Beginning the Church's liturgical year, Advent (from, "ad-venire" in Latin or "to come to") is the season including the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas.
The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas).
Advent devotions including the Advent wreath, remind us of the meaning of the season. An Advent calendar can help you fully enter in to the season with daily activity, relfections, and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ.
The liturgical colour of Advent is violet or purple and rose or pink on the third week of Advent.
Christmas is one of the most important days of the Church year, second only to Easter itself. It is the feast of the incarnation, the feast of God becoming flesh (the Latin "in carne" means "enfleshment"). It is a uniquely Christian teaching, the Divine choosing to become one of us. Because of this belief, God is not only Transcendent, but also wholly Immanent, Emmanuel (God-with-us). While remaining Transcendent (meaning we must rise above our present condition to reach Him), He is at the same time Immanent (meaning He is with us as we rise toward Him). Every Eucharist is like Christmas where the bread and wine are transformed into His flesh, His Body and Blood, and, in a sense, He is born anew on the altar.
The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us.
The Christmas tree and the Nativity scene are popular symbols of the season and a tradition in many Christian homes and schools. It is also traditional to exchange Christmas gifts with family and friends as a way to honor God the Father's gift of his only son to the world. Having received the gift of Christ, we naturally want to pass that gift along to our loved ones.
The liturgical colour of Christmas is white and gold.
Lent is a favourable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ."-- Pope Francis
During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms, and to sacrifice self-control through fasting. Many know of the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, but we are also called to practice self-discipline and fast in other ways throughout the season. The giving of alms is one way to share God's gifts—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us: "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2446).
In Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics.
The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not just to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ's death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent.
The liturgical colour of Lent is violet or purple.
Sacred Paschal Triduum
The peak 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 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 Lord's Passion
- Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord
The Easter Vigil is the "Mother of All Vigils."Easter Sunday, then, is the greatest of all Sundays, and Easter Time is the most important of all liturgical times. Easter is the celebration of the Lord's resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. There are 50 days of Easter from the first Sunday to Pentecost. It is characterized, above all, by the joy of glorified life and the victory over death, expressed most fully in the great resounding cry of the Christian: Alleluia! All faith flows from faith in the resurrection:"If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, is your faith." (1 Cor 15:14)
The octave of Easter comprises the eight days which stretch from the first to the second Sunday. It is a way of prolonging the joy of the initial day. In a sense, every day of the Octave is like a little Sunday.The word "Easter" comes from Old English, meaning simply the "East." The sun which rises in the East, bringing light, warmth and hope, is a symbol for the Christian of the rising Christ, who is the true Light of the world. The Paschal Candle is a central symbol of this divine light, which is Christ. It is kept near the ambo throughout Easter Time, and lit for all liturgical celebrations.
The liturgical color for Easter is white. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (no. 346) also states: "On more solemn days, festive, that is, more precious, sacred vestments may be used even if not of the color of the day."
Especially during Easter Time, instead of the customary Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place as a reminder of Baptism.
(Adapted from the USCCB)