The End and Beginning of the Liturgical Year

The Liturgical Year. The Year starts with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas. Christmas starts on December 25 and lasts for 12 days. Epiphany starts on January 6 and lasts until Fat Tuesday, the night before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter making Epiphany a variable length. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter (46 days). Easter is always held on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. Easter season starts on Easter and lasts 50 days until Pentecost when the church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Following Easter season we have Ordinary Time, which lasts until Christ the King Sunday and the liturgical year ends.

The Liturgical Year. The Year starts with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas. Christmas starts on December 25 and lasts for 12 days. Epiphany starts on January 6 and lasts until Fat Tuesday, the night before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter making Epiphany a variable length. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter (46 days). Easter is always held on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. Easter season starts on Easter and lasts 50 days until Pentecost when the church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Following Easter season we have Ordinary Time, which lasts until Christ the King Sunday and the liturgical year ends.

During Christ the King Sunday time is often set aside during the church service to recognize passage through the liturgical year and acknowledging Jesus as the Sovereign Lord of all creation.  

Twice each year Jesus is recognized as the leading figure in Christianity.  During Easter we celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death and the gift of our eternal salvation.  At the end of the liturgical season we celebrate Christ, wearing the robes of authority.  He takes his place on the throne beside the Father Creator and acts as an agent for all who come before God.

On the first Sunday of Advent, many churches start the service with readings or scripture capturing the anticipation the season holds as Jesus’ birthday nears and lite a candle in the Advent Wreath,

The Advent Wreath is a circle of evergreens signifying continuous life and symbolizing God who has no beginning or end.  Of the four candles along the circumference of the wreath, three are purple, the liturgical color for prayer, and the fourth is pink symbolizing joy.  The fifth candle in the center of the wreath is white symbolizing the Christ Child and is lit on Christmas Day. 

The Advent Candles:

First Candle:  The Prophet’s Candle is the first Advent Candle lit.  Throughout the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elijah have told the people that there is one coming who will reconcile God with God’s people.

Second Candle:  The candle of Faith is lit on the second Sunday of Advent.  It is also called Bethlehem’s Candle as the prophet Micah told how Jesus would be born in the City of David, Bethlehem.

Third Candle:  The Shepherd’s Candle, often pink, and representing Joy is lit third.  It heralds back to the angels appearing to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth, bringing tidings of great joy.

The Fourth Candle:  Representing Peace, the fourth candle, called the Angel’s Candle, is lit referring to the angels announcing that Jesus came to bring peace to mankind.

The Final Candle:  Most Advent Wreaths contain one more candle located in the center of the wreath.  Called the Christ’s Candle this candle is lit on Christmas Day (Christmas Eve) and represents light and purity which the Christ Child brought to all mankind.

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