Seasons of the Church Year
The seasons of the church year are designed to bring a particular focus to our patterns of worship and spiritual lives, with each season drawing us in to reflection, prayer, and service in the light of God’s revelation shown through one aspect or another of Jesus’ life and work. The Anglican Communion and the other historic churches shape their pattern of worship around this sequence of observances, as we seek to “hear what the Spirit is saying” through the reading of scripture, songs and hymns, and the liturgies of the church. This effectively draws the whole Church together as both universal and particular, making worship a constantly moving panorama of the riches of our faith.
The liturgical seasons are marked by the use of colour to emphasize these seasons and special days:
Advent (Blue or Violet): Reflection upon and anticipation of both the beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega of God amongst us in Christ, as we live in the in-between times of what God has done and of what God will yet do in our lives and world. Advent anticipates the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas, but also looks for the patterns of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to all the world, as seen through the figures especially of Mary the Mother of Jesus, and John the Baptist.
Christmastide (White or Gold): The celebration of Christ’s birth and of the Incarnation: God-With-Us. The humility of the Divine in the vulnerability of the Human.
Epiphanytide (Green): A season to follow the light of Christ going out into the world.
Lent (Violet): 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading toward Easter. The number ’40’ is a biblical symbol for ‘a time of significance’. In the western hemisphere this fits with the ‘lengthening days’ of spring, and invites Christians into deliberate preparation and reflection through acts of generosity to those in need, prayer, and study, for the sake of deepening the spiritual life in preparation for the focus in Holy Week on the Way of the Cross.
Holy Week to Easter (Violet to Red to White): Holy Week begins with Palm/Passion Sunday and moves through Maundy Thursday with Christ’s mandate to “love one another as I have loved you”, Good Friday’s meditation upon Christ’s love “even unto death”, the fallow time of Holy Saturday, and finally the Joy of Easter in the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ as the sign that “all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (St. Julian of Norwich).
Pentecost (Red): The celebration of the gift of God the Holy Spirit, who empowers the Church together, and each of us distinctly, to live in a way that carries the “fruit of the Spirit” — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-26)
Ordinary Time (Green): the season following Pentecost Sunday in which we simply live in the regular rhythms of life, work, and play, in the Faith, Hope, and Love God brings amongst us from day to day and week to week, continuing to listen for God’s word and wisdom in scripture, and receiving ‘bread for the journey’ with faith and thanksgiving.
These and other signposts along the way serve to structure our spiritual practices throughout the year, and to focus our attention on God’s living presence in Christ at all times.