Electronic Prayer Book

Christian Year

 
Origin
 

The ecclesiastical or Christian Year (sometimes also called the “Church Year”) begins on the first Sunday of Advent, and ends on the Saturday following the last Sunday after Pentecost. It makes, thus, a complete circle or what is called from the Greek, the Liturgical Cycle.

This is the original succession of 52 to 53, full weeks, each made, up of Sunday and six week-days. Christians inherited this division of the year into weeks from their Jewish heritage. A significant proportion of the early Christians continued to keep the Sabbath as well as the celebrations of the Lord’s Resurrection on Sunday. Gradually Sunday became the main day Christians celebrated the Eucharist, commemorating this great event. Two of these Sundays, already connected with the Jewish feasts of the Pasch (i.e. Passover) and Pentecost, acquired fresh significance, from the Resurrection of Our Lord and the coming down of the Holy Spirit and so became the first Christian feasts of Easter and Pentecost. Christmas as a major celebration evolved later.

 
The Seasons of the Year (Traditional Calendar)
 

The Christian Year is now composed of three parts associated with the three major celebrations stated above.

1. The series of Christmas or the Christmas Cycle begins on the Sunday after Advent, and ends with the Saturday before Septuagesima.

2. The series of Easter or the Easter Cycle begins on the Sunday of Septuagesima, and ends on the Saturday before Pentecost! (also called Whitsuntide).

3. The series of Pentecost (Whitsuntide), or the Pentecost Cycle begins on the Saturday before Whitsun and ends with the last Saturday of the Ecclesiastical Year, viz, the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent.

This sequence shows us God the Son, the Redeemer of the world as the long expected Messiah for all people: His Birth, infancy, hidden life (first series); next, Jesus’ works, His preaching, His sufferings and Death, His Resurrection and Ascension (second series); lastly the Church founded by Jesus and governed by the Holy Spirit. This Church continues the work of Jesus till the end of the world, in all countries and among all peoples (third series).

These three major seasons contain smaller divisions which we list with a slight variation for convenience and simplicity: viz.

Christmas Series;

• Advent

• Christmas (and Octave)#

• Epiphany and following weeks

Easter Series;

• Septuagesima

• Lent

• Easter (and Octave)#

[flowing into...... ]

Pentecost Series

• Ascension Day

• Pentecost (and Octave)#

• Time After Pentecost. (Not actually associated with Pentecost)

 

Footnote:   #Octave

The word refers to the period of eight days during which Christmas Day, Easter Day, and Pentecost Sunday are celebrated, which includes the original feast itself. Traditional Catholics celebrate these three great festivals for the following 7 days making it 8 in total. This has its origin in some of the ancient celebrations of Israel.

The word ‘octave’ also refers to the 8th day after the original celebration. So the ‘octave’ of Pentecost Sunday is Trinity Sunday, one week later.

 
 
 
Links
 
1. Understanding the Christian Year

An explanation of the background

2. The Christian Calendar

The seasons described in this paper give rise to the Christian Calendar based on the traditional 12 months cycle.