The Liturgical Calendar begins every year during the month of November on the First Sunday of Advent and runs through to the Solemnity of Christ the King.
The liturgical year is the temporal structure within which the Church celebrates the holy mysteries of Christ: "From the Incarnation and the Nativity to the Ascension, to Pentecost and to the wait in joyful hope for the Lord's coming".
"During the liturgical year, 'the celebration of the Paschal Mystery is the most privileged moment in the daily, weekly and annual celebration of Christian worship'. Consequently, the priority of the Liturgical year over any other devotional form or practice must be regarded as a touch stone for the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety."
The Liturgical Calendar is a tool that kindles the hearts of Catholics so that they will remember God’s marvellous plan of salvation that was accomplished through the birth, life, death and rising of Christ Who once again walks the earth in our time and presence.
The Liturgical Cycles
The "Lectionary," the Mass readings from the Holy Bible, follows a Sunday cycle and a weekday cycle. The Liturgical Calendar follows a three year cycle, each year being represented by the letters, A, B and C.
During the year A cycle, the Gospel of Matthew is the primary Gospel that is used for the readings. In year B, Mark is the primary Gospel. In year C Luke is the primary Gospel. The Gospel of John is proclaimed on particular Sundays in each of the years.
On weekdays in Ordinary Time, there is a 2 year cycle numbered I and II. Year I is read in odd number years such as 2005, 2007, 2009. Year II is read in even years such as 2006, 2008, 2010.
It should be noted that if a person attends the Holy Mass everyday for 3 years, having been present for all the readings of the 3 cycles, most of the Holy Bible will have been read to him during that time frame.
The Seasons of the Liturgical Calendar
In each cycle of the Liturgical Calendar, you will find six Seasons:
1. Advent - The liturgical season of four weeks devoted to preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas (524).
- Begins: At Evening Prayer on the Sunday nearest to November 30.
- Ends: Christmas Day Morning.
- Time of year: November - December.
- Theme: The Church recalls the first coming of our Lord to humankind and looks forward to His next coming at the end of time. It is a time of hopeful expectation.
This season is filled with anticipation and is unique since it points to both comings of Christ: as the world’s redeemer many years ago and in His joyous second coming at the end of time.
2. Christmas - The feast of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus (1171).
- Begins: Christmas Day Morning
- Ends: The Sunday after Epiphany or Sunday after January 6, inclusive
- Time of year: December - January
- Theme: The Church celebrates the birth of our Lord and His early manifestations.
Next to Triduum, this the highest season of the year. The feasts of the Holy Family, Mary the Mother of God, and Epiphany are all celebrated in this season.
- Begins: Ash Wednesday
- Ends: Beginning of Holy Thursday Evening Mass
- Theme: The Church prepares for the Celebration of Easter. Liturgies prepare Catechumens and candidates for Christian initiation in the Catholic tradition and encourage the faithful to recall their baptism.
The "alleluia" is not sung during liturgies. Prayer, alms giving and fasting are emphasized. The season concludes during Holy Week, which begins with Christ’s triumphant procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday).
- Begins: Beginning of Holy Thursday Evening Mass
- Ends: Evening prayer on Easter Sunday
- Theme: The culmination of the Liturgical year. It celebrates the Paschal Mystery, that Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected, giving us the promise of everlasting life.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday comprise this season which is the shortest and greatest of the Liturgical year.
- The greatest and oldest Christian feast, which celebrates Christ's Resurrection from the dead. Easter is the "feast of feasts", the solemnity of solemnities, the "Great Sunday". Christians prepare for it during Lent and Holy Week, and catechumens usually receive the Sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil (1169; cf. 647).
- Begins: Evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
- Ends: Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter.
- Theme: The Church rejoices and celebrates the resurrection of Christ.
The Church resumes singing "alleluia" during Easter, and the season includes our celebration of Christ’s Ascension into heaven, culminating with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
6. Ordinary Time
- Begins: I The Monday after Epiphany or Sunday after January 6, inclusive; or II Monday after Pentecost.
- Ends: I Tuesday before Ash Wednesday; II Evening Prayer on the Sunday nearest to November 30.
- Time of year: January - November, excluding the Lenten, Triduum, and Easter Seasons
- Theme: The Church celebrates all of the mysteries of Christ in all of its fullness.
This is the longest season of the Liturgical year, spanning 33 or 34 weeks. The Sunday readings during Ordinary Time are designed to reflect the time of the year.
During the year, in addition to the Sunday worship, the Church also celebrates Solemnities, Feasts, and Memorials which may be on any day of the week. These occur during the year to commemorate special events or persons that are highly revered by the Catholic Church.