A Brief Outline Of The Main Seasons Of The Church Year And Their Respective Colors
We are currently in the season of Christmas.
The Church Year is arranged to teach us and remind us of the events in the life of Jesus Christ and in the lives of the Saints. The events are established as an orderly observance of the great milestones of our faith. The Church Calendar serves to assist devotions and direct our attention to the successive aspects of the Christian Mystery:
The Life and Death of Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
The Life of the Church and of Christians In the World.
Advent – The beginning of the Christian Year. Advent means the coming of our Lord and His Kingdom, which is said to be “at hand”. Light blue or purple are the colors used for Advent.
Christmas Season – God has come to man! The Messiah has come. We celebrate. We rejoice. White is the color used for Christmas.
Epiphany Season – Begins on January 6th and marks the end of the Christmas Season. We celebrate the fact that Christ’s divine power and glory were revealed for all people. We see Christ as the “Light Of The World”. The color for Epiphany is green.
Lenten Season – A time for each Christian to prepare himself/herself for the Great Feast of Easter. The first day of Lent is the fortieth weekday before Easter. The fourth Sunday in Lent is known as Mid-Lent, Mothering Sunday,or Refreshment Sunday. It is based on the Gospel of the day which tells of the story of the feeding of the multitude. The color of the Lenten Season is purple.
Palm Sunday – The Sunday before Easter, the first day of Holy Week. On this day we commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to proclaim His Messiahship. The Color for Palm Sunday is red.
Maundy Thursday – The Thursday before Easter. On this day we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, the Lord washing the feet of His apostles, and his agony, betrayal,and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Following the Maundy Service the altar is stripped of everything except the cross to symbolize Christ being divested of his garments. The color for Maundy Thursday is white.
Good Friday – This is the darkest day of the Christian year. On this day the faithful meditate upon the cross and upon the last hours and words of Christ. This is the only day of the year when the Eucharist is not celebrated. The altar is bare.
Holy Saturday or Easter Eve – The conclusion of Holy Week. There is a celebration between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter morning. The Vigil of Easter can include the lighting of the Pascal Candle, a series of readings from the Old Testament, recalling the Passover and deliverance of our Hebrew forefathers, a brief sermon, Holy Baptism, and the renewal of Baptismal Vows, and celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Easter Season – Easter is the Queen of the Feasts and the apex of the Christian Year. Christ has risen, sin and death have been vanquished, and God’s power over our spiritual enemies is acknowledged and accomplished. In Easter we look to the future. Easter Day is always the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox on March 21st. The date for Easter is determined by the Jewish lunar calendar. The Easter Season lasts a full fifty days. The color for Easter is white.
Ascension Day – This is the fortieth day after Easter and it always falls on a Thursday. Prior to Christ’s disappearance from the disciples, He tells them to remain in Jerusalem and to await the gift of the Holy Spirit which would enable and empower them to carry out their divine commission. The color is white.
Day of Pentecost – We celebrate the fact that our Lord sent the Holy Spirit, the comforter and strengthener, to reinforce the faith of His disciples. Upon receiving the gift the disciples went out into the world to teach, preach, and baptize in Christ’s name. The color for this day is red, symbolizing the tongues of fire.
Trinity Sunday – The doctrine of the Trinity is celebrated. It is a reminder of the revelation of the mystery of God. The color is white.
Season of Pentecost – With Trinity Sunday we see the culmination of our Lord’s teachings. Now it is up to us to grow and mature as a result of the Lord’s teachings. We must grow and develop in the love of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Pentecost continues until the first Sunday in Advent when the Church Year begins anew. The color is green.
In addition to the above other days are observed in the Church Year to commemorate Saints, Christian heroes, national holidays and observances.
White is the color of festivals. It symbolizes joy and purity.
Red is the color of the Holy Spirit and of Martyrs. It symbolizes the fire of the Holy Spirit and the blood of the Martyrs.
Purple is the color to show preparation. It symbolizes penitence and prayer.
Green is the color to show growth. It is the neutral color.
Blue is the color of preparation.
* With thanks to James D. Furlong “Seasons Of The Church Year”.