As a south Florida resident for over thirty-five years, the change of seasons passes me by with little notice. When I lived in New York my favorite season was fall. The leaves, the crisp air, apple picking and pumpkin patches in actual fields. I think being aware of the seasons made the Church seasons less important to me. Now, the Church seasons mark time for me as the natural seasons did when I was younger.
What are the Church seasons?
We have five liturgical seasons or times; Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, the Triduum (a part of Lent, but different in tone), and Easter. We begin our Church year at Advent. Advent continues until Christmas, which leads us into Ordinary time on the first Sunday after January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. We stay in Ordinary time until Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent ends on the Wednesday before Holy Thursday. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday is called the Triduum, and then we enter into the Easter season, which begins on Easter Sunday and ends on the Feast of Pentecost. After Pentecost, which is fifty days after Easter, we are in Ordinary time again until Advent. These feast days (except Christmas) are on different dates each year, depending on when Advent and Lent begin.
Signs of Change
Just as in the seasons of nature, there are different signs of change so too in the Church. For example, each season has its own liturgical color. This means that during each specific season that is the color of vestments, altar coverings, and banners used. Ordinary is green, Advent and Lent are purple, while Christmas and Easter are gold or white. Red is used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost and Confirmation as long as it does not take place during Advent or Lent. The color rose is seen occasionally, on the third Sunday of Advent and the fourth Sunday of Lent; though some priests choose not to wear vestments in that color.
The readings we hear at Mass also have a different focus depending on the season. During Ordinary time we hear about Jesus’ public ministry. Advent is a time of preparation for Jesus’ birth, while during Lent we focus on walking with Jesus in his final weeks leading up to his passion, death, and resurrection. Christmas tells us the story of the Holy Family, while in the Easter season, we read from Acts and focus on the early Church.
In our own private prayer life, we can also follow the seasons. Ordinary time is a good time to focus on learning about Jesus or new ways to pray. Advent is spent in preparation and anticipation. Lent is six weeks to devote time to prayer, penance, and going deeper into our faith we are ready to suffer and then rejoice with our Lord. Christmas and Easter seasons are times of praising and thanking God and remembering to live as joy-filled, resurrected people.
Visual reminders are also helpful and a family prayer space that reflects the season is always appropriate. Children find it especially meaningful to have advent wreaths, candles, different saint statues, and pictures. If they can help with setting up this space, they will enjoy it even more. A great website to find books and prayer space items is Holy Heros.
Making the Church liturgical seasons a part of your life will make them as real and important to you as the natural seasons. It gives a rhythm and movement to our lives as Catholics and reminds us that our faith life has order; order that is needed in our often chaotic world.
FYI: The dates of our liturgical seasons in 2022-2023 are as follows: Advent, November 27, 2022; Christmas, December 25; Epiphany, January 8, 2023; Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 9, 2023; Ordinary Time, January 10, 2023. Lent (Ash Wednesday) February 22, 2023; Easter, April 9, 2023; Pentecost, May 28, 2023; Ordinary Time May 29, 2023.