A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain....This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines - they are a way of sowing to the Spirit... By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.
— — Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth

The Church Year*

The Liturgical Calendar divides the year into distinct seasons based on key periods of the Gospel narrative. Each season brings its own unique emphasis to the pattern of our corporate worship and individual lives. This is brought to life through changes to the color of church ornaments (the altar and the priest's garments), the liturgy (order and wording of elements within the service), and spiritual disciplines (such as prayer or fasting).

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Advent | Season of Expectation

The Church Year begins with the season of Advent in late November; more specifically, it is the four weeks preceding Christmas. Advent means "arrival" or "coming" and parallels the beginning of the Gospel narrative. Just as the Hebrews of the Old Testament waited for the promised Messiah. Advent is a time of eager expectation as we reflect on the promise of Christ's birth and is coming return. During this season, the church is adorned in purple to symbolize the royalty of our coming king and the church emphasizes the practice of prayer.

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Christmas | Season of Joy

The Christmas season begins on December 24th -- Christmas Eve -- and lasts until January 6th -- Epiphany or The Feast of the Magi. You have likely heard the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which refers to the twelve days of this season in which our eager expectation is realized in the celebration of the birth of Christ our King. During this season, the church is adorned in white to symbolize Christ's purity and is marked with joyful celebration and feasting.

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Epiphany | Season of Presence

Epiphany is the season immediately following Christmas; it begins on January 6th -- the day of Epiphany -- and lasts until February 2nd. It parallels the Gospel narrative from Christ's birth to the beginning of his ministry on earth and is marked with celebrations of events such as Christ's presentation at the temple, baptism by John, and the wedding feast at Cana. During this season, the church is adorned in white or green and we emphasize Christ's presence made manifest in our lives.

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Lent | Season of Penitence

Lent begins in February with Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter. Lent is a season of solemn reflection and penitent preparation. We reflect on the weight of our sin and prepare our hearts for the celebration of salvation in Christ (reflected in the Easter season). During this season, the church is adorned in purple -- again a reminder of Christ's royalty -- and all other ornaments or decorations are veiled or replaced with simpler versions emphasizing that this is a season of penitence. The congregation is encouraged to participate in spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, reflection, and silence and we remove the word "Alleluia" from our liturgy.

Holy Week | Season of Passion

Holy Week is a time at the end of Lent set aside to remember Christ's passion. A series of Holy Days lead us through the events of the Gospel narrative from: Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, Christ's crucifixion on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Easter morning. It is a time for reflection on Christ's sacrifice for our salvation and is marked with the same colors and practices as Lent.

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Easter | Season of Celebration

The Easter season begins with a celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter morning and lasts until the celebration of Pentecost seven weeks later -- a fifty day period paralleling the 50 days Christ spent on earth after his resurrection. It is a time of celebration for the new life and salvation we find in Christ. During this season, the church is adorned in white symbolizing Christ's purity and our sanctification as believers and is marked with feasting and celebration.

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Pentecost | Season of Mission

Ordinary Time | Season of Work & Rest

The longest season of the Church Year, Ordinary Time, begins with the celebration of Pentecost seven weeks after Easter and lasts until Christ the King Sunday in late November. Beginning with Pentecost -- marking the day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples in Jerusalem -- this season emphasizes the work of Christ's people in bringing his kingdom on earth. During this season, the church is adorned in green symbolizing new life and growth in Christ. The church emphasizes Christ's call to live out the work of his kingdom through evangelism and discipleship as we practice life in community with one another.

*Thank you to Christ the King Anglican Church in Fayetteville, AR for the content on this page.

Liturgy & Church Calendar: posts from the archives

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