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Church Liturgical Year
The primary and secondary school term begins in January every year. Students in tertiary education start their school term in March. Many organizations have their financial year starting from April. In addition to the yearly cycle of activities, we also celebrate various anniversaries such as birthdays, weddings, school founder’s day. We also celebrates days in which families would gather together to remember and tell stories such as Chinese New Year Reunion dinner, Hari Raya, Thanksgiving meals and so on. Our lives are centered around all these events and we go through these events to foster and reinforce our relationship with one another.
Similarly, the Catholic Church also has her own set of events and festivities to celebrate. She also has a yearly cycle to follow. The Catholic Church’s calendar year is called the Liturgical Year – “the cycles and seasons, weeks and days by which we remember the presence of God in the past, celebrate it in the present, and anticipate the presence of God in the days to come and in ‘at the hour of our death’” (An introduction to the Church’s Liturgical Year by Martin F. Connell).
The Liturgical year is centered on the person of Jesus. We reflect on his birth, his death, his resurrection, his works, words and deeds throughout the year. The focus of the Liturgical year is the ever-deepening immersion of ourselves into the mystery of Jesus Christ.
The Liturgical year begins with the season of Advent. The Advent season begins 4 Sundays before Christmas. This is the season that marks a new year of grace and anticipates the coming of Jesus into our lives. Advent is “a time of preparation for Christmas when the first coming of God’s Son is recalled. It is also a season when minds are directed by this memorial to Christ’s second coming at the end of time. It is thus a season of Joyful and spiritual expectations”.
The Season of Christmas celebrates the incarnation of Jesus. It begins from the evening of Christmas Eve up to the feast of Baptism of the Lord.
After the Season of Christmas, we have what is known as the season of Ordinary Time. There are 2 season of Ordinary time – one after Christmas (a very short period) and the other (occupying almost half o the rest of the year) after Pentecost Sunday. Ordinary does not mean ordinary in the sense of common or normal. Ordinary means counting, as in the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
After the short period of the first season of Ordinary Time, the Season of Lent begins. It is a season in which we recall the passion and resurrection of Jesus. Lent begins on a Wednesday called Ash Wednesday where ashes (burnt from the palms of previous year) are imposed on the forehead of the faithful. The ashes remind us that we are from ashes and from ashes we will return. The season Lent is a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Sundays in Lent are called 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sunday of Lent. The 5th Sunday of Lent is also called Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday where we recall the entry Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The 3 days before Easter Sunday are called Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Lent culminates on Easter Sunday where we recall and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. On Holy Thursday we also recall Jesus’ washing of the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.
The period of Lent is closely linked to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is the period of most intense preparation for those who wants to be initiated into the Church. The 40 days of preparation for these elects are most intense and the Gospel readings taken on the 3 rd, 4 th and 5 th Sunday of Lent reflects “the progressive journey of a person into the mystery of Christ himself” (An introduction to the Church’s Liturgical Year by Martin F. Connell).
The Season of Easter then follows the season of Lent. The Easter season lasts for 50 days from Easter Sunday up to Pentecost Sunday. On Pentecost Sunday we recall the event in which the disciples while in the upper room fearing persecution receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. From then on, they courageously proclaimed and preached the teachings of Jesus to everyone. It could be said that Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the Church.
The rest of the year is called Ordinary Time and the Liturgical Year ends with the feast of Christ the King.
In summary, the Church’s Liturgical Calendar begins with the Season of Advent, then the season of Christmas, the first season of Ordinary Time, the Sesaon of Lent followed by the 3 holy days (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday), the Season of Easter which last for 50 days up to Pentecost Sunday, followed by the very long second season of Ordinary Time up to the feast of Christ the King. Then the cycle continues again with the 4 weeks of Advent