The Christian Year


The liturgical year starts with Advent at the end of November or the beginning of December and ends at the same time the following year. In addition to these, feast days are also celebrated throughout the year. By observing the liturgical year, a Christian is celebrating the life and mystery of Christ.

Three Ways Christians are Sanctified

There are three primary agents in a Christian's character formation or sanctification. Within these three categories come several other means that God uses to change Christians. 

The Word of God

The first agent is Scripture, as is shown in Jesus’s statements, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17) and “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

As we read the instructions of the Bible, we are urged to obey them, and resolving to do so, with God’s help, makes us grow in holiness. Being exposed to the Scriptures also tells us about the nature of God. When we spend time with God in prayer and the Word, his nature permeates us, causing us to change without realising it.

When I got to know my wife and her family, they would use some expressions that I found strange. I would laugh when I heard these expressions. After a few years, I found myself using the same expressions.

It happened unconsciously. Paul said: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The Spirit

The quoted verse introduces the second source of character formation: the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Christian character is described as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23). Peter talks of “the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2). And Paul declares, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13).

Sometimes this work of sanctification is attributed simply to God. Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body is kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).

The life of holiness may involve giant leaps forward through influential works of the Holy Spirit in what may be called crisis experiences. Many Christians testify to a new level of holiness following a specific act of faith or surrender or rededication. But change generally takes place as a process. The apostles’ experience at Pentecost is an example.

Martin Luther is credited with having described the growth of a Christian after conversion in this way: A person is rapidly declining in health because of a disease, and the doctors do not know its cause. Then the doctors correctly diagnose the condition and prescribe the appropriate medicine.

He is not entirely healed immediately upon starting to take medicine. But from that point on, he improves until he is entirely well. In the same way, after we experience conversion, there is a decisive turn in our lives, after which the movement is in the direction of holiness rather than sin and death.

The Fellowship

The third agent in character formation is fellowship with other Christians. Paul says, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).

The writer to the Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). The flight from evil and the pursuit of holiness occur with the aid of other Christians.

Under the fellowship category, we can also include the disciplers and the discipleship groups Christians belong to. It is in the community with them that some of the most marked changes take place.

A Year of Faith

The Christian year s a way to live your faith, but it is also a war for us to separate the profane and the spiritual. We are not of this world, but we live in it. 

Liturgical Colours

The colours of the liturgical year are symbolic representations of faith. The various colours represent the passions and trials of Christ and His followers throughout history.

In the spotlight!

Living the faith.


To fast is to give up something to gain something else. Lent gives us time for reflection and prayer and time to grow in faith.

The most significant fasting period of the year is before Easter

The most prominent fast of the year in Christianity begins on Ash Wednesday, just under seven weeks before Easter, this year on February 22. Lent ends on Easter Eve. Lent is 40 days and is broken every Sunday. It is still Lent, but Sundays may contain what you choose to omit during the rest of Lent.

During Lent before Easter, we think of Jesus, who went through suffering and death toward resurrection and a new life.

During a fast, you abstain from something

Fasting does not have to mean that you abstain from eating. A Christian fast can just as quickly be abstaining from watching television, sweets, alcohol, meat, or anything else.

A Christian fast can also be about giving up something to save money. The money can then go to someone who needs it more than you do.

Lent always begins on a Wednesday, but not on the same date yearly. It is when Easter falls that determines when Lent begins. And Easter Sunday is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

Three days of celebration before Lent

The long fasting period is preceded by three feast days, called Lent. The Fast Law begins with Fast Law Sunday.

Ash Wednesday begins Lent

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and in many churches, Ash Wednesday mass is celebrated, a service with communion.

Lent ends with Holy Week

The last week of Lent is called Holy Week or Passion Week. On Sunday, we have Palm Sunday, and at the end of the week, there is Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

The Christian Year

is a Liturgical Year

An introduction to the Christian year.

Liturgical calendar


Advent (from the Latin word adventus, which means "arrival" or "coming") is the first season of the liturgical year. It begins four Sundays before Christmas, the Sunday falling on or nearest to November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve. Traditionally observed as a "fast," it focuses on preparation for the coming of Christ, not only the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas but also, in the first weeks, on the eschatological final coming of Christ, making Advent "a period for devout and joyful expectation."

This season is often marked by the Advent Wreath, a garland of evergreens with four candles. Although the central symbolism of the advent wreath is simply keeping the progression of time, many churches attach themes to each candle, most often 'hope,' 'faith,' 'joy,' and 'love.' Other popular devotions during Advent include using the Advent Calendar or the Tree of Jesse to count down the days to Christmas.

Liturgical color: violet or purple.



A white-colored parament hangs from the pulpit, indicating the current liturgical season is Christmastide. The fact that the Christ Candle in the center of the Advent wreath is lit also means that Christmas has arrived.

The Christmas season immediately follows Advent. The traditional Twelve Days of Christmas begin with Christmas Eve on the evening of December 24 and continue until the feast of Epiphany. The Christmas season continues until the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, which in the present form of the Roman Rite is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, or the following Monday if that Sunday is kept as Epiphany.

In the pre-1970 form, this feast is celebrated on January 13 unless January 13 is a Sunday, in which case the feast of the Holy Family is celebrated instead. Until the suppression of the Octave of the Epiphany in the 1960 reforms, January 13 was the Octave day of the Epiphany, providing the date for the end of the season.

Traditionally, the end of Christmastide was February 2, or the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas. This feast recounts Mary's 40 days of rest before being purified and presenting her first-born son to the Temple in Jerusalem. In medieval times, Candlemas eve (February 1) marked the day when all Christmas decorations were taken down, including the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene. However, the tradition of ending Christmastide on Candlemas has slowly waned, except in some pockets of the Hispanic world where Candlemas (or La Fiesta de la Candelaria) is still an important feast at the unofficial end of the Christmas season.

Liturgical color: white


Ordinary Time

"Ordinary" comes from the same root as our word "ordinal," and in this sense, means "the counted weeks." In Latin, these seasons are the weeks per annum, or "through the year." in the Catholic Church and some Protestant traditions, these are the typical weeks that do not belong to a proper season.

In the current form of the Roman Rite adopted following the Second Vatican Council, Ordinary Time consists of 33 or 34 Sundays and is divided into two sections. The first portion extends from the day following the Feast of the Baptism of Christ until the day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent). It contains three to eight Sundays, depending on how early or late Easter falls.

The main focus in the readings of the Mass is Christ's earthly ministry rather than any particular event. The counting of the Sundays resumes following Eastertide; however, two Sundays are replaced by Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. One may be omitted depending on whether the year has 52 or 53 weeks.

In the pre-1970 form of the Roman Rite, the Time after Epiphany has anywhere from one to six Sundays. As in the current structure of the rite, the season mainly concerns Christ's preaching and ministry, with many of his parables read as the Gospel readings. The season begins on January 14 and ends on the Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday. Omitted Sundays after Epiphany are transferred to Time after Pentecost and celebrated between the Twenty-Third and the Last Sunday after Pentecost according to an order indicated in the Code of Rubrics, 18, with complete omission of any for which there is no Sunday available in the current year. Before the 1960 revisions, the omitted Sunday would be celebrated on the Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday or, in the case of the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, on the Saturday before the Last Sunday.

Liturgical color: green



Septuagesima (from the Latin word for "seventieth") is a two-and-a-half-week period before Lent. This pre-Lent season is present in the pre-1970 form of the Roman Rite and in some Protestant calendars. It is a transition from the first part of the season per annum to the season of Lent and preparation for fasting and penance, which begin on Ash Wednesday.

Although most of the Divine Office remains the same as during the season per annum, certain customs of Lent are adopted, including the suppression of the "Alleluia," replacing the Alleluia at Mass with the Tract, and the Gloria is no longer said on Sundays.

In the 1969 reform of the Roman Rite, this intermediate season was removed, with these weeks becoming part of Ordinary Time.

Liturgical color: violet or purple


Lent and Passiontide

Lent is a primary penitential season of preparation for Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and, if the penitential days of Good Friday and Holy Saturday are included, lasts forty days since the six Sundays within the season are not counted.

In the Roman Rite, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo and the Te Deum are not used in the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, respectively, except on Solemnities and Feasts, and the Alleluia and verse that usually precede the reading of the Gospel are either omitted or replaced with another acclamation.

As in Advent, the deacon and subdeacon of the pre-1970 form of the Roman Rite do not wear their habitual dalmatic and tunicle (signs of joy) in Masses of the season during Lent; instead, they wear "folded chasubles" following the ancient custom.

In the pre-1970 form of the Roman Rite, the two weeks before Easter form the season of Passiontide, a subsection of the Lenten season that begins with Matins of Ash Wednesday and ends immediately before the Mass of the Easter Vigil. In this form, what used to be officially called Passion Sunday, has the official name of the First Sunday in Passiontide, and Palm Sunday has the additional name of the Second Sunday in Passiontide. In Sunday and ferial Masses (but not on feasts celebrated in the first of these two weeks), the Gloria Patri is omitted at the Entrance Antiphon and the Lavabo and in the responses in the Divine Office.

In the post-1969 form of the Roman Rite, "Passion Sunday" and "Palm Sunday" are both names for the Sunday before Easter, officially called "Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion." The earlier form reads Matthew's account on Sunday, Mark's on Tuesday, and Luke's on Wednesday. In contrast, the post-1969 form reads the Passion only on Palm Sunday (with the three Synoptic Gospels arranged in a three-year cycle) and on Good Friday, when it reads the Passion according to John, as also do earlier forms of the Roman Rite. The former Passion Sunday became the fifth Sunday of Lent.

The veiling of crucifixes and images of the saints with violet cloth, obligatory before 1970, is left to the decision of the national bishops' conferences. In the United States, it is permitted but not required at the pastor's discretion. In all forms, the readings concern the events leading up to the Last Supper and the betrayal, Passion, and death of Christ.

In the Roman Rite, feasts that fall within that week are omitted unless they have the rank of Solemnity, in which case they are transferred to another date. The only solemnities inscribed in the General Calendar that can fall within that week are those of St. Joseph and the Annunciation.

Liturgical color: violet or purple. 



Easter Triduum

The Easter Triduum consists of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Each of these days begins liturgically with the morning and the preceding evening.

The triduum begins on the evening before Good Friday with Mass of the Lord's Supper, celebrated with white vestments, and often includes ceremonial foot washing. It is customary on this night for a vigil involving private prayer to occur, beginning after the evening service and continuing until midnight. This vigil is occasionally renewed at dawn until the Good Friday liturgy.

During Good Friday, Mass is not celebrated in the Catholic Church. Instead, a Celebration of the Passion of the Lord is held in the afternoon or evening. It consists of three parts: a Liturgy of the Word that includes the reading of the account of the Passion by John the Evangelist and concludes with a solemn Universal Prayer. Other churches also have their Good Friday commemoration of the Passion.

The color of vestments varies: no color, red or black, is used in different traditions. Lutheran churches often remove colorful adornments and icons or veil them with drab cloth. Colored hangings may be removed. The service is usually plain with somber music, ending with the congregation leaving in silence. In the Catholic, some Lutheran, and High Anglican rites, a crucifix (not necessarily the one which stands on or near the altar on other days of the year) is ceremoniously unveiled. Other crucifixes are unveiled, without ceremony, after the service.

Holy Saturday commemorates the day during which Christ lay in the tomb. In the Catholic Church, there is no Mass on this day; the Easter Vigil Mass, which, though celebrated properly at the following midnight, is often observed in the evening, is an Easter Mass. With no liturgical celebration, there is no question of a liturgical color.

The Easter Vigil is held in the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The liturgical color is white, often together with gold. In the Roman Rite, during the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," the organ and bells are used in the liturgy for the first time in 2 days, and the statues, which have been veiled during Passiontide (at least in the Roman Rite through the 1962 version), are unveiled. In Lutheran churches, colors and icons are re-displayed as well. 



Easter is the celebration of Jesus' Resurrection. According to a lunar-calendar dating system, Easter dates vary yearly (see computus for details). In the Roman Rite, the Easter season extends from the Easter Vigil through Pentecost Sunday. In the pre-1970 form of the rite, this season also includes the Octave of Pentecost, so Eastertide lasts until None of the following Saturday.

In the Roman Rite, the Easter octave allows no other feasts to be celebrated or commemorated; a solemnity, such as the Annunciation, falling within it is transferred to the following Monday. If Easter Sunday or Easter Monday falls on April 25, the Greater Litanies, which in the pre-1970 form of the Roman Rite are on that day, are transferred to the following Tuesday.

By a decree of May 5, 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Day itself) is also known in the Roman Rite as the Feast of the Divine Mercy.

Ascension Thursday, which celebrates the return of Jesus to heaven following his resurrection, is the fortieth day of Easter. However, in places where it is not observed as a Holy Day of Obligation, the post-1969 form of the Roman rite transfers it to the following Sunday.

Pentecost is the fiftieth and last day of the Easter season. It celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, which traditionally marks the birth of the Church.

Liturgical color: white, but red on the feast of Pentecost.


Ordinary Time or Kingdomtide

This season, under various names, follows the Easter season and the feasts of Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. This season ends on the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent. In the post-1969 form of the Roman rite, Ordinary Time resumes on Pentecost Monday, omitting the Sunday which would have fallen on Pentecost; in the earlier form, where Pentecost is celebrated with an octave, the Time after Pentecost begins at Vespers on the Saturday after. The Sundays resume their numbering at the point that will make the Sunday before Advent the thirty-fourth, omitting any weeks for which there is no room (a present-day form of the Roman Rite) or are numbered as "Sundays after Pentecost" (pre-1970 Roman Rite, Eastern Orthodoxy, and some Protestants) or as "Sundays after Trinity."

Feasts during this season include

Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Roman Rite and some Anglican and Lutheran traditions), Thursday of the second week after Pentecost, often celebrated on the following Sunday

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Roman Rite), Friday of the third week after Pentecost

Assumption of Mary on August 15

Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday

before Advent (Roman Rite, Lutherans, Anglicans) or the last Sunday in October (1925–1969 form of the Roman Rite).

In the final few weeks of Ordinary Time, many churches directed attention to the coming of the Kingdom of God, thus ending the liturgical year with an eschatological theme, one of the predominant themes of the season of Advent that began the liturgical year. For instance, in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Gospel of the Last Sunday is Matthew 24:15–35. In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, all the last three Sundays of the liturgical year are affected by the theme of the Second Coming.

While the Roman Rite adopts no special designation for this final part of Ordinary Time, some denominations do and may also change the liturgical color. The Church of England uses the term "Sundays before Advent" for the final four Sundays and permits red vestments as an alternative. The United Methodist Church may use the name "Kingdomtide." The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) uses the terms "Third-Last, Second-Last, and Last Sunday in the Church Year" and does not change from green. The LCMS does not officially celebrate a "Feast of Christ the King." The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) uses the term "Period of End Times" and assigns red vestments to the first and second Sundays.


Calendar of saints

In some Protestant traditions, especially those closer to the Lutheran practice, Reformation Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday preceding October 31, commemorating the purported day Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The liturgical color is red, celebrating the Holy Spirit's continuing work in renewing the Church.

Most Western traditions celebrate All Saints' Day (All Hallow's Day) on November 1 or the Sunday following, with the eve of this feast, All Hallow's Eve being October 31. The liturgical color is white. The following day, November 2, is All Souls' Day. The period including these days is often called Allhallowtide or Allsaintstide.

Saints Days are observed by Lutherans and include the apostles, Virgin Mary, and noteworthy figures in the Christian faith. The Confession of St. Peter Week of Prayer for Christian Unity starts on January 18. Conversion of St. Paul ended a week of prayer on January 25. Martin Luther King Jr., renewer of society, martyr on January 15 (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America only), Presentation of Our Lord and Purification of the Mary Candlemas on February 2. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus St Joseph on March 19, Annunciation March 25, Visitation of Mary on May 31.

Lutherans also celebrate St John the Baptist or the Beheading of St John the Baptist on June 24, St Mary Magdalene on July 22, St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, Holy Cross Day on September 14, Francis of Assisi, renewal of the Church St. Francis of Assisi on October 4, and the Holy Innocents, Martyrs December 28.

Lesser Feasts and Commemorations on the Lutheran liturgical calendar include Anthony of Egypt on January 17, Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, martyr Henry of Uppsala on January 19, Timothy, Titus and Silas, missionaries St Timothy, St Titus and St Silas Day on January 26, Ansgar, Bishop of Hamburg, missionary to Denmark and Sweden St Ansgar on February 3, Cyril, monk and Methodius, bishop, missionaries to the Slavs St Cyril and St Methodius on February 14, Gregory the Great on March 12, St Patrick on March 17, Olavus Petri, priest and Laurentius Petri, Bishop of Uppsala, on April 19, St Anselm on April 21, Catherine of Siena on April 29, St Athanasius on May 2, St Monica on May 4, Eric IX of Sweden on May 18, St Boniface on June 5, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus on June 14, Benedict of Nursia on July 11, Birgitta of Sweden on July 23, St Anne, Mother of Mary on July 26, St Dominic on August 8, Augustine of Hippo on August 28, St Cyprian on September 16, Teresa of Avila on October 15, Martin de Porres on November 3, Martin of Tours on November 11, Elizabeth of Hungary on November 17, St Lucy on December 13. 

Liturgical colors: white if the saint was not martyred; red if the saint was martyred


Hierarchy of feast days

There are degrees of Solemnity in the office of the feast days of saints. In the 13th century, the Roman Rite distinguished three ranks: simple, semidouble, and double, with consequent differences in the recitation of the Divine Office or Breviary. The simple feast commenced with the chapter (capitulum) of First Vespers and ended with None. It had three lessons and took the psalms of Matins from the ferial office; the rest of the office was like the semidouble. The semidouble feast had two Vespers, nine lessons in Matins, and ended with Compline. The antiphons before the psalms were only intoned.

The semidouble always had at least three "orationes" or collects in the Mass. On a double feast, the antiphons were sung in their entirety before and after the psalms. In Lauds and Vespers, there was no suffragia of the saints, and the Mass had only one "oratio" (if no commemoration was prescribed). If ordinary double feasts (lesser doubles) occurred with a higher rank, they could be simplified, except the octave days of some feasts and the feasts of the Doctors of the Church were transferred.

Pope Clement VIII added two more ranks to the distinction between major and minor doubles, those of first-class or second-class doubles. Some of these two classes were kept with octaves. By the rules then in force, feast days of any form of double, if impeded by "occurrence" (falling on the same day) with a feast day of higher class, were transferred to another day. This was still when the 1907 article Ecclesiastical Feasts in the Catholic Encyclopedia was written.

Pope Pius X simplified matters considerably in his 1911 reform of the Roman Breviary. In the case of occurrence, the lower-ranking feast day could become a commemoration within the celebration of the higher-ranking one. While retaining the semidouble rite for Sundays, Pius X's reform permitted only the most important feast days to be celebrated on Sundays. However, commemorations were still made until Pope John XXIII's reform of 1960. Until then, standard doubles took precedence over most semidouble Sundays, resulting in many Sunday Masses rarely being said.

The division into doubles (of various kinds) semidoubles and simples continued until 1955, when Pope Pius XII abolished the rank of semidouble, making all the previous semidoubles simples and reducing the earlier simples to a mere commemoration in the Mass of another feast day or of the feria on which they fell (see General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII).

Then, in 1960, Pope John XXIII issued the Code of Rubrics, ultimately ending the ranking of feast days by doubles, etc., and replacing it with a hierarchy, applied not only to feast days but to all liturgical days, as I, II, III, and IV class days.

Commemorations were abolished. The 1969 revision by Pope Paul VI divided feast days into "solemnities," "feasts," and "memorials," corresponding approximately to Pope John XXIII's I, II, and III class feast days. While some memorials are considered obligatory, others are optional, permitting a choice on some days between two or three memorials or between one or more memorials and the celebration of the feria. On a day to which no obligatory celebration is assigned, the Mass may be of any saint mentioned in the Roman Martyrology for that day.


Assumption of Mary

Observed by Catholics and some Anglicans on August 15, the same as the Eastern and Orthodox feast of the Dormition, the end of the earthly life of the Virgin Mary and, for some, her bodily Assumption into heaven, is celebrated. The Catholic teaching on this feast was defined as dogma on November 1, 1950, by Pope Pius XII in his bull, Munificentissimus Deus.

In other Anglican and Lutheran traditions, as well as a few others, August 15 is celebrated as St. Mary, Mother of the Lord.

Liturgical color: white