Liturgical Time

Pentecost Sunday | June 8, 2014
A Community of Memory and Hope

Christians are a people whose year doesn’t simply map onto the calendar of the dominant culture. The practices of Christian worship throughout the year help us participate in God’s community and story. Liturgical seasons root the community’s worship in the rhythms of the whole Gospel: God’s acts of creation, humanity’s fall, God’s covenants with Israel, the coming of Christ to redeem the world, the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth.

"Being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; Rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly— who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love." - James KA Smith

You can’t grasp the Christian worldview just through words or thoughts, you have to experience it. When we participate in holy communion and eat the body of Christ, broken for the renewal of a broken world; When we go under the waters of baptism, dying to our old self and raising to new life in Christ; When we confess our sins together and receive the assurance of our forgiveness and value; When we sing and laugh and cry and pray and bless and lament we are practicing what it means to live in the Kingdom of God. 

Liturgy is about practicing and rehearsing what it means to be the people of God, who desire the kingdom of God.

The historical church calendar is a great example of this. If we are going to take our citizenship in heaven seriously, we must reshape our minds by marking our calendars differently. The church calendar aims at nothing less than to change the way we experience time and perceive reality.

For the church, the annual rhythm is not winter, spring, summer, and fall, but Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

The church calendar is not about the cycle of life—school or sports or harvest time—but about the movement of history toward a glorious goal. 

The church is a community of memory and hope

We celebrate the past events of salvation history not merely to remember them, but to note how they infuse the present with meaning and power, and point us to our future hope. It is about orienting our lives around what God has been doing throughout history and being sent forth into the world to help write the next chapter of that story.

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The church year begins not on January 1 but with the season of Advent (from the Latin adventus, “arrival” or “coming”). The season begins four Sundays before Christmas and concludes on Christmas Eve. The prayers and readings prepare us for the coming Christ. 

Christmastide begins the evening of Christmas Eve (December 24) and concludes on the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6). “The Twelve Days of Christmas” 

Epiphany (from the Greek word for “appearance” or “manifestation”) celebrates the revelation of God in human form, in the person of Jesus. The season of Epiphany lasts until Ash Wednesday, when the season of Lent begins. 

Lent is a major season for fasting and repentance. The prayers and readings prepare us for Easter. There are forty days of Lent, counting from Ash Wednesday through Palm Sunday, excluding Sundays. 

Holy Week includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday (days to remember the suffering and death of Christ), and culminates with the Easter Vigil, which celebrates Christ’s resurrection. 

The season of Eastertide begins on Easter and extends to Pentecost. 

Pentecost is celebrated the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus. It lasts until a new church year begins with another Advent (this period is also called Ordinary Time in some traditions). 

NOTE: Since the date of Christmas is fixed on December 25, the four weeks of Advent are fixed. All the other seasons orbit around Easter (movable feasts).