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The Episcopal Church measures time in an annual liturgical year. The year begins in the season of ADVENT.
ADVENT begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. It is a season characterized by joyful expectation. Themes of the season include: waiting, watching, preparing, hoping, and readiness. The liturgical color for the season is either blue (which we have at EHS) or purple (which lends a more penitential tone to the season). It is customary to have an advent wreath in the Chapel, which is a wreath of greens (symbolizing eternal life) with 4 blue candles. One new candle is lit every Sunday during the season of Advent.
CHRISTMAS begins on December 25, the day when we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord, and continues for 12 days. Christmas Day is one of the most important days in the Church year, and its celebration is joyful. The liturgical color for this short season is white, which symbolizes purity and is the color used on the Church’s holiest days.
EPIPHANY begins on the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) and continues until Ash Wednesday. Epiphany is the season of light, when we celebrate the light of Christ that has come into the world and illumines the darkness. On January 6, we remember the arrival of the wise men who came to pay homage to the baby Jesus. Many of our readings assigned to this season have to do with the revelation of God’s self in Christ. On the Feast of the Epiphany, the liturgical color is white, but the color changes to green for the remainder of the season.
LENT begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days (not counting Sundays) until Easter. Since the date of Easter is dependent on the cycle of the moon and changes from year to year, the date for Ash Wednesday also fluctuates from year to year. The major theme of the season is repentance, repentance and personal “house cleaning” to prepare ourselves for the great celebration of Easter. The liturgical color for the season is purple. Very often, people choose to fast, give something up, take on penitential acts, and/or engage in Bible study or prayer during Lent. We don’t say the word “Alleluia” during Lent because it is a celebratory word. On Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent, we have ashes placed on our foreheads with the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The last week in Lent is known as HOLY WEEK. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, when we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and continues through Maundy Thursday, when we remember Jesus’ Last Supper and arrest. Good Friday is the day when we remember Jesus’ crucifixion (generally a holiday for EHS), and Easter (not part of Lent) is the day when we celebrate his rising from the dead.
EASTER is our celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It is so important to the Church that we celebrate it for 50 days. A season of tremendous joy, the liturgical color is white, and we use the word “Alleluia” again. Themes include new life and forgiveness of sins. 40 days into Easter, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, when we remember Jesus’ ascension into heaven after his several resurrection appearances to the disciples. Easter ends on Pentecost Sunday.
PENTECOST is the season in the Church year that we recognize the movement of God’s Holy Spirit among us. On Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter, we remember the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the gathered disciples like a rushing wind and tongues of fire and empowered them for their ministries. Not surprisingly, the liturgical color for Pentecost Sunday is red, but the color for the remainder of the season of Pentecost is green, the color of growing things, because throughout the season of Pentecost we are celebrating the growth of the Church. The season of Pentecost continues until Advent begins again in late November or early December.