The months in between are a time of growth as the church meditates on the Bible's teachings as they apply to the daily life of each believer. The annual cycle then repeats itself with the return of Advent in late fall.
The liturgical calendar also contains a number of other festivals spread throughout the year. These days commemorate a particular event in history or a person or persons of special significance to the church.
Liturgical Calendar (1998-2031)
Scripture readings are based on 3-year cycles of A, B, and C.
? Year A focuses on the Gospel of Matthew.
? Year B focuses on the Gospel of Mark.
? Year C focuses on the Gospel of Luke.
John's Gospel appears at specific times throughout.
Feasts and Seasons
Following is an alphabetical list of the principal feasts and liturgical seasons from the Catechism:
Advent - The liturgical season of four weeks devoted to preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas (524).
Annunciation - The visit of the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary to inform her that she was to be the mother of the Savior. After giving her consent to God's word, Mary became the mother of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (484, 494)
Ascension - The entry of Jesus' humanity into divine glory in God's heavenly domain, forty days after His Resurrection (659,665).
Assumption - The dogma that recognizes the Blessed Virgin Mary's singular participation in her Son's Resurrection by which she was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when the course of her earthly life was finished (2124-5).
Christmas Season - From the Christmas Vigil (Dec 24 eve) to Epiphany (Jan 6) to the Baptism of the Lord (mid-Jan).
Easter - The greatest and oldest Christian feast, which celebrates Christ's Resurrection from the dead. Easter is the "feast of feasts", the solemnity of solemnities, the "Great Sunday". Christians prepare for it during Lent and Holy Week, and catechumens usually receive the Sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil (1169; cf. 647)
Easter Season - 50 days (7 weeks) from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.
Epiphany - The feast that celebrates the manifestation to the world of the newborn Christ as Messiah, Son of God, and Savior of the world. The feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the east, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee (528; cf. 535).
- The annual cycle of liturgical celebrations commemorating the saving mysteries of Christ's life, as a participation in the Paschal Mystery, which is celebrated annually at Easter, the "feast of feasts." Feast days commemorating Mary, the Mother of God, and the saints are also celebrated, providing the faithful with examples of those who have been glorified with Christ (1169, 1173).
Holy Days of Obligation - Principal feast days on which, in addition to Sundays, Catholics are obligated by Church law to participate in the Eucharist; a precept of the Church (2043, 2180).
Holy Week - The week preceding Easter, beginning with Palm (Passion) Sunday, called the "Great Week" in the liturgies of the Eastern Churches. It marks the Church's annual celebration of the events of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection, culminating in the Paschal Mystery (1169).
Immaculate Conception - The dogma proclaimed in Christian Tradition and defined in 1854, that from the first moment of her conception, Mary -- by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ -- was preserved immune from original sin (491)
Lent - A season of penitential preparation ("forty days"), from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday morning
Pentecost - The "fiftieth" day at the end of the seven weeks following Passover (Easter in the Christian dispensation). At the first Pentecost after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was manifested, given and communicated as a divine Person to the Church, fulfilling the paschal mystery of Christ according to His promise (726, 731; cf.1287). Annually the Church celebrates the memory of the Pentecost event as the beginning of the new "age of the Church", when Christ lives and acts in and with His Church (1076).
Colors of the Seasons
Advent - Purple, except for Rose (optional) on the Third Sunday of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday")
Christmas - White or Gold (not red and green)
Lent - Purple
? Rose (optional) on the 4th Sunday of Lent ("Laetare Sunday")
? Red on Passion/Palm Sunday Easter Triduum
? White or Gold on Holy Thursday and at the Easter Vigil
? Red on Good Friday
Easter Season - White or Gold, except for Red on Pentecost Sunday
Ordinary Time - Green, except for special colors on particular feasts or occasions, as follows:
? White - Solemnities of the Lord and the Saints; major local feasts; funeral liturgies (Black also allowed)
? Red - feasts of the Apostles, Martyrs, or the Holy Spirit
Visit the Vatican's Liturgical Calendar Web Page