Church Liturgical Calendar
The seasons of the Church follow one universal liturgical calendar. The order of the Church year is as follows:
Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical calendar. It consists of four (4) Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advenire, the Latin from which Advent is derived, translates "to arrive" or "come to." Advent recalls God's first coming in Christ's birth and looks toward His return at the end of time, while we prepare to celebrate that first coming on Christmas. Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight. The official color for the season of Advent is violet, with the exception of the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), when rose vestments may be worn by the Priest.
In the Catholic Church, Christmas is more than one (1) day. It is a season that begins on Christmas Eve (December 24th), continues through the Feast of the Epiphany and includes the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Christmastide concludes with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. "After the annual celebration of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord, the Church has no more ancient custom than celebrating the memorial of the Nativity of the Lord and of His first manifestations, and this takes place in Christmas Time" (Universal Norms, 32). The official color for the season of Christmas is white or gold.
Ordinary Time I
"Besides the times of the year that have their own distinct character, there remains in the yearly cycle thirty-three (33) or thirty-four (34) weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays. This period is known as Ordinary Time" (Universal Norms, 43). The official color for Ordinary Time is green. This part of Ordinary Time begins after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and continues until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The Gospels read during Ordinary Time rotate through a three-year cycle (Year A for Saint Matthew, Year B for Saint Mark, and Year C for Saint Luke. Saint John's Gospel is read during the Easter Season in all three years). In addition, the daily Mass readings have a two-year cycle during Ordinary Time (Year I is read during odd-numbered years, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, etc. and Year II is read during even-numbered years 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, etc.) These cycles are composed of readings from the Old Testament, Acts of the Apostles, Revelation, or the Epistles (Letters) of Saint Paul.
The forty days of Lent are reminiscent of Jesus' forty days in the desert. Lent is a season of repentance and renewal in solidarity with those preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation to be received at Easter. Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. There are six (6) Sundays in Lent including Palm Sunday. Ash Wednesday during Lent is a day of universal fasting and abstinence. Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence. The official color for the season of Lent is purple, with the exception of the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday), when rose vestments may be worn by the Priest.
Triduum (or Holy Week)
"Holy Week is ordered to the commemoration of Christ's Passion, beginning with His Messianic entrance into Jerusalem" (Universal Norms, 31). The Triduum is the most important three (3) days in the liturgical year. It is also the shortest liturgical season. Holy Thursday (which commemorates the Last Supper), Good Friday (which commemorates Jesus' Crucifixion and Death on the Cross), and Holy Saturday (where the Church pauses to commemorate the Lord's burial). Good Friday during the Triduum is a day of universal fasting and abstinence. This fast should be carried through Holy Saturday when and where possible. In this way, the people of God will receive the joys of the Lord's Resurrection with uplifted and responsive hearts" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 110). The Triduum concludes with the beginning of the Easter at the Vigil which is celebrated after sundown on Holy Saturday evening.
Alleluia ... He is Risen! The Easter Season begins with the celebration of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. Traditionally this is the celebration when new members of the faith receive the Sacraments of Initiation and are welcomed into the Church. The Easter Season celebrates Christ's Resurrection from the dead, His victory over death. Christ's Ascension into heaven is celebrated the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter; however, in some Dioceses throughout the United States, this Solemnity is celebrated on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Eastertide (the Easter Season) concludes at Pentecost (50 days after Easter Sunday), where Jesus sends the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles to spread the Gospel to all nations. The Paschal Candle, a symbol of the presence of the risen Christ among the people of God, remains in the Sanctuary near the Altar or the ambo and is lit for all liturgical celebrations during the season. The official color for the season of Easter is white or gold.
Ordinary Time II
The second period known as "Ordinary Time" begins the Monday after Pentecost and concludes with the Solemnity of Christ the King (the Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time). The season of Ordinary Time explores Christ's mission and message through the Gospels. This portion of the season includes Trinity Sunday (which celebrates God's self-revelation as a Trinity of Persons) and Corpus Christi (which celebrates the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist). Ordinary Time officially ends just prior to the Vigil Mass for the First Sunday of Advent. As in Ordinary Time I, the official color of the season is green.
Holy Days of Obligation
The Church celebrates nine (9) Solemnities throughout the year.
There are six (6) Holy Days of Obligation (in addition to all Sundays of the year) in the United States:
The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1)
The Solemnity of the Ascension (Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter where it is not celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter)
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15)
The Solemnity of All Saints (November 1)
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8)
The Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ (December 25)
Since the Solemnity of Easter is always a Sunday, it is always a Holy Day of Obligation.
Whenever January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God or August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated (they are not Holy Days of Obligation).
Whenever December 8, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception falls on a Sunday, the Solemnity is transferred to Monday, December 9 and the precept to attend Mass is abrogated (it is not a Holy Day of Obligation).
The following Solemnities are transferred or observed on a different day:
The Solemnity of the Epiphany (January 6) shall be transferred to the first Sunday following January 1.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) shall be observed on the second Sunday following Pentecost.
Special Days of Prayer
In all the Diocese of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.
Feasts and Memorials
Feasts and Memorials occur on any day of the week throughout the liturgical year to commemorate special events or persons (saints) that are highly revered in by the Catholic Church.