The Liturgical Year
Many churches, including the Presbyterian Church, structure their worship around various liturgical seasons. The following is an overview of the seasons that many Christians observe, in the order in which they are observed:
Advent is a four-week period in which the church not only looks forward to the birth and incarnation of Jesus Christ, but also to his return. This season is observed for the first four Sundays prior to Christmas. The traditional liturgical color for this season is purple.
Christmas is the festival of the birth of Christ and the celebration of God’s coming among us as a human being. The Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve and ends with Epiphany (January 6). The traditional liturgical color for this season is white.
ORDINARY TIME I
Following the Christmas season, there is a period of Sundays in which no special festival or occasion is being observed. Liturgically, this is known as Ordinary Time, and there are two periods in the liturgical year which have this designation. The first comes after Epiphany (January 6) and lasts until Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent). The traditional liturgical color for this season is green.
Lent is a season of forty weekdays and six Sundays, beginning on Ash Wednesday and culminating in Holy Week. In this season, the church remembers and contemplates the atoning death of Jesus. Holy Week, the last week of the Lenten season, relives Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, from his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), to his last meal with his disciples (Maundy Thursday), to his actual crucifixion (Good Friday). The traditional liturgical color for this season is purple. In our church, our current confirmation class strips the chancel of all paraments during the Maundy Thursday worship service, and the Cross is draped with a black shroud. It remains this way until Easter.
Easter is a fifty-day season consisting of seven Sundays, beginning with Easter Sunday (marking Jesus’ resurrection) and ending with Pentecost (the birth of the church through the gift of the Holy Spirit to Christians). The focus of this season is the hope of new life that we have now that God has defeated the power of sin and death through the resurrection of Jesus. The traditional liturgical color for this season is white, except for Pentecost, where red paraments are used.
ORDINARY TIME II
This second period of Ordinary Time begins on the Sunday following Pentecost and lasts until the new liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent (the Sunday closest to November 30). Unlike the first period, this second period does contain some special observances, including Trinity Sunday and All Saints’ Day. The traditional liturgical color for this season is green.