Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ becomes alive and visits us, touches us and actually enters into us in His Real Person through His Mystical, Body the Church! In the most full sense of the word, Jesus becomes alive in us through the Eucharist.
All of the actions of the Church and the members of the Mystical Body of Christ converge at the source and summit of the Church in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Jesus’ earthly life lasted a mere thirty years; His public life a short three years; His death on the cross, three hours; His resurrection from the dead, less than three full days!
Before ascending into Heaven Jesus promised His Presence among us, even until the very end of the times with these words: “Go out to all nations and teach them all that I taught you; baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Behold, I am with you always even until the end of time.” (Mt 28: 19-20)
If it is true that Jesus ascended into Heaven and promised that He would be with us always until the end of time, then where is He? The response: He is with us in His Mystical Body the Church.
Most specifically, Jesus becomes truly present in the Mass, the Eucharist, and the Sacramental Life. This Sacramental Life of Jesus unfolds every Church Year, Liturgical Year, in the living Liturgical Cycle. Jesus comes to us in Word and in Sacrament.
Very briefly and succinctly let us transport ourselves through the Church Liturgical Year. A strong suggestion: MEMORIZE THIS! If you can memorize these key Liturgical moments of the Life of Christ then you will be able to always locate yourself as to where, when, and what Jesus is doing right now in His Mystical Body, the Church. Hopefully, you will share this knowledge with others. Become a Liturgical catechist!
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE CHURCH YEAR
I. ADVENT. The word Advent—meaning the coming—refers to the days and weeks before Christmas, as well as in preparation for Christmas. There are always four Sundays in the Advent Season. The Liturgical color is that of Purple, aside from Memorials, Feast Days and Solemnities.
1) SYMBOL. One of the key symbols illuminating this Season is that of the Advent Wreath. Made in the form of a circle and green in color, the Advent wreath is decorated often with a red ribbon, sometimes an apple, but the key elements are candles. The circular symbolic sacramental has four distinct candles; three are purple and one is pink. On Christmas, the fifth candle is inserted in the very middle of the Advent wreath—white in contrast to pink and purple. That white candle in the middle signifies the Birthday of Jesus who is truly the Light of the world who came to dispel the darkness of sin.
2) MARIAN FEASTS. Given that Advent has a very important Marian tone, there are two important Marian Liturgical celebrations: the Immaculate Conception (December 8); then Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). In all of the Advent Season, the Church joyfully awaits the Birthday of Jesus with Our Lady, the expectant Mother of Jesus.
3) SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST. Furthermore, a key Biblical figure is Saint John the Baptist who calls us to prepare the way for the Birthday of the Savior.
II. CHRISTMAS DAY AND CHRISTMAS SEASON ARRIVES.
Advent concludes with Christmas and the Christmas Season. Impossible to celebrate the Birthday of Jesus—the most important Birthday in the world—in one day. There must be an Octave as well as an extended Season to rejoice because Jesus, Our Savior is born.
1) Christmas already starts with the Eve—Christmas Eve. The long-awaited day has arrived: Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary.
2) GLORIA. The Gloria in the Mass is suppressed until Christmas Eve. This night, with the Angelic choirs, our hearts and voices resound: “Gloria in excelsis Deo”, which is Latin for, “Glory to God in the Highest!”
3) Christmas Mass (Masses). Actually there are three Christmas Masses: Midnight (the night before); Christmas Mass at dawn, and the Christmas Mass of the day. Each expresses a different aspect of the Solemnity and Joy of the Birthday of Jesus.
4) OCTAVE. For 8-days, starting with Christmas Day, the Church celebrates the Birthday of Jesus. For such an event there must be at least 8 days!
5) CHRISTMAS SEASON. Then during the course of the Christmas Liturgical Season there are various important other Feasts all hinged and related to the Birth of Jesus, the Savior.
6) The Feast day of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph; Mary, the Mother of God (always January 1st); and the Epiphany are the key Liturgical Feast days celebrated in the context of the Christmas Season.
7) BAPTISM OF JESUS. Finally, with the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the Christmas Season ends. Time to take down the Christmas tree and the Manger Scene.
III. ORDINARY TIME 1. With the conclusion of the Christmas Season, the Church moves into Ordinary Time 1.
There are actually two Ordinary-Times in the course of the Church Year: one that follows immediately after the Christmas Season and the other that follows immediately after the Easter Season.
In Ordinary Time 1, the priest changes Liturgical colors, from the white of the Christmas Season to Green.
In this Liturgical Season, the Gospel Readings focus primarily on the Public Life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is to say, the Gospels present Jesus in the midst of His Public Life which lasted about three years—from when Jesus was age 30-33.
This First Ordinary time does not last long—often close to 7-8 weeks. During these weeks that fall in January and February the Church also celebrates the Santoral—or the saints.
Ordinary time should be a time in which we strive to know, love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in our own lives. Also, we should strive to do the Ordinary activities of our daily lives with extraordinary love.
IV. LENTEN SEASON: SEASON OF PENANCE, GRACE AND CONVERSION.
Ordinary time l comes to an end with the start of the Holy Season of Lent. The following are the basic characteristics of the Holy Season of Lent:
1. ASH WEDNESDAY.
2. LITURGICAL COLOR: PURPLE.
3. TIME: 40 DAYS, NOT COUNTING SUNDAYS.
4. PERIODS OF FASTING AND ABSTINENCE.
5. SUSPEND ALLELUIA AND GLORIA IN THE MASS.
6. SPECIAL LITURGICAL MASS READINGS—AIMED AT CONVERSION.
HOLY WEEK—THE MOST HOLY WEEK OF THE ENTIRE CHURCH YEAR!
The culmination or crowning point of the Season of Lent is HOLY WEEK. It is like a great crescendo of graces in which the Church celebrates with great love and joy the saving or Redemptive actions of Jesus the Lord.
HOLY WEEK DAYS OF CELEBRATION: THE UNFOLDING OF HOLY WEEK. The following are the key elements of Holy Week.
1) PALM SUNDAY. Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday. The Church commemorates Jesus’ entry in triumphant procession into the city of Jerusalem mounted on a donkey. Palms are distributed commemorating that day. In the Mass, the priest wears Red and the long Narrative of the Passion of Christ is read.
2) EASTER TRIDUUM. The very heart of the Church Year is the Easter Triduum which consists of three days (triduum meaning three)—Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
3) HOLY THURSDAY commemorates the Last Supper and the institution of the most Holy Eucharist, as well as the Priesthood or Holy Orders.
4) GOOD FRIDAY. With profound love and suffering the Church invites all to contemplate the Passion, Suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. It is a day of fasting and abstinence.
5) HOLY SATURDAY. On this day we accompany the Blessed Virgin Mary in her sorrows. With Our Lady of Sorrows we relive the Passion, suffering and death of Jesus her Son. We strive to relieve the Passion of Jesus as seen through the eyes and Sorrowful Heart of Mary.
V. EASTER SEASON: STARTING WITH THE EASTER VIGIL MASS.
For sake of brevity we offer a succinct explanation of the celebration of Easter and the Easter Season.
1) EASTER VIGIL MASS. The Easter Vigil Mass is the most sublime and glorious of all of the Liturgical celebrations for the entire Church Year. Many beautiful Readings are proclaimed with the Responsorial Psalms. The Neophytes are baptized, confirmed, and make their first Holy Communion.
2) THE ALLELUIA, GLORIA, THE COLOR WHITE. Once again the Church sings the alleluia, the Gloria is back in the Mass, and the Liturgical color is white.
3) JESUS IS TRULY RISEN FROM THE DEAD. The very core of Easter and the entire Easter Season is the fact that Jesus died, but He truly rose from the dead never to die again. The promise for us is eternal life!
4) THE OCTAVE OF EASTER. Like Christmas, the Church celebrates an entire eight days of Easter. The reality of Jesus truly Risen from the dead is of such great importance that there must be eight days—the Octave—to celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death and His rising from the dead.
5) EASTER SEASON. The Easter Season lasts 50 days. During these days, the first Reading in Mass is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.
6) ASCENSION AND PENTECOST. The Easter Season draws to an end with the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. The Novena starts and concludes with Pentecost—the descent of the Holy Spirit. This commemorates the Birthday of the Church as well as the end of the 50 days of Easter joy!
VI. ORDINARY TIME II. With Pentecost, the Easter Season comes to an end and Ordinary Time II starts which lasts close to six months.
THREE KEY SOLEMNITIES AFTER PENTECOST. After Pentecost three principle Solemnities follow in this order: Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
1) TRINITY SUNDAY. The Church celebrates the greatest of all mysteries—the most Blessed Trinity. That is to say the Church teaches the reality of One God in three Divine Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
2) CORPUS CHRISTI. The Church believes that in Holy Mass through the words of Consecration the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus the Savior.
3) SACRED HEART OF JESUS. The Friday after the Sunday of Corpus Christi, the Church celebrates the mystery of the love of Jesus for us by honoring and praising His most Sacred Heart.
CHRIST THE KING: CONCLUSION OF CHURCH YEAR. The lengthy Ordinary Time II comes to an end with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Jesus as King desires to reign over the world, but also over each and every one of our own hearts!
ADVENT. The Liturgical cycles begin once again with the Season of Advent. During the course of the whole Liturgical Year, the Church is reliving in Word and Sacrament the life, words, and saving actions of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, if we want to connect with Jesus, meet Jesus, and receive Jesus into our minds, hearts, souls and entire lives, it is done most efficaciously through the Mystical Body of Christ and the Sacramental life—most especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist and Holy Communion.