The Church Seasons:

 

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Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

 

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Church Season Colors:

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."

Many Protestant Churches observe the historic Church Seasons, while  many others do not.  In the Western Church, the Seasons are the same, whether one is Protestant or Roman Catholic, however, Eastern Orthodox observance varies somewhat, emphasizing more periods of fasting

The New Testament is quite clear, in the freedom that we have in Christ, that we are nowhere required to observe these (or any) Church Seasons, or indeed any specific days or fasts, but are also at same time quite free to do so if we would like to.

What the Lord does require of us, is that regardless of whether we observe or do not observe these things, we are to do all that we do "unto the Lord".  And we are also taught by God's Word not to "judge" other Christians in their practice of these matters.

"Let not him that eats despise him that eats not; and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him.  Who are you that judge another man's servant? to his own master he stands or falls.  Yes, he shall be upheld: for God is able to make him stand.

One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike.  Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  He that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it.  

He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks."  -Romans 14:3-6   

The Church Seasons follow the life of Jesus Christ, beginning with the preparation for his birth in Advent, the birth of the Christ child at Christmas, the journey of discipleship in Epiphany as the Wise Men follow the star to Bethlehem, the preparation for remembrance of Jesus' passion and death during Lent and Holy Week, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead at Easter, and his ascension into Heaven. 

After his ascension, we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and build our relationship with the risen Christ during this season.  This is a also good time to review what we are both individually, and as a Church, doing to fulfill Christ's "Great Commission" to go into all the world and preach His Gospel (Good News) of Salvation.

We are back to Advent and while we begin preparing again for the coming Nativity celebration, we remember that we also look forward to another, coming advent of Christ, His Second Coming to judge the world.  Let us use this Season of Advent, as Christians before us have done throughout history, to prepare our hearts and lives for Him.  

"Even so, come, Lord Jesus."  -Revelation 22:20             ____________________________________

The historic Church Calendar observes Six special Seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

  Advent: The First and Second Coming of Christ

The church year begins for Roman Catholics and many Protestants with the Season of the Advent of Our Lord, the four weeks of getting ready for the coming birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Christmas Day (the Orthodox Church year begins around Sept. 1st).  Advent is a time of joyful preparation for the wonderful time when the Son of God came to earth to live as a person among regular people.  The color of Advent is officially blue in Lutheran Churches, spreading to other Protestant Churches (historically it has been a royal blue-purple).

In what is referred to as the Western Church (Roman Catholics and Protestants, including Anglicans) observance of Advent Season occurs during the period of the four Sundays before Christmas.  The beginning of Western Advent can therefore fall any time between November 27th and December 3rd.

Celtic Advent (which we here at The Prayer Foundation observe both as to dates, and as a period of fasting) is always November 15 - December 24 (Observance begins at Sunset on November 14).  Dates are the same for Eastern Orthodox Advent (Nativity Fast).

Christmas: Christ's Gift of Salvation

Christmas Season begins with Christmas Day, December 25, and continues until Epiphany.  Christmas is a season of thankfulness for Christ's First Coming to provide Salvation.  The color of Christmas is White (Note: Gold or Ivory have historically been acceptable alternatives for White, whenever White is called for).

Epiphany: Wise men Still Worship Him 

Epiphany means "manifestation" and is the official Season for proclaiming the identity of Christ.  Epiphany begins at sundown the day before January 6, the day commemorating the Wise Men  coming to Bethlehem to worship the Baby Jesus (in the Western Church -- the Eastern Church commemorates our Lord's baptism on January 6).  Epiphany is a season of worship, as the whole world follows the Wise Men to find and honor Jesus.  The color of Epiphany is green.  

Today we tend to celebrate our Holidays (Holy Days) as individual days, and so we like to celebrate the Magi as part of the Christmas Nativity---why single them out again in early January?  

In previous times (and still in some countries, such as Mexico) it was "the twelve days of Christmas" (like the Song) and then the Wise Men "arrive", and while they are "here" it is the Epiphany Season.  

  • The Baptism of Our Lord, on the Sunday after the Epiphany

  • The Presentation.

  • The Last Sunday after the Epiphany is Transfiguration Day.

Lent: Take Up Your Cross and Deny Yourself

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and is a season of self-examination and quiet contemplation of the mysteries of God.  Christians prepare for the death of their sins and worldly selves with the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday as they follow his footsteps through Holy Week

The color of Lent is purple, symbolizing royalty (to Christians, that of Christ), fasting (Christ's 40 days of fasting in the wilderness before beginning His ministry) and repentance (ours).  In recent times red-purple has sometimes been used to distinguish Lent from the royal blue-purple of Advent (Blue is used by Lutherans during Advent, and its use at that Season has been adopted by some other Protestant Churches).  Royal blue-purple has historically been used in Advent.  Red is sometimes used during Holy Week (and on the Day of Pentecost).

Easter: Celebrating Christ's Resurrection

The Season of Easter begins with Easter Sunday.  It is a glorious celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  A season of praise, as Christians glorify the risen Christ.  The color of Easter is white, the color of the Resurrection.

Pentecost: The Gift of the Holy Spirit for Evangelism

The Season of Pentecost begins with the Feast of the Pentecost, fifty days after Easter.  Because Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven...and the birth of the Church, Pentecost is a season of evangelism and outreach, as Christians celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The color used during Pentecost is Green in some Churches, but historically has been Red, because Red is the symbol for the Holy Spirit, being the color of fire. 1

"and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them."  -Acts 2:3  

  Photo: of our actual Celtic Cross Shield (TM).  The Prayer Foundation Logo and Trademark.  Phot Copyright 2007 S.G.P.  All Rights Reserved. ____________________________________________________________________

1 Main Source: "Colors I See in Church" by Julie Stiegemeyer. ____________________________________________________________

Background Information: 

The central event of Christianity is the Resurrection.  An annual remembrance of Christ’s passion is therefore the central event of the Christian year, so the observance of Easter was the first event to be placed in the Church calendar.

The Church Calendar is organized around two major centers of sacred time: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany; and Lent (including Holy Week), Easter, and Pentecost.  

The rest of the year following Pentecost is known as Ordinary Time, from the word "ordinal," which simply means counted time (Epiphany is an exception---it is also considered to be "Ordinary Time"---see explanation in the column to the right, under "Church Season Colors"). ____________________________________________________________________

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(Except Text by Julie Stiegmeyer) Photo of lone monk, and Layout, and all additional Comments Texts Copyright © 2007 S.G.P. All rights reserved. 

  Photo of Skellig Michael Copyright © Irish Tourist Board. 

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The "colors" mentioned refer to those used for Church "paraments": the cloths used for the altar-cloth, pulpit cloth, Bible page marker, minister's stoll (the scarf-like cloth that may be worn, symbolizing that the officiating minister is a servant of the congregation), and any other of the decorative cloth pieces used in many Churches to signify the current Church Season.  

White is also used  for weddings and funerals (white is the color symbol for the Resurrection).

Red (the color of fire) is the color symbol for the Holy Spirit.  

Red is used by some Churches for Holy Week and for The Day of Pentecost

Green (the color of new growth and life) is the color symbol  for Ordinary time (from after Pentecost to the beginning of Advent).

But "Green" is also the color used for Epiphany.  Why is that?  

Although Epiphany is considered a "Church Season", it is also considered part of "Ordinary Time" because the Sundays in it are not named, as they are in all of the other Church Seasons. 

Gold or Ivory have historically been acceptable alternatives for White, whenever White is called for. 

In the Roman Catholic Church, Rose is an alternative color for the fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday) and the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday).

Some Christians use Blue-Purple for Advent and Red-Purple for Lent (or vice-versa) to distinguish these Church Seasons more from each other.  

Lutherans use Blue for Advent.  

Roman Catholics reserve Blue to refer to the Virgin Mary.

In our monastery Chapel we ourselves use "paraments" that are Green, Blue-Purple, Red, and White, each during the time of the appropriate Church Season.

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Some Differences: (of observation between the Eastern Orthodox, Ancient Celtic, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Communions).

Eastern Orthodox also use different colors during the various Church Seasons, particularly for the Priest's Robes, but they do not specify particular colors.  

Rather, they require that the colors used in a particular season must be "dark" or "light" colors.

Advent:

Eastern Orthodox do not commonly use the term, "Advent."  They are more likely to use any of the following terms: Nativity Fast, Winter Fast, Christmas Lent, or St. Philip's Fast

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning arrival (the exact translation for the New Testament Greek word, parousia, referring to the First and Second comings of Christ).  

The term "Advent" did not come into use until the Latin translation of the Bible by Jerome (The Latin Vulgate), which the Eastern Orthodox Churches never used, largely remaining Greek-speaking.

  Eastern Orthodox observe a forty day pre-Christmas Fast, somewhat lighter than the Fast before Easter.  

Eastern Orthodox call Easter "Pascha" (Greek for "Passover").  

They refer to the Easter Lenten fast as the "Great Lent".  

The Celtic Church, in the case of Advent also observed it as a forty day pre-Christmas Fast.

Originally the Roman Catholic Church celebrated Advent in the same manner as the Eastern Orthodox and Celtic Churches, but later dropped the fast and shortened the Season to the four weeks before Christmas.  

This was retained by the Protestant Churches that have observed Advent with the other historic Church Seasons.

Lent:

In the Case of Lent, the Celtic Church observance differed from that of the Eastern Churches

The Celtic observance was later adopted by the Roman Catholic Church, and then retained by the Protestant Churches who have chosen to observe the Lenten Season. ______________