SEASONS OF THE CHURCH ~ submitted by Clifton Flemister
The Church Year and its Feast Days
The Christian (Church) Year is the story of Christ and Christian growth told over a twelve-month period. Celebration of the Church Year started with the apostles after Christ’s resurrection. The apostles had observed the Jewish Ritual Year. Over time, changes were made that created the Christian Year. The Christian day of worship, Sunday, the First Day of the week replaced Saturday, the Seventh Day, the Jewish Sabbath. Easter replaced the Jewish Passover and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost grew out of the Giving of the Law from Sinai. Easter and Pentecost became the first two Seasons.
New celebrations were added, such as the Birth of Christ (The Nativity or Christmas). With the addition of the preparatory and penitential Seasons of Advent and Lent, the Christian Year, as we know it, was developed. By the sixth century, the Church Year was an accepted feature of Church life. However, the number of Seasons is different in different Churches. For many years, the Episcopal Church recognized eight Seasons. With the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the number was reduced to six by reorganizing and consolidating the Seasons.
The six Seasons in the Church Year are:
Among the Seasons, Easter is the most important, because it defines the Christian religion. Pentecost ranks high because it gives the Church the means of growing in Christ and perpetuating the faith until His return.
Within the Church Year are Feast Days. Most of the Seasons are associated with Principal Feast Days. Here are the seven Principal Feast Days and the Seasons with which they are associated:
Movable Principle Feast Days and their Seasons
Easter Day / Easter
Ascension Day / Easter
The Day of Pentecost / Pentecost
Trinity Sunday / Pentecost
Fixed Principle Feast Days and their Seasons
All Saint’s Day (Nov. 1) / Pentecost
Christmas Day (Dec. 25) / Christmas
The Epiphany (Jan. 6) / Epiphany
The Movable days are determined by Easter. “Easter is always the first Sunday after the full moon that falls on or after March 21. It cannot occur before March 22 or after April 25.” (BCP, p. 15)
The Fixed days are associated with Christmas day. There are no Principle Feast Days in Advent or Lent. These Seasons are somber in nature and thus no celebrations take place, other than the regular Sunday Feasts and Minor Feast Days.
Minor Feast Days are the Saint’s Days, and days of national significance. The Minor Feast Days are all celebrated.
Sundays are Minor Feast Days. They celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Holy Days are all the Feast Days, other than Sundays.
If a Saint’s Feast Day falls on a Sunday, it is moved to a non-Sunday day. Sundays, being Feast Days, take precedence over the Minor Feast Days.
Christmas Day, the Epiphany, and All Saint’s Day are Principal Feasts and are not included in the list of Holy Days. (BCP, pages 15 – 18)