The Christian Church Year is as old as the Resurrection of our Lord and as new as the latest revisions. With the resurrection, the disciples of Jesus began a weekly celebration of the event on the First Day of the week. These disciples, like their Lord, had all their lives observed the Jewish Ritual Year. But eventually they substituted Sunday, the First Day of the week, for Saturday the Seventh Day, Easter for the Passover, and Pentecost the Baptism of the Holy spirit for the giving of the Law from Sinai. Together with this they soon began to observe the Nativity of the Lord. Adding certain preparatory and penitential seasons, they had by the sixth century developed a Christian Year for the order of worship, substantially as we have it today.
The four weeks of Advent ("Coming") are devoted to preparation for the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas) - and the preparation for His second coming, in majesty, to judge the world.
Then, following the events of his earthly life of self-sacrifice, we celebrate His Death, Resurrection and Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Whitsunday).
The second half of the Church Year is co-ordinate with the first, since it celebrates the continuing work of Christ, in His Church, by the Spirit.
Certain days are fixed dates, others are movable, depending upon the date of Easter. Easter falls on the Sunday after the 14th day of the Paschal moon - that is the Calendar moon whose 14th day falls on, or follows next after, the vernal equinox, March 21st.
In addition to events in our Blessed Lord's life, certain saints and martyrs are commemorated - and prayer is made to Almighty God that we may follow their good examples of faithfulness, even unto death.
As God has flooded earth and sky with color, so the Church has sensed the symbolic use of color in its worship. As dominating colors in nature changes with the seasons of the fourfold year, so in the Church Year there is structured change in the colors of the Eucharistic vestment, the liturgical colors.
This sequence of liturgical colors has a principal role in Christian visual education, in teaching the Gospel through the eye.
White: symbolizing joy, purity and truth, is used on the Sundays and open days of Christmastide and Paschaltide; on all Solemnities except Pentecost and Holy Cross Day; Feasts, Memorials an Votive Services of the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and saints who were not martyrs. Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Confession of St. Peter, Conversion of St. Paul, Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day; Ritual Services for Baptism and Matrimony, and optionally for Confirmation; and Votive Services of our Lord, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist, and for services for the Dead. Gold is sometimes used in place of white on major feasts.
Red: the color of fire and of blood, is used on Pentecost; optionally on Palm Sunday and Good Friday; feasts and Votives of the Passion of our Lord and of the birthday feasts of the Apostles and Evangelists; feasts and votives of the Martyrs; Votives of the Holy Spirits; Ritual Services for Ordination and optionally for Confirmation.
Green: the color of living things and of God's creation, is used on the Sundays and feasts in the season after Epiphany and Pentecost.
Violet: symbolic of penitence and expectation, is used in the seasons of Advent and Lent; for Votives penitential in nature or the gift of healing; for Penance and Unction; and may also be used for the offices and servicse for the dead, and on Ember and Rogation Days.
Black: representative of deep sorrow, may be used for Good Friday and for offices and services for the dead.
Rose: penitence permeated with joy, may be used on the Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday in Lent.
Blue: in lighter shades, is sometimes used on feasts of the Blessed Virgin. In the darker shades of indigo, blue is frequently used during Advent.
Calendar of the Church Year:
Easter Day, Ascension Day, Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints' Day (November 1), Christmas Day (December 25), Epiphany (January 6).
Feasts of our Lord:
Holy Name, The Presentation, The Annunciation, The Visitation, Saint John the Baptist, the Transfiguration, Holy Cross Day.
All feasts of Apostles, All feasts of Evangelists, Saint Stephen, the Holy Innocents, Saint, Joseph, Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Mary the Virgin, Saint Michael and All Angels, Saint James of Jerusalem.
Ash Wednesday, Good Friday
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