For Catholics, the liturgical calendar marks the Church year, a sequence of seasons and feasts celebrated in the liturgy during a year’s time. The liturgical calendar uses terms and measurements similar to a typical calendar. However, the liturgical calendar’s purpose is to celebrate and understand the mystery of Jesus Christ and the expectation of his return in glory. In each liturgical year, we celebrate the entire life and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. Liturgies celebrated during different seasons have distinctive music and specific readings, prayers, rituals, and colors.
Seasons of the Liturgical Year
". . . as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” This prayer reminds us that during Advent, we wait in joy, in hope, and in anticipation for the wonderful event we are about to experience the feast of Christmas. While we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus that has occurred, we also use the season of Advent to anticipate The Second Coming. When Jesus comes again, the Kingdom of God will appear in its fullness. The just will reign with Christ forever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe will be transformed.
God loves us so much that he sent us his only Son, Jesus. The Incarnation is the belief that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, also known as God the Son "was made flesh" by being conceived in the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary. The doctrine of the incarnation, then, entails that Jesus is fully God and fully human. During the Christmas season, we celebrate Jesus' birth and his becoming known to the world - his Epiphany.
As followers of Jesus, we look to live out our faith every day, but during Lent we seek to renew or deepen our faith. During this Lenten season, the hard places in our spirits can loosen up and the Holy Spirit can flow through our days with more lightness and freedom. Every instance of spiritual growth must have at its beginning an openness to God’s presence and love. When we invite that presence and say yes, the repentance and healing have already begun.
Sacred Paschal Triduum
Holy means “set apart.” Christians set apart an entire week - Holy Week - to recall the events surrounding the suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum—from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ's Paschal Mystery.
The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season, and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil. The liturgical services that take place during the Triduum are:
Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Good Friday of the Lords’ Passion
Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord
Jesus Christ is Risen! Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, the central feast of Christianity. How perfectly Matthew captures the essence of our encounter with the empty tomb! We are fearful yet overjoyed. Through the season of Lent we were invited to unite our sufferings with the suffering of our Lord. The old self had to die, like the grain of wheat in the parable, so that it could yield a rich harvest (John 12:24). The Easter season is the time of reaping. Our tears turn to joy as we see that the stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty, the wrappings of burial and death are left behind, the Master is risen, and he is inviting us to share his resurrected life.
The time set aside for celebrating our call to follow Jesus day by day as his disciples is Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time calls us to reflect upon the Paschal Mystery and our call to discipleship throughout the year. The Sundays of the entire year are counted or set aside as sacred time. Ordinary Time (typically 33 weeks) is celebrated following the Christmas season and then again following Easter.