Each liturgical season has a specific color assigned to it that represents the theme of the season. The colors are represented in the vestments the clergy wear as well as in the liturgical linens and other liturgical elements of the Church.
Advent is the beginning of the Church year – in fact it is common to hear “Happy New Year” on the first Sunday of Advent. This season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30th. Advent ends on Christmas Eve.
“Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent is far more than marking a 2,000-year-old event in history; it is celebrating the incarnation of Christ through whom we can be reconciled to the Father, a season of expectation and hope. This time of anticipation symbolizes the period of waiting in the Old Testament as the Israelites awaited God’s deliverance from sin – fulfilled in Jesus, the Messiah. During this season we also anticipate the second coming of Christ when He will return and restore all things – making them new and completing God’s rule and reign in a new earth and heaven.
Christmas or Christmastide
Christmas is both a Feast Day and a season in the Church calendar. The Feast Day, December 25th, commemorates the birth of Jesus, and the season lasts 12 days (the 12 Days of Christmas), from sundown on December 24th to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.
Like Christmas, Epiphany is both a feast day and a season. The term “epiphany” means, “to make known or reveal” God through Christ. On the Feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the coming of the Magi who brought gifts to the Christ-child, and in so doing, “revealed” Jesus as Lord and King to the world. Some common themes of the season of Epiphany are crowns (to celebrate the Magi recognizing Jesus and King), light (Jesus as the Light of the World), and the star which led the Magi to Jesus. January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, and the time between this feast and the season of Lent is called either the Season of the Epiphany or Ordinary Time. Depending on the year, this season can last four to nine weeks.
Feast of the Epiphany Color: White
Season of Epiphany or Ordinary Time: Green
The season of Lent lasts 40 weekdays, from Ash Wednesday until the Saturday before Easter. Lent is considered as a time of preparation for Easter and is marked by prayer, penitence, spiritual disciplines, self-examination, fasting, and reflection with a goal of amendment of life. Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday, including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) is considered part of the Lenten season, but it is a time to more carefully focus on the pain and suffering of the crucifixion.
Color for Lent: Purple Color for Holy Week: Red
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection and reign of Jesus Christ. It falls in the middle of the Church year, symbolizing the centrality of the resurrection in our faith.
Easter is a moveable Feast Day, meaning the date changes every year. The date of Easter is determined by a system based on a lunar calendar and is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. The Church celebrates Easter officially for seven weeks, but celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus weekly during Communion – every Sunday is considered a “little Easter.”
Pentecost & Ordinary Time
The Feast of Pentecost was originally a festival celebrated in Old Testament times, beginning on the 50th day after Passover. In the Christian calendar, it falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. In the New Testament, the earliest Christians received the Holy Spirit and Pentecost now marks the beginning of the Church and its mission to the world. The Holy Spirit empowers us for that mission. It’s a time of renewal and commissioning for mission and ministry. The season after Pentecost is called “Ordinary Time.” Like the Ordinary Time following Epiphany, the weeks after Pentecost are a counted time leading up to Advent. These weeks are used to focus on various aspects of the Faith, especially the mission of the Church in the world. During this time, there are celebrations of saints and martyrs to connect us to the Church worldwide and to those who have gone before us.
Feast of Pentecost Color: Red
Ordinary Time Color: Green
THE LITURGICAL COLORS
The liturgical hangings and clergy vestments reflect the appropriate season of the church year, and each color is symbolic:
White: Symbolizes purity, reverence, and joy; used during the great festivals of Christmas and Easter. It is also used for baptism, marriage, and dedications as well as for funerals as a symbol of the resurrection.
Red: Signifies blood, fire, and the presence of God; used on Pentecost. It is also considered the color of the Church, so it can be used to symbolize the blood of the martyrs.
Purple: Symbolizes royalty and the anticipation of the King as well as penitence; it is the color of Advent and Lent.
Green: Represents new life, hope, spiritual growth and peace and is used for seasons of Epiphany and Pentecost.
Black: Represents great sorrow and mourning for the death of Christ and is used on Good Friday.
ANNUAL HOLY DAYS FALL IN THE SEASON OF LENT:
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and begins a season of fasting, penitence, and amendment of life. With the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), the priest makes the mark of the cross with ashes on worshippers’ foreheads as an outward and visible mark that the Cross of Christ is the central part of our story as followers of Jesus. Ashes are a symbol of humanity’s mortality and represent an attitude of humility, sorrow, and repentance. Church of the Apostles observes this holy day with the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist and the Imposition of Ashes.
Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the three-day liturgical sequence that recalls the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Maundy” is from the Greek word for “mandate or command,” and Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper and commandment to love one another. Church of the Apostles observes this holy day with a service of Eucharist as well as a foot washing and stripping of the altar.
Good Friday, the last Friday before Easter, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and is considered the pinnacle of Holy Week. All Christians observe this day with great humility and reverence. Church of the Apostles commemorates this holy day with a solemn and reverent service of Scripture reading, prayer, and meditation.