Seasons of the Church
The Episcopal Church follows a seasonal calendar beginning with Advent four Sundays before Christmas. To read more about the church calendar find links to download one, click here to go to the Building Faith website.
The Episcopal Church also follows a "lectionary" which means that the passages read from the Bible each Sunday are set ahead of time and are read in every Episcopal Church. Many classroom base their teachings on the passages read, so we've created some calendars to help you find the passages and find the teaching lessons that go along with them.
Click here for the Liturgical Calendar website from "The Lectionary Page". It lists the reading for Sundays and other feast days.
What is the Seasonal Church?
distinguishing mark of “liturgical Churches” (chiefly Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican or Episcopal, and Lutheran) is their observance of a Church Calendar, ordered in annual Seasons. In recent times, other Christian bodies have adopted a similiar calendar.
The cycle of the Seasons (Advent through Pentecost) is intended to highlight the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. It also calls to mind the continuing work of the Church as a people empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work of ministry in the world. The word “liturgy” itself means “the work of the people.”
The Church Year begins with Advent. The word comes from the Latin meaning coming or arrival. It is a four-week period of waiting and preparing for the birth of Jesus the Messiah, and for his coming again at the end of time. The season of Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, God among us in the flesh. It lasts for twelve days.
The Feast of the Epiphany comes twelve days after Christmas Day. It is a Greek word meaning “appearance” and takes place on January 6. It celebrates the appearance of Jesus to the Gentiles, especially the Wise Men, and proclaims him to the world. The Season of Epiphany continues until Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and penitence that is forty days before Easter, not including Sundays, and marks the beginning of Lent. The name comes from the tradition of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshipers in the sign of the cross. The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon term “lencten,” referring to the lengthening of days in springtime. It is a period of fasting and preparation for the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent ends with Holy Week. The days preceding the death of Jesus.
Easter Day is the most important festival of the Church, when the Church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Churches light the Paschal candle and once more acclaim “Alleluia.” Forty days later the Church observes Ascension Day when Jesus was taken up into heaven and returned to his heavenly throne.
The Day of Pentecost recalls the day when God sent the Holy Spirit in tongues of flame that descended above the heads of Jesus’ followers. Trinity Sunday falls a week later and is the only day in the church calendar that commemorates a basic belief (a doctrine) and not a person.
Following Trinity Sunday, the Church enters the Season After Pentecost which leads again to Advent and the beginning of a new Church Year.
(From the Episcopal Children's Curriculum Unit IV. The Church in the Prayer Book—Session 7 Chalice Year Primary—Copyright © 2009 Virginia Theological Seminary IV-35)
What is Advent?
Advent begins the Christian year and comes from the Latin adventus, meaning coming or arrival. These four weeks are a time of waiting, love, and hope when the Church prepares for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ child born in Bethlehem, and makes ready for his second coming at the end of time. The collects for the Sundays in Advent echo the Gospel readings and focus on preparation, expectation, and on the power of the light of Christ in contrast to the long hours of darkness at this time of year.
What is Christmas?
The season of Christmas celebrates the Incarnation of Christ, when the Son of God became flesh, in the 12 days from Christmas Day to the Epiphany. The dates of this season, unlike Easter, are fixed. Christmas owes its origin to popular Gentile feasts that were supplanted by the Church. These feasts are based on the solar year, unlike Passover and Easter that depend on the lunar calendar.
The Christian year, therefore, parallels the actual history of the spread of Christianity, first in the preaching of the gospel to the Jews, then among the Gentiles. The seasons of the year are a reminder that the Christian faith has brought together all people, in which “there is no longer Jew and Greek, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galations 3:28)
What is Epiphany?
The name Epiphany is inspired by the Greek work “epipahnos” meaning revelation or showing forth. The Sundays after the Epiphany highlight Christ's revelation as the Savior of the world, and Scripture readings from the lectionary for this season proclaim Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord for Jews an Gentiles.
The season opens with Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) marking the journey of the Magi to Bethlehemto honor the Christ child. The last Sunday after Epiphany celebrates Jesus' transfiguration on the mountain top where he encounters Moses and Elijah and hears the voice of God. During the season after Epiphany, Christians are called to grow in their understanding of the Baptismal Covenant while promising to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” (BCP, p. 305)
What is Lent?
Lent comes from the AngloSaxon word lencten referring to the lengthening of days in springtime. It is observed in the spring as a time to prepare for rebirth. The season was first named and observed in the fourth century as a period of discipline and fasting for people preparing to be baptized on Easter. Over time, it has grown into a season of penitence and fasting in making ready the observation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
What is Easter?
Easter is the principal feast day in the Church calendar. Christ died on the cross for the sins of all so that each person might have new life. Easter comes after a long season of soulful preparation. Eastertide lasts from Easter Sunday to Pentecost and is, in essence, an intense extension of the Passover feast. In the fourth and fifth centuries when most baptisms occurred on Easter, Easter week was a time of instruction about Christian life and ways for the newly baptized.
Gospel readings during Easter focus on Christ's post-Resurrection appearances to his followers. These are important examples of how Christ, though transformed, is still connected with us through his human form and yet one with God through his miraculous ascension. The joy of the season is echoed in Alleluia, a word that is ever-present in Easter worship and hymns.
What is Pentecost?
The season after Pentecost follows the Day of Pentecost and is the longest season of the Church year, lasting until Advent. The Day of Pentecost falls fifty days after Easter and recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples after Jesus' resurrection. For a period of several months the Church hears Scripture texts that reveal the ministry of Jesus and the continuing work of all Christians on his behalf. During these weeks God's people are challenged to grow in their understanding of discipleship and the Church's mission to restore all people to unity with God” (BCP, p. 855).
While both seasons emphasize growing in faith, there are distinct differences between Epiphany and Pentecost. Epiphany concentrates on examples of God's self-revelation to people and emphasizes the unique revelation of Jesus Christ as Immanuel, or God with us, for the entire world. Pentecost stresses growth as a follower of Jesus in the “knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).