As a south Florida resident for over twenty five years the change of seasons passes me by with little notice. This past week I was in New York and Connecticut and I remember how much I loved 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.
The Church seasons mark time for me now just 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 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 remain in Ordinary Time until Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent ends with Holy Week 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 Lent and Advent begin.
What are the colors?
Just as in the seasons of nature there are different signs of change so to 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 Time 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 fourth Sunday of Lent; though some priests choose not to wear vestments in that color.
How do the readings change?
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 readings tell us the story of the Holy Family and in the Easter season we read from Acts and focus on the early Church.
How can I apply this in my life?
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 and Lent are penitential and spent in preparation and anticipation. In the last few years I have decided to return to the tradition of “making room for Jesus” as my sister always said, so during Advent I make some small sacrifices and really focus on the season.
Lent is six weeks to devote time to prayer, penance and going deeper into our faith so 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 which 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.
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 our liturgical seasons change in 2012-2013 are as follows: Advent, December 2; Christmas, December 25; Ordinary Time, January 13, 2013. Lent (Ash Wednesday) February 13, 2013; Easter, March 31, 2013; Ordinary Time May 20, 2013.
Copyright © 2012, Deanna Bartalini