Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the Son

Did you know that the Roman Catholic Church's calendar doesn't run from January through December?  Our Church year has six distinct seasons, each with symbolic colors that are reflected in the dressings for the altar and in the priests' chasuble vestment.  I know that other Christian churches also recognize similar seasons and even use the same colors. 
Sadly, my graphics must be generated in Paint.  Our domestic church is very low on the technology totem pole.  But moving on, we start our year at the beginning of Advent.  The first Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday closest to November 30th and this season lasts for 21 to 28 days, ending on December 24th.  This season is marked by purple chasubles for the first, second, and fourth Sundays, and by rose chasubles for the third Sunday.  The third Sunday is Gaudete, or Rejoice, Sunday and the name comes from the opening of Mass for that day.  Philippines 4:4-6 is used, "Rejoice in the Lord always....for the Lord is near at hand."

Christmas season begins on December 25th (or the vigil of the 24th) and continues through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  The twelve days of Christmas end at Epiphany (January 6th), but the time between Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism, celebrated on the Sunday following January 6th, is included in this season.  The liturgical color is white during this time.  As a side note, the Feast of the Holy Family falls in this time period and I always enjoyed being the cantor for Holy Family mass while pregnant.  There is nothing better than a hugely pregnant woman getting to sing "and your spouse shall be like a fruitful vine in the midst of your home."

Moving on, we find ourselves beginning Ordinary Time, which is simply to say those Sundays counted between the Baptism of the Lord and day before the start of Lent (known as MARDI GRAS).  This time period can have as few as six weeks and as many as nine, depending on when Easter falls each year.  Ordinary time readings between the Baptism and Ash Wednesday focus on the early life and teachings of Christ, and the season is marked by green chasubles.  For those special liturgical feasts within this time, appropriate vestment colors are used.

Ash Wednesday starts the Lenten season with it's forty days of reflection.  But wait, if you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, it's more than forty.  Huh???  That's because those Sundays of Lent aren't counted.  They are like mini-resurrection days.  And as any good cradle Catholic knows, that means any foods restricted by your parents during Lent (like doughnuts or chocolate) can be inhaled en masse on Sundays!  Gotta love a good loop hole :)  Lent is marked by purple vestments, except for the fourth Sunday.  As with Advent, we rejoice a little over halfway through - it's Laetare Sunday - and the rose chasuble makes another appearance.

Then we have the shortest of the seasons - Triduum.  This is only three days long.  Starting on the Thursday before Easter, this period denotes those last days of Christ.  Thursday's mass is a very solemn Last Supper, with many Catholics who've been away from the Church rejoining the Lord's table again - some for the first time in many years.  Our church parish, along with many others, often includes the ritual of foot washing as a remembrance of the service Christ offered to us.  The Catholic Church does not celebrate Mass on Good Friday.  Rather, it's a Celebration of the Passion of the Lord.  It's tearful, moving, and very emotional.  The priest wears his red chasuble.  Saturday's Vigil Mass is often a long celebration, as new Catholics are baptized into the faith and receive the first sacraments of initiation.  This mass is a huge party (at least in our parish) as we celebrate the Resurrection.  Mr. Neoclassic came into the Church during a Vigil Mass many years ago, so this particular event holds a special place in our hearts.

The Easter season begins on Easter Sunday (or at the Vigil, so there's a bit of overlap) and continues until Pentecost.  This season is approximately 50 days long and is marked with white vestments - except for Pentecost when the red is used.

Here's a shot of Zydeco on the day he celebrated the Sacrament of Eucharist for the first time.  Traditionally, this sacrament is celebrated in May and falls into the Easter season.  Notice the white vestments.  Our wonderful priest blesses all the children, which they love, and always tells them to "be good and helpful for mommy," which we mamas love. He's so naturally happy, it's infectious. 

Following Pentecost, we enter Ordinary Time again, counting the weeks until the end of the Church year...and the beginning of the new year with Advent.  The last Sunday in Ordinary Time is the Feast of Christ the King.

And that wraps up our lesson in the Catholic calendar.  I think I learned more about Ordinary Time by putting this together.  Cool.  I gathered information from my child's faith formation book (ha, from a kid's book), a little from Wiki, and from the Catholic Doors Ministry and CatholicMom.com 


  1. Great learning post for me! I didn't know about Triduum. I do know about Lent and Advent. Nice to learn something new today.

  2. Easter Sunday is determined by figuring the first Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equnox. Check with Classic Rock - I bet he knew that!
    P the M


I thank you for visiting with me and for sharing your thoughts. I hope your day is fabulous and that you make some time for music - no matter what kind!