Advent, from the Latin adventus, meaning “to come,” is the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of the Savior and the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Advent is a season that calls us to live in that place of tension between “the already” (Christ has come) and “the not yet,” (Christ is coming again) as we ponder all the uncertainties and the promise of our own lives. During each of the four weeks of Advent, we light another candle in the Advent Wreath. Each candle progressively adds more light until we reach Christmas, when the Light of the World is born and the Christ candle in the center is lighted. The liturgical color of Advent is purple, a color associated with deep contemplation.
You’ve heard of “The Twelve Days of Christmas?” Well, the season of Christmas, in the Anglican tradition, spans from Christmas Day (actually, Christmas Eve) to the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th. How great is that, to celebrate one of the greatest feast days for almost 2 weeks? The liturgical color we use to mark the birth of our Lord is white, the color we use for all of our highest holy days, including Easter, baptisms, and funerals (the passage into eternal life).
Epiphany begins on the twelfth day after Christmas and continues until Ash Wednesday. In this “Season of Light” we revel in the scriptures that illuminate Jesus as Messiah, Emmanuel, Son of God. And, we focus upon the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. In Greek, epiphany means “showing,” and the season commemorates three events—the baptism of Jesus (Mk. 1), the visit of the Wise Men to Bethlehem (Mt. 2), and the miracle at Cana (Jn. 2). In his baptism Jesus' sonship to God was manifested to the world; in the visit of the Wise Men he was manifested as king to the Gentiles; and at the marriage feast at Cana his power to perform miracles (a divine prerogative) was shown. The liturgical color of Epiphany is traditionally green. At Saint Luke’s, we have special teal vestments and altar hangings that are adorned with symbols of holy light.
Lent is the Christian season that spans Ash Wednesday to Holy Week. This historical period of preparation for baptism in the ancient church is intended as a time of special devotion – a season when we are reminded of our mortality and encouraged to seek forgiveness – to pardon and to be pardoned, to be restored into fellowship. Pottery patens and chalices replace gold and silver on the altar. Colorful altar flowers are exchanged for simple greens. We eliminate Alleluias from our liturgy. The Gloria is replaced by the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One). Purple vestments and altar hangings signal a time of reflection and penitence. Observance of Lent makes ever more glorious the arrival of The Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Throughout the Great Fifty Days of Easter we celebrate our forgiveness and blessing in the risen Christ, so we omit the general confession from the liturgy. Our worship posture also shifts in this season. Even as Christ was raised up, we stand up (as able) for both the Prayers of the People and the Great Thanksgiving at the Eucharist. Since when? The tradition of standing rather than kneeling during the Paschal season dates back to the First Council at Nicaea summoned by Emperor Constantine in the year 325. We also welcome back the Alleluias that were removed from our liturgy during the season of Lent. The liturgical color for the Easter season is white.
The season of Pentecost begins with a great feast day marking the arrival of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Apostles fifty days after the discovery of the empty tomb. The story is found in Acts 2, and the liturgical color for the day is Red, commemorating the tongues of fire that descended upon the apostles. Pentecost is the Greek word for fiftieth, and the feast of Pentecost is an extension of the ancient Jewish festival called the feast of weeks or "feast of first fruits" that was celebrated fifty days after Passover. The following Season of Pentecost lasts eleven to sixteen weeks, depending on the date of Easter. It is the Season is which Christians develop their relationship with the risen Christ, and the liturgical color is green.