Advent | Christmas | Epiphany | Lent | Holy Week | Easter | Pentecost
Season of Advent
Advent is a Season of four weeks that begins the Church Year. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. The observance of Advent originated in France during the fourth century. The duration of the season varied from four to seven weeks until the Bishop of Rome in the sixth century set the season at four weeks. In ancient times Advent was strictly observed. Every Christian was required to attend church service and fast daily.
The word, Advent, consists of two Latin words: ad — venire, “to come to.” Advent’s message is that God in Christ is coming to the world. The Message of Advent is to “prepare.” The Lord is coming whether the world is ready or not. For those unprepared, his coming means judgment. For those ready for his coming, it means salvation.
How does we prepare ourselves during Advent?
- Repentance – With God’s help, we forsake the sins of the world for a godly way of life.
- Prayer – We pray for the Second Coming of Christ, for He shall save us.
- Patience – We watch and wait, for when Jesus comes again, it may be sudden.
The Mood of Advent
The mood of Advent is expressed in the liturgical colour purple. An alternate colour for Advent is blue, the color of hope. It depicts a feeling of quiet dignity, royalty and repentance. Purple was the traditional colour of a king’s robe; the coming Christ is King of kings. Like Lent, Advent is a time for solemn and sober thought about one’s sins, leading to repentance. It denotes a quiet time for watching, waiting and praying for Christ to come again, personally and universally.
The mood of Advent is joy in hope – hope in anticipating the coming of the Lord. Christians have great expectations of Christ’s coming again. As a family looks forward to a son returning from a war and as a bride anticipates her wedding day, so a Christian looks forward with joy to the coming again of Christ.
The Advent Wreath
The Advent Wreath is the widely recognized symbol of Advent. The wreath is made of a circle of evergreen branches laid flat to symbolize the endless nature of God’s love for his people. Four candles stand in the circle which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.
Traditionally, three of the candles are purple and the fourth, the “Joy” candle is pink. Blue candles may also be used to emphasize our hope in God’s promise fulfilled in the Nativity. This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of a Messiah that weaves its way like a golden thread through Old Testament history. The Israelites yearned for a return of God’s dynamic presence in their midst. And so, God revealed to some of the prophets that indeed He would not leave His people without a true Shepherd.
- First Sunday in Advent – We light the first purple candle which is the candle of hope because it reminds us that God foretold the coming of His Son and it represents the period of waiting.
- Second Sunday in Advent – We light the first purple candle of hope and the second purple candle of peace because it reminds of that even God prepared for the birth of His Son. The manger in Bethlehem became a cradle fit for a King.
- Third Sunday in Advent – We light the first two purple candles and the pink candle that is called the candle of Joy. The Candle of Joy reminds us of the poor shepherds who were the first people to see Jesus – that we all need a shepherd and that Jesus is our Shepherd. God loves all people. Some are rich and famous, but others are poor and sometimes hungry. Each has very special place in the heart of God.
- Fourth Sunday in Advent – We light the first three candles and the fourth candle of love. This candle is also called the Angel’s Candle. It reminds us that love came into the world when Jesus was born and represents rejoicing.
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – We light all the candles and the white candle in the centre which is Christ’s Candle – Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!
Symbols of the Advent Wreath
- The Circle: God has no beginning and no end. His love is everlasting and universal.
- Evergreens: Green is the colour of hope. It is a sign of our hope and belief that the Saviour has come for us.
- Four Candles: The Chosen People of the Old Testament waited 4000 years for the coming of the Saviour. Our four weeks of Advent represent our preparation and longing for the coming of Jesus.
- Three Purple Candles: Purple is the colour that symbolizes sorrow and repentance. It reminds us to return to the love and kindness of our Saviour.
- One Rose or Pink Candle: Pink represents Joy. On the third Sunday of Advent we pause in the penitence and rejoice that the coming of our Saviour is almost here.
- Lighted Candle: Jesus is the Light who guides us. Each Sunday we light an additional candle.
Season of Christmas
Christmas begins on December 25 and is a season in the Church Year that lasts for 12 days until the Baptism of our Lord, which is always the Sunday after January 6 .
The Incarnation and Birth of Jesus Christ
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. In our Nicene Creed, we profess that Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through Him all things are made.” We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the eternal Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Season of Epiphany
Epiphany falls on January 6th, the day immediately after the twelfth day of Christmas. In many churches, the full celebration of this feast is transferred to the nearest Sunday to January 6.
Visit of the Wise Men, Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles
Epiphany means “manifestation.” This wonderful feast celebrates the manifestation or “revealing” of Christ as the Messiah to the Gentiles. This revelation is symbolized in the event of the wise men coming from the East to worship Christ in Bethlehem where the star stopped over the manger where the Christ Child was born.
Season of Lent
The six weeks before Easter is called the “Lenten Season.” It is a time to focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died, and thus paid for our sins, we have life. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we too will rise and enjoy eternal life forever.
Lent is a time for prayer and spiritual renewal. The Lenten season emphasizes our need to cultivate the interior life through self-reflection, fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
- The word “lent” means “lengthen” and stands for that time in spring when the days grow longer.
- The original period of Lent was 40 hours. It was spent fasting to commemorate the suffering of Christ and the 40 hours He spent in the tomb.
- In the early 3rd century, Lent was lengthened to 6 days. The 6 days grew into 36 days (36 being the tithe or a tenth of the 365 days of the year). About 800 AD it changed to 40 days – the extra days being Ash Wednesday and the three following days running up to the 1st Sunday in Lent.
- Sundays are not included in these 40 days.
Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras or fetter Dienstag) is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Since Lent is a time of abstinence, traditionally of meat, fat, eggs and dairy products, Shrove Tuesday’s menu was designed to use up all the fat, eggs and dairy products left in the kitchen and storeroom. It is also a ‘feast’ to prepare for the time of ‘famine’ in the desert.
The English term “shrovetide” (from “to shrive”, or hear confessions) is explained by a sentence in the Anglo-Saxon “Ecclesiastical Institutes” translated from Theodulphus by Abbot Aelfric (q.v.) about A.D. 1000: “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then my hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]“.
In many traditions, Lent is a time for cleaning, in preparation for Easter and spring. First your soul, then your kitchen, then the rest of the house was cleansed and purified of the past year’s accumulations. Old clothes are mended, and new clothes purchased at this time of year. In the Ukraine, houses were whitewashed inside and out during Lent. In this way, everything was made ready to face the season of Salvation and Rebirth. Traditions of ‘spring cleaning’ stem from this religious observance.
Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins. It occurs 40 days before Good Friday and originated in the A.D. 900s. On Ash Wednesday, the priest marks the foreheads of the faithful with ashes in the shape of a cross. This reminds of our baptism, when the priest signed us with the spiritual sign of the cross and marked us as Christ’s own forever. The sign of the cross symbolizes that we belong to Christ, who died for our sins on the cross.
Ashes are a biblical symbol of mourning and penance. In Biblical times, the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on one’s head. They also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. Thus when the priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with the ashes, he says, “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return. Ashes are made by burning palm fronds that have been saved from the previous year’s Palm Sunday and then they are blessed Blessed ashes have been used in God’s rituals since the time of Moses (Numbers 19:9-10, 17).
Holy Week begins at the end of Lent and is the final week before Easter, Resurrection Sunday.
Palm Sunday – The Sunday of the Passion
On Palm Sunday, the faithful wave palms in church to honour Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Later, the ashes of these palms will be burned, blessed by the priest, and used on Ash Wednesday of next year to symbolize our mortality and sorrow for our sins.
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week which marks the day of the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper. Maundy or mandatum novum means “new commandment” and refers to Jesus’ command to love one another as He loves us. At the Last Supper, Jesus showed His humility and love by washing His disciples’ feet. Jesus said to Peter. “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”(John 13:5). In some churches, Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet is symbolically reenacted and the altars are stripped bare until the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
As Maundy Thursday recalls Jesus’ last meal with a Eucharist and foot washing, this day is also celebrated with Prayer Vigils and the re-enactment of the Passover Meal with Seder Suppers.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Good Friday along with Ash Wednesday are two designated fast days in the Anglican calendar. This marks more than a historical event, it stands for the self-offering of Christ for us, the apex of Christ’s sacrificial life.
Holy Saturday is the final day of Holy Week, the final day of the traditional 40 day Lenten Fast. The morning brings Resurrection light, and a feast!
Season of Easter
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Easter immediately follows Lent and the Season of Easter (Eastertide) last 50 days and concludes with the Day of Pentecost.
The bodily coming to life again of Jesus stands at the centre of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As Christians, we profess the crucified and risen Lord and rejoice in His resurrection and in His teachings during his post-resurrection appearances. This is a time of feasting and celebration. The long fast of Lent is over. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil
The Council of Nicaea (325) set the celebration for Easter on the Sunday after the spring equinox, which means that the date for Easter changes year to year.
The Ascension of our Lord
The Feast of the Ascension observes Christ’s ascension to His Father 40 days after His resurrection. Ascension Day occurs 40 days after Easter Sunday, on the 6th Thursday of Easter Season.
Season of Pentecost
Pentecost is the 50th and final day of the Easter Season. Pentecost is the longest season of the Church Year and continues until Advent.
During Pentecost, the Church remembers the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles in the Acts of the Apostles, thereby giving birth to the Church.