The Liturgical Calendar

The Liturgical Calendar

The liturgical year could be simply said as well-lit organization of days and months. It is commorative celebration over the course of the year of the saving deeds which God has accomplished in Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines liturgical year as “the celebration throughout the year of the mysteries of the Lord’s birth, life, death and Resurrection in such a way that the entire year becomes a year of the Lord’s grace” (C.C.C. 1168). The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar (Abbreviated as GNLYC. It was published on 21st March 1969)) defines it as “by the means of the yearly cycle the Church celebrates the whole mystery of Christ from his incarnation the day of Pentecost and his expectation of coming day. (GNLYC 7).

The Liturgical calendar has two divisions.
1. Special Time
2. Ordinary Time

Special Time: It is called special because the two great mysteries of Christ’s life i.c., the birth and the resurrection are celebrated during this time. The special time has two cycles, the Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle.

1. Christmas Cycle:
Christmas cycle begins from the first Sunday of Advent and ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas Cycle has two seasons.
a) Advent Season
The Word Advent means ‘Coming’. The Liturgical Year begins with the Advent Season, which stats four Sundays before December 25 and ends at the Christmas Vigil Mass. During the season of Advent we remember the long years of waiting by the people of Israel for the Messiah, the messages of hope in the prophets, and how Mary and Joseph were faithful to God's plan. Advent is not a penitential season, as Lent is. Advent is a time of joyful preparation and expectation. The Gloria is omitted on Sundays in Advent not as a sign of repentance, but to create a longing that will inspire people to sing it more joyfully on Christmas.

Themes of the Season

There are two themes in this season. The both themes reflect the term ‘advent.’

1. This season is a time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of the Lord.
2. It is a period to reflect and prepare for Christ’s second coming at the end of time (Parosia). (GNLYC 39).

Themes in the Scripture

The scripture selections and the prayers of the liturgy for the season reflects the two themes described above.
i) So from the beginning of Advent until December the focus is on preparation for the coming of God’s Kingdom. The gospel for the first Sunday of Advent concerns Christ’s coming at he end of time. John the Baptist is the subject of the Gospel for the second and Third Sundays.
ii) From December 17 to December 24 the theme shifts to the anticipation of the birth of Jesus and his ministry. The gospel for the fourth Sunday addresses the events that happened right before the birth of Jesus.
The first reading is from the Old Testament, especially from the book of Isaiah, speak about the Messiah and the Messianic age. The New Testament readings reflect the themes of Advent.

The Liturgical Color
Advent is a time of expectation and preparation. So violet or purple colors are used in the vestments and decoration. Purple is a color that was reserved for use by royalty, and so it is used in Advent to symbolize the coming of Christ our king, as celebrated at Christmas and as we prepare for the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Symbol for Advent

The symbol for advent is ‘The Advent Wreath’. It has a circle that recalls all the years the people waited for the Messiah. The four candles (Three of the candles are purple- liturgical color for Advent, and the fourth one is rose colored, to signify the hope for the coming of Jesus) on the wreath remind us that there are four weeks in Advent. Each week one additional candle is lighted, so by the end of Advent all four are lit. Candles also remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world.

b) The Christmas Season
The Christmas Season begins at the vigil mass on Christmas Eve and ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Christmas season celebrates the early manifestation of Jesus, from his birth to the beginning of his public ministry.

Christmas Octave: The word octave comes from the Latin octavus, which means ‘eighth.’ Christmas is an important feast. So the church extends the celebration of this solemnity to cover a period of eight days. This period of eight days celebration is called Christmas Octave.

Christmas day and the seven days that follow are part of the Octave of Christmas. During this octave the Church celebrates several feasts. They are: The feast of St. Stephen, (the first Martyr, December-26), The feast of St. John, the apostles and evangelist (December-27) The feast of Holy Innocents (December-28). January 1st is the eighth day after Christmas, is the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Epiphany: The word comes from Greek, “Epiphaneia” means appearance or manifestation of God. When the western church celebrated Christmas on 25th of December, the eastern church celebrated it on 6th January. Latter the western church adopted this feast as Epiphany of the Lord. In the Gospel of Mathew we read about the wise men from the east, who went to worship the Lord who was born as man. Tradition holds that they were three pagan kings called Casper, Melchior and Belthasar. This feast is now celebrated on the Sunday that falls between January 2nd and January 8th. If January 6th falls on Sunday or Saturday, the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on Monday.

The Liturgical color for Christmas Season: White, silver or gold to Show our joy.

Symbol of Christmas:
The manger and stares. The manger served as the first crib for the baby Jesus. The star proclaimed the coming of the king to the wise men who followed it so they could pay homage to Jesus.

2. Ordinary Time.

In the context of the liturgical year the term “ordinary” does not mean “usual or average.” Ordinary here means “not seasonal.” In other words ordinary time is that part of the Liturgical Year that lies outside the seasons of lent-Easter and Advent-Christmas. In ordinary time the church celebrates the mystery of Christ not in one specific aspect but in all its aspects. The readings during the liturgies of Ordinary Time help to instruct us on how to live out Christian faith in our daily lives.

Ordinary time occurs in two sections. The first part begins on the Monday following the Christmas season, which ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on the Sunday following January 6. It lasts through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Ordinary Time resumes after the Easter Season, on the Monday after Pentecost, and continues until evening prayer on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent. The Sunday that follows the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the Second Sunday in Ordinary time.

Themes in Scripture.
a) Sundays in Ordinary time: The Sundays in ordinary time are divided into three cycle and are named as A, B, C. If This year Cycle A is used the next year Cycle B and the following year Cycle C is used. A simple mathematical formula could be used to find out the Cycle. When the year is divisible by 3, that year readings from Cycle C are taken. If it is not divisible and answer comes 1 or 2, Cycle A or Cycle B is used consequently. Example 2007 is divisible by 3 so the readings are taken from year C.

During Sundays in ordinary time the Old Testament readings are chosen with the theme of the gospel in mind. The focal aim of this is to bring out the unity of the Old Testament and the New Testament. It also helps to prevent introduction of too many themes and helps people to familiarize the Old Testament texts.

The second readings are from the letters of Paul and James are taken. (The letters of Peter and John are read in Easter and Christmas season.) The gospel pericopes are taken from Mathew in Year A, Mark in Year B, and Luke in Year C. But on the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary time, three pericopes from John are chosen that echo the feast of Epiphany and Sundays 17-21 in year B the gospel on the discourse of “bred of life” from John chapter 6 is used.

b) Weekdays of Ordinary Time: There are two annual cycles for the non-gospel reading with series I for the odd numbered years and series II for the even numbered years. (For example in the year 2007 (odd year) series I is used, for the year 2008 (even year) series II is used.) The readings are taken continuously. The first reading alternates every few weeks between the Old Testament and New Testament depending on the length of the book being ready.

The Liturgical color:
The liturgical color for Ordinary time is green, a sign of hope.

Symbol for Ordinary time.
Two Greek alphabets “ c ” (pronounced “Chi”) and “ r ” (Pronounced “Rho”) are used for the symbol of ordinary time. It is comprised of the first two letters of the Greek word for Messiah, (Greek- Chirstos Cristos). This abbreviation became a symbol representing Jesus Christ.

The feast of Christ the King is the last Sunday of ordinary time and of the liturgical year.

3. Easter Cycle

Easter Cycle begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Pentecost Sunday. Easter Cycle has two seasons.
a) Lenten Season.
The whole liturgical calendar is centered on the Pascal Mystery. Lent is the time of preparation for Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Thursday of Holy Week up to the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. During Lent Alleluia and Gloria is not sung.

The term “Lent” comes from a Middle English word that means “springtime.” Like the season of spring, Lent is a time of renewal. During Lent the church asks us to focus our attention on true conversion through prayer, penance and love. In doing these, we try to become more like Christ in his love for God and others by his dying and rising to new life. From the beginning it is also a time when the catechumens, with the prayerful support of the parish community, complete their final preparation for the sacraments of initiation. So the Lent has twofold character, that is, its baptismal character and its penitential character.

Themes in Scripture

On the Sundays during Lent, the scripture readings present the prophet’s call to repentance. In order to recall the mystery of Christian initiation, gospel texts that were once read to the catechumens to prepare them for baptism are part of the Liturgy of the Word so that all members of the Church, as well as those who will be baptized, will be enriched.

The gospel readings for the First and Second Sundays of Lent recount the Temptation and the Transfiguration of the Lord, with the accounts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. On the next three Sundays, the gospels about the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus are found in Cycle A. Because of the importance in process of Christian initiation, these selections may also be proclaimed in Year B and Year C, especially where there are candidates for baptism. Otherwise, in year B the gospels come from John's text about Christ's future glorification through his cross and resurrection. Year C offers Luke's texts on conversion.

The Old Testament readings during Lent concern the history of salvation. The selections from the New Testament complement the gospel and Old Testament readings and provide a connection between them.

Holy Week: From the Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) to Holy Saturday is called Holy Week. The week begins with a procession that recalls the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The gospels during this week recount what Jesus said and did during the week before his death.

The Easter Triduum

The Triduum begins on Holy Thursday with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. On this morning, the bishop of each diocese, celebrates chrism mass. During the Mass he blesses the oil and consecrates the Chrism that will be used for the celebration of the sacraments during the coming year. (For the pastoral reason in some diocese the Chrism Mass is celebrated previous Thursday of Holy Thursday).

Liturgical Color

The color used during Lent is violet or purple which symbolizes the efforts for penance and reflection.

The symbol of Lent:

Cross is the symbol of Lent. It symbolizes Jesus’ victory over death and the hope of our salvation. We are called by Jesus to love God, our neighbors and ourselves, and that we should improve those things that help us do this and change those things that get in the way.

b) Easter Season.

It is a joyous season which begins on the Easter Vigil and concludes fifty days later on Pentecost Sunday. Every Sunday of the year reminds us about the resurrection of Jesus. The Church Fathers regarded the fifty days of the Easter seasons “the Great Sunday. So the Sundays of the Easter season are not called Sundays after Easter, but Sunday s of Easter.

Themes in Scripture

On Easter Sunday the gospel of John, the account of finding the empty tomb is taken. (The gospel from the Easter Vigil may also be read.) The Gospel selections until the third Sunday of Easter recount the appearances of the risen Christ. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter the gospel reading speaks of the Good Shepherd. The Gospel for the fifth, sixth, seventh Sundays of Easter present the teaching and prayer of Christ at the last supper.

The First reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. The life, growth, and witness of the early Church are presented every year of the three year cycle. On Easter, the second reading from Paul speaks of living out the paschal mystery in the Church. For the following Sunday s of Easter, for the years of cycle A, the writings are read from the first Letter of Peter. For the years of Cycle b, they are from the first letter of John. For the years of Cycle C, they come from the Book of revelation. These texts reflect the joyful faith and confident hope of the Easter season.

The solemnity of the Ascension is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter. In those dioceses where this is not a holy day of obligation, the solemnity is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Pentecost Sunday, the last day of the Easter season, celebrates the coming of the Holy Sprit and the beginning of the Church.

The Liturgical Color

The color used during the Easter season is white, signifying the joy of Christ’s resurrection. The last day of Easter, the color red is used to represents the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Symbol of Easter.

The Paschal Candle and water are the symbols of Easter Light. Light is the symbol of the New Life in Christ’s resurrection and the water reminds us of our baptism and rebirth.


Br. Arwin Tauro
St. John the Baptist Church
Vijayanagar- Bangalore
Phone (080) 23209848
Email: ateverjoy@yahoo.co.uk



© 2006. St. John the Baptist Church

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