Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Liturgical Year [Catholic Caucus] ^ | not given |, Various

Posted on 11/27/2010 1:44:05 PM PST by Salvation

The Liturgical Year

Advent And Triumph Of Christ, by Hans Memling, 1480 (see under the footnotes on this page for more information)

Unlike pagan religions which see time as an endless cycle, Christians see time as being linear; it has a beginning and will have an end. Within Christianity's linear, "big picture" sense of time, though, the passing of hours is experienced as cycles of meditations on holy things. Think of a spiral -- of a circle of time moving ever forward toward His Coming -- and you will have a sense of "Catholic time."

The Catholic year (the "liturgical year") is made special by cycles of celebrations commemorating the lives of Jesus and His mother, the angels, and the legion of Saints who modelled lives of sanctity. Below are 25 Feasts and times, in chronological order, that demonstrate how the liturgical year is a reliving of the life of Christ:

Advent He is coming
Nativity He comes
Circumcision He follows Old Testament Law
Epiphany He reveals Himself as God
Holy Family He grows up in a human family
Candlemas Simeon's prophecy
Septuagesima We are in exile without Christ
Ash Wednesday Without Christ, we are dust
Lent Christ is in the Desert
Passion Sunday Jews make plans to kill Jesus
7 Sorrows Mary's suffers at what is to come
Palm Sunday He triumphantly enters Jerusalem
Spy Wednesday Jesus is betrayed by Judas
Maundy Thursday He offers the first Holy Mass
Good Friday He is put to death and fulfills Old Testament Law
Holy Saturday He is in the tomb
Easter He is risen
Ascension He ascends into Heaven
Pentecost He sends the Holy Ghost
Trinity Sunday The Most Holy Trinity has been fully revealed
Assumption Mary is assumed into Heaven & crowned Queen
Christ the King We recognize Christ's Kingship now and forever
All Saints We will triumph as have our heroic Saints
All Souls We pray for those who are awaiting their triumph
Last Sunday in
Time after Pentecost
Apocalypse. He will come to judge the world.

Every single year, aware Catholics "re-live" the Gospel, from Christ's Incarnation and Birth to His Ascension and Heavenly reign. In Spring He enters the world by coming to rest in Mary's immaculate womb; nine months later, in Winter, He is born, circumcized, and given a Name. He is raised in the Holy Family, and meets His cousin, John. He goes into the Desert and we go with Him during our Lenten Season. Then follow His Passion and Agony, which are soon vanquished by His Resurrection, His Ascension, and the Pentecost. Now He reigns -- and forever, and we await His Second Coming as we prepare to celebrate again His First Coming. Then the cycle begins again, like a wheel that's been spinning for two millennia. The Catholic who is aware of this wheel is necessarily aware of Christ; the Catholic who also celebrates the Feasts well and practices the traditions of the Church lives intimately with Him.

All of the Church's Feasts1 fall into one of the 2 main "liturgical cycles" made of 7 "liturgical seasons." Each of the Seasons has an associated mood, its own "feeling in the air," its own scents and ornaments. There is even for each Season an associated color which will be reflected in the priests' vestments and liturgical art, church decoration, and so on (though on certain Holy Days within a particular season, that Day's color will take precedence over the season's color). There is a definite rhythm to Catholic life, a rhythm expressed well in this poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674):

Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).

The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew;
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.

Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

Here's an overview of the two liturgical cycles and their seven seasons -- those times that "do shift".


Cycle 1: The Christmas Cycle
Season 1: Advent
The word "Advent" comes from the Latin "advenire" which means "arrival" and refers to our awaiting the arrival of the commemoration of Christ's birth, and His Second Coming. This somber, penitential season of expectation lasts from the first Sunday of Advent ("Advent Sunday") to 24 December (22 - 28 calendar days). Its color is violet.
Season 2: Christmastide
As it's the celebration of Christ's Incarnation, the mood of Christmastide is of humble, grateful, joyous celebratration. This season lasts from Vespers of 24 December to 13 January (the Octave of the Epiphany) inclusive (19 calendar days in terms of liturgical calculations). The Feast of Christmas itself lasts 12 days ("The Twelve Days of Christmas"), but the spiritual focus of Christmas doesn't end truly until Candlemas on 2 February. Its color is white or gold.
Season 3: Time After Epiphany
This season, which continues the  Christmas focus on and the Divine Childhood and segues into focusing on Jesus' public ministry, lasts from 14 January to the vigil of Septuagesima Sunday (the ninth Sunday before Easter, which is the same as 3 Sundays before Ash Wednesday) inclusive (4 - 38 calendar days). Its color is green.
Cycle 2: The Easter Cycle
Season 4: Septuagesima
This Season, whose name name means "Seventy" and which recalls the Babylonian Exile, lasts from Septuagesima Sunday to Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) inclusive (16 calendar days). Its color is violet.
Season 5: Lent (Quadragesima)
This season, also called "Quadraegesima," meaning "Forty," is a somber, penitential Season that recalls Christ's 40 days in the desert, prefigured by the Israelites' wandering in the desert for 40 years.

"Passiontide" is the last two weeks of Lent, from Passion Sunday (the 5th Sunday of Lent) to the day before Palm Sunday. The second week of Passiontide is called "Holy Week." The last three days of Holy Week -- i.e., Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday -- are called the Sacred Triduum.

Lent lasts 40 days (but temporally includes six Sundays which aren't counted as "Lent" because Sundays are always about the Resurrection and are joyous), from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter, with the last three days -- the Sacred Triduum -- being treated separately liturgically speaking (46 calendar days).
Its color is violet.
Season 6: Paschaltide (Eastertide)
The joyous, victorious Easter season lasts from the Easter Vigil to the day before Trinity Sunday (56 calendar days, not counting Easter Vigil). Its color is white or gold.
Season 7: Time After Pentecost
This Season's focus is the Holy Spirit in the Millennium, the Church Age that we now live in, and Christ's Reign as King of Kings -- the time between the Age of the Apostles and the Age to Come. This season lasts from Trinity Sunday to the day before Advent Sunday (per the calendar, its length varies). Its color is green.

"Overlaid" on this grid of Seasons are two sets of dates: the Proper of Saints (also called the "Sanctoral cycle") and the Proper of Seasons (also called the "Temporal cycle"). The Proper of Saints are Feast Days which are not movable, that is, they fall on the same date each year. The Proper of Seasons are those Sundays and other Feasts of the year, whose dates of celebration depend on the dates of Easter Sunday and Advent Sunday and are, therefore, movable (they change each year).

In other words, to imagine the liturgical year:

  • Imagine a regular, standard, everyday calendar
  • Mentally overlay on that the Proper of the Saints, filling in each day of the regular calendar with the names of the Feasts for each day, the dates of which don't change -- e.g., January 21 will always be the Feast of St. Agnes, February 3 will always be the Feast of St. Blaise, etc.
  • Then determine the dates of the Proper of Seasons and overlay that on top of the Proper of Saints.

To determine the dates of the Proper of Seasons:

  • Mark the Season of Easter:
    First, we determine the date of Easter, which will be the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21 (even if the full moon on or after March 21 falls on a Sunday, go to the Sunday after). The Vigil of this Feast marks the beginning of Eastertide.
  • Mark the Season of Time after Pentecost:
    Counting Easter as "one," count 9 Sundays forward from Easter and mark that Sunday as the beginning of Time After Pentecost. A Sunday of this Season is referred to as "(First, Second, Third, etc). Sunday after Pentecost."
  • Mark the Season of Septuagesima:
    Counting Easter as "one," count 10 Sundays back from Easter and mark that day as the beginning of Septuagesima. The three Sundays of this Season are referred to, respectively, as Septuagesima Sunday, Sexagesima Sunday, and Quinquagesima Sunday.
  • Mark the Season of Lent:
    Counting Septuagesima Sunday as "one," count 3 Sundays forward from Septuagesima Sunday, then go to the following Wednesday and mark that Wednesday as "Ash Wednesday," the beginning of Lent. A Sunday in this Season is referred to as "(First, Second, Third, etc). Sunday of Lent."
  • Mark the Season of Advent:
    Then, starting with the date of Christmas (always December 25), we count back 4 Sundays to mark Advent Sunday (if Christmas is a Sunday, don't count it; count back 4 entire Sundays so that there are 4 Sundays in Advent). Another way to do this is to simply mark the Sunday closest to St. Andrew's Day (30 November). This date marks the beginning of Advent. A Sunday in this Season is referred to as "(First, Second, Third, etc.) Sunday of Advent."
  • Mark the Season of Christmas:
    Mark the Vigil of December 25 as the beginning of Christmastide
  • Mark the Season of Time after Epiphany:
    Mark January 14 as the beginning of Time After Epiphany. A Sunday of this Season is referred to as "(Second, Third, etc.) Sunday after Epiphany." Note, the first Sunday of this Season is the "Second Sunday after Epiphany," the "after Epiphany" referring to the Feast of the Epiphany, not to the Season.

Then refer to the Temporal Cycle page to fill in any movable Feasts whose dates depend on the date of Easter or Advent Sunday as determined above. The only things left to do are: 

  • to mark the "Octaves":
    Octaves are 8-day periods of observance, beginning with the Feast day itself. Not all Feasts have "Octaves"; only the most important ones do. So, starting with the Feast Day itself, counting it as "one," mark 8 days of the following Feasts as "Octaves": Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Then mark the octave before Christmas Eve as "The Golden Nights."
  • to mark Ember Days and Rogation Days:
    • the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) are the days of Advent Embertide
    • the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday of Lent are known as Lenten Embertide
    • the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost Sunday make up Whit Embertide
    • the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14 September). Note that these Ember Days must come a full week after the Holy Cross Day.
    • Mark the Major Rogation on April 25, and the Minor Rogation on the three days -- Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday -- before Ascension Thursday
  • to mark your cathedral's patronal Feast:
    Mark the Feast of the patron Saint of your diocese's cathedral (e.g., if your cathedral is named "SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral," the priests of your diocese will celebrate 29 June, the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, as a first class Feast)

Now, each of the Sundays of a Season has its own "Propers" -- prayers that are specific to that day in the liturgy (the Divine Office and the Mass). Each of the Feasts in the Proper of Saints will also have its own Propers. So, because the Feasts in the Proper of Saints and the Proper of the Seasons can sometime overlap with two Feasts falling on the same day, all Feasts are ranked according to their importance. The higher ranking Feast will be the one celebrated.

Feasts fall into one of a few categories, in descending order of precedence 2:

  • 1st Class
  • 2nd Class
  • 3rd Class
  • Commemoration  

When two Feasts of the same rank fall on the same day, they are ranked further by whether they relate to (in descending order of preference):

  • Our Lord
  • Our Lady
  • the Holy Angels
  • St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, St. Peter, St. Paul, the other Apostles
  • Martyrs
  • Other Saints

If a day is neither a Sunday nor commemorative of any other Feast, it is called a "feria" (the word means "free day").

Holy Days of Obligation

In addition to each Sunday, there are a handful of other Holy Days of Obligation on which we must attend Mass. These Holy Days differ from country to country:

United States


England & Wales

All Saints
Imm. Conception

All Saints
Imm. Conception

Corpus Christi
SS Peter & Paul
All Saints



Australia & New Zealand

St. Patrick
Corpus Christi
SS Peter & Paul
All Saints
Imm. Conception

St. Joseph
Corpus Christi
SS Peter & Paul
All Saints
Imm. Conception


All Saints


Other days a family might want to mark on their home calendars are:

  • the family's "Name Days"
  • the First Friday and First Saturday of each month for devotions to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart respectively
  • the anniversaries of loved ones' deaths so we remember to have Masses said for them, and light candles, fast, and pray for them

The liturgical year is less confusing than it seems at first, but to follow along, you can do what most Catholics do and just pay attention to your parish bulletins and/or get a Catholic calendar each year. Angelus Press sells a beautiful traditional calendar; their phone number is 1-800-966-7337 (link will open in a new browser window).

For customs and traditions related to the liturgical year, see this page.

1 In the Novus Ordo:  

  • the Seasons of Time After Epiphany and Septuagesima have been replaced by "Ordinary Time";
  • The Season of Time After Pentecost is referred to also as "Ordinary Time";
  • the Feast of the Circumcision is referred to as "Mary, Mother of God";
  • Ascension Thursday is celebrated on "Ascension Sunday" (the 7th Sunday of Easter) in some provinces;
  • the Feast of Christ the King is not celebrated on the last Sunday of October but on the last Sunday in Pentecost, disrupting the relationship between Christ's Kingship and the Triumph of the Saints celebrated on November 1 (All Saints Day), and leading to the idea that Christ doesn't need to be recognized as King now, on earth, by all nations -- but only after the Last Judgment will His Kingship matter;
  • some Saints' Days have been removed from the Calendar (e.g., St. Christopher). Please know that this removal from the liturgical calendar doesn't mean that the Saint in question has been "uncanonized," "de-sainted," or "demoted" as is commonly and frustratingly believed;
  • some Feasts have been added;
  • Ember Days have been done away with in most places;
  • Holy Days of Obligation in the United States are not celebrated if they fall on a Saturday or a Monday;
  • the cycle of readings are not based on a yearly cycle but a three-year cycle Results: the entire rhythm of the liturgical year as it's been known for millennia is disrupted; though a greater quantity of Scripture is covered, it is a lower quality of Scripture in that the new readings tend to omit mention of miracles, demons, Hell, evil, the sin of divorce, anything that offends Jews, etc.

2 In older Missals, the Feasts are ranked thus:

Before mid-1950s 1962 Equivalent
Double of the First Class First Class
Double of the 2nd Class Second Class
Greater Double Second or Third Class
Lesser Double Third Class
Semi-Double Third Class
Simple Commemoration

About the painting at the top of the page

The painting at the top of the page -- painted by Hans Memling in A.D. 1480 -- depicts the life of Christ and, so, depicts the Catholic's journey through the liturgical year, from Advent to Christmas, from Lent to Easter and Pentecost. The scenes include: 1) The Annunciation; 2) the announcement of the Nativity to the shepherds; 3) the Nativity; 4) the Slaughter of the Innocents; 5) the Adoration of the Magi; 6) Christ and Mary Magdalen; 7) the Passion; 8) the Resurrection; 9) the Ascension; 10) the Pentecost; 11) the Dormition and Assumption of Mary. To see the painting enlarged, click here.

Advent And Triumph Of Christ, by Hans Memling, 1480

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; litirugy; litrugicalyear; liturgical; liturgicalyear; liturgy; year
The new Liturgical Year begins with the First Sunday of Advent -- tomorrow!


1 posted on 11/27/2010 1:44:11 PM PST by Salvation
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: All
From Catholic Culture

The Liturgical Year

As the earth cycles annually through its seasons, just so the Church celebrates with quiet, deliberate rhythm the seasons of the liturgical year – always the same, yet ever new and renewing.

At the heart of this yearly cycle is the Sacred Liturgy, especially the celebration of the Mass, which is the source and summit of the Church's life.1

Cycles of Christian Renewal

Annually, through the Proper of Seasons or Temporal Cycle, the Church immerses herself in the whole “mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and birth until the ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord.”2 Further, in the Proper of Saints or Sanctoral Cycle, she honors with special love Mary, the Mother of God, and celebrates the feasts of martyrs and saints who are already in possession of eternal salvation.

Through her official public worship the Church recalls and celebrates these mysteries, dispensing to her members the treasure of Christ’s merits for their sanctification.3 This “universal call to holiness”, our sanctification, is the will of God for each of us who have by Baptism been grafted onto the Vine that is Christ and his Mystical Body.4 It is God who accomplishes the work of our sanctification through the liturgy, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Personal Holiness and the Liturgy

The Mass admits of limitless levels and layers of understanding. A richness of outward signs points to inward realities of grace; sensible symbols become gateways to the mystical realm. The Church wisely uses externals – words, gestures, and material things we can see, hear and smell – to surround the sacred mysteries that will sanctify her children.

With urgency, therefore, the Magisterium encourages us to participate fully and actively in the liturgical sacrifice: by coming to it with proper dispositions; by offering our lives with the sacrifice of Christ our High priest; by growing in our knowledge and appreciation of the Mass; and by leading our children, through instruction and example, to a deeper understanding and love of the faith and the liturgy.5

Your Domestic Church

But how are we to draw life from the Eucharistic sacrifice as water from a limitless spring? How can we make make participation in the sacred liturgy bear fruit in our homes and daily lives?

Within the Catholic home – the domestic church – we may make use of pious practices, objects and various traditions to join with the Church in living the liturgical year. By making use of customs, traditions, and devotional practices, parents, as first teachers of their children, will be building up the “little kingdom of heaven” that is their home. Ideally, this will culminate in the celebration of the liturgy, for every practice and custom that is not oriented towards the liturgy will be hollow and fail to produce worthy fruit.6

1. Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium #10 “Nevertheless, the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”

2. Vatican II Sacrosanctum Concilium #102

3. Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #102 “ Recalling thus the mysteries of Redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present at all times, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold of them and become filled with saving grace."

4. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #39 “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’(1 Thes 4:3; Eph 1:4).”

5. Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #14, “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “as chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” ( Pet. 2:9) , is their right and duty by reason of their Baptism.

6. Extract from the address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Plenary Meeting of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, p. 13, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy; “…the Liturgy is the center of the Church’s life and cannot be substituted by, or placed on a par with any other form of religious expression. Moreover, it is important to reaffirm that popular religiosity, even if not always evident, naturally culminates in the celebration of the Liturgy towards which it should ideally be oriented.”

2 posted on 11/27/2010 1:46:51 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...

New liturgical year ping!

3 posted on 11/27/2010 1:48:54 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: All
The Liturgical Year [Catholic Caucus]
Liturgical Year
4 posted on 11/27/2010 1:59:55 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Salvation


in what church???

in the Catholic Church on Jan. 1st we celebrate: Mary, Mother of God

5 posted on 11/27/2010 5:29:55 PM PST by Coleus (Abortion, Euthanasia & FOCA - - don't Obama and the Democrats just kill ya!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Coleus

In what Benedict XVI calls the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, which uses the 1962 liturgy (Latin) and calendar, Jan. 1 is the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord. As I recall, in the post-Vatican II (Ordinary) form, the Gospel reading for the Feast of Mary the Mother of God is the same as that for the Circumcision.

Personally, I attend Mass in both forms, depending on the day. I do like that celebrating the Circumcision emphasizes 1) continuity with and fulfillment of the Jewish law; 2) Christ as God-become-man, literally; 3) the importance of consecrating the body, as well as the spirit, to the service of God.

All three things are crucial in our times, and are tremendous signs of contradiction against secularism and modernism. For example, airy-fairy, modernist spirituality of the sort you'll hear at Catholic chapels in many American colleges "swallows the camel" of abortion by supposing that we can obey God and be charitable in our thoughts, while defiling God's law and killing our fellow man with our bodies.

6 posted on 11/27/2010 6:05:20 PM PST by SamuraiScot
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: SamuraiScot

Colors of the Liturgical Year

 Green - Ordinary Time

Violet - Advent & Lent, Mass for Life, Funerals (optional)

 Red - Passion, Holy Spirit, Martyrs, Pentecost, Confirmation

 White - Easter & Christmas, Feasts of Our Lord & non-martyrs, Funerals (opt.) (o

Rose - 3rd Sunday of Advent and 4th Sunday of Lent (optional)

 Black - Funerals (optional) Masses for the Dead and All Souls (optional)

7 posted on 11/28/2010 1:57:56 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson