Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Church Calender

Instead of writing on the Tanach this week, I would like to talk some about the Church year and its seasons.  For Christians, since the book of Acts, Sunday is the regular day of worship, and early on Friday and Wednesday were the regular days of fasting.  Sadly in the west, fasting appears to have gone out of fashion.  Aside from being based on the Civil calender, the church's calender is also based on the lunar calender.  Easter, according to western usage is always the first Sunday after the first full Moon following March 21st, which basically puts it on the first Sunday after Passover.  Therefore Lent, and Eastertide are determined by the date of  Easter Sunday. Eastertide ends on Pentecost Sunday, 7 weeks after Easter, and Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is forty-five days before Easter.

The principle feast day of the church is Easter. Other principle feasts are Assentionday, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, Christmas Day and Epiphany.  Any of these days take place of Sunday if they so happen to fall on Sunday.  Other feasts which may pre-empt Sunday are: The Holy Name and the Presentation.  Other feasts of the Lord are:  The Annunciation, Holy Cross Day, The Visitation and the Nativity of John the Baptist.  Other major feasts are: Feasts of the Apostles, Feasts of Evangelists, St. Mary, mother of Jesus; St. Stephan, the Holy Innocents (Childermas), St. Joseph, St. Mary Magdelene,  St. Michael and All Angels, St. James of Jerusalem, and Thanksgiving day. 

The principle fasts are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  All Fridays of the year outside of the fifty days of Easter and the twelve days of Christmas are considered days of special denial, along with all days of Lent and Advent, excepting Sundays.  Sunday is always a feast day and never a day of fasting in honour of the resurrection.

Advent is the first season of the church year.  The word Advent comes from Latin for to come, and in Advent we prepare for the second coming of the Lord, as well as preparing for Christmas.  Advent, traditionally is marked by fasting and self-denial. Many people will use an Advent wreath during Advent.   The colour of Advent is blue, for the sky from where will come Jesus when he returns again.  Advent Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent is always the fourth Sunday before Christmas. 

The second season  of the year is Christmas, which begins at Sunset on December 24th.  During the twelve days of Christmas, we remember not only the birth of Messiah, but also St. Stephan the first Martyr, the Holy Innocents, John the Evangelist and the Holy Name.  Each of these feasts point us toward the incarnation of Messiah, which is by many considered to be the grandest of all miracles, when God became man to pay for our sins.  The principle colour of Christmas tide is gold (for the king)

The Epiphany begins on the sixth of January, and on the day itself we remember the wise men seeking Yeshua.  Epiphany means manifestation, and on the day we remember how He was first manifested to the nations, and in the season, how we are to manifest Yeshua to the world.  The first Sunday of Epiphany we remember the Baptism of the Lord, and that indeed is one of our four principle feasts for Baptism.  The reading for Epiphany tide are concentrating on the miracles of Messiah.  Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord use gold for the king, followed by green (for growth of the church)  for the beginning of the season.  The last three Sundays of Epiphany tide are Shrove tide, in which we prepare for Lent, by preparing for our confession if we so desire, and planning our spiritual  disciplines for Lent.  We use purple (preparation) for Shrove tide, except for Transfiguration Sunday which is God. 

Lent begins with the Eve of Ash Wednesday, when we, together or separately confess our private sins.  Ash Wednesday is a day when we focus more on our corporate sins as a church and a nation.  All of Lent is marked by fasting and other signs of penitence.  Traditionally, the presbyters appointed penitential excercised on Shrove Tuesday, when the people confessed their sins.  Lent was a time of repentance, of preparing catechumens for baptism, and for restoring fallen church members to full membership.  We use an Lenten array for Lent, burlap trimmed with purple.  The last week of Lent, Holy Week, we used burgundy trimmed with black to mark the blood of Messiah shed for us.  In Holy Week we remember the Events culminating in the crucifixion of Messiah.

Easter Even, we say adios to the events and celebrate the Queen of Feasts, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  The first 8 days of the Great Sabbath are celebrated in gold for the king, and correctly celebrated by daily Eucharist.  The rest of Easter tide is white for purity and holiness.  The white is replaced by gold on Assention day,a and the last day of the fifty days of Easter is flame red for the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Easter too, was a major feast for baptisms, since the catechumens had spent Lent preparing for baptism.

The next season, known by some as Trinity tide for the first Sunday in it, is a seson where we work on spiritual growth, for the Christian and the church.  The colour is green.

The last season of the years, starting 8 weeks before Christmas is Kingdom tide, in which we prepare to be part of the kingdom, and consider what it means to be part of God's kingdom.   Once again, the colour is blue.

Hopefully this essay is of use in understanding the seasons of the church. 

1 comment:

Mar Michael Abportus said...

If a feast falls on Sunday, if it is not a principle feast then it is transferred to the first free day.