The cycle of the Church’s year takes us through times of joy and sorrow, times for reflecting on the life of Christ – his birth, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, times for thinking about the excitements and challenges of the early Church. Through this cycle Christians explore what it means to be a member of the Church today, and find their personal experiences set in a wider context. Following this seasonal movement helps to build balance into our lives.
THE CHURCH’S YEAR
The outline below works through the year, beginning at Advent and gives information about the ways in which each season is marked in worship. Some of these symbols and actions might be adapted for school use. In the Church each season has its own liturgical colour. Perhaps you could find a way of including these in your collective worship space.
Put simply the colours are as follows
THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR
- Purple is for the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.
- Gold or white are for festivals like Christmas and Easter – times of rejoicing.
- Red is for Pentecost, the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who is often pictured like fire. It is also used for martyrdom and suffering, and during most of Holy Week.
- Green is for Ordinary time – times between the seasons.
ADVENT – PURPLE
Preparing for the coming of Christ. Hoping and waiting. You might use Advent Candles, Advent rings and Advent calendars to countdown to Christmas.
From Christmas day to Candlemas (Feb 2nd). This includes Epiphany. The theme of Christmastide is the celebration of God with us in Jesus (Incarnation). Epiphany gives us the chance to reflect on the gift of Jesus to the whole world, and of what we can give to him.
You might build a Christmas crib and light candles. Traditionally the wise men don’t arrive until Epiphany and the crib stays up until Candlemas.
SUNDAYS BETWEEN CANDLEMAS AND ASH WEDNESDAY– GREEN
Ordinary time, with the emphasis on stories about Jesus ministry and teaching.
A time of repentance and reflection beginning on Ash Wednesday when we have ash, made from last year’s palm crosses, placed on our forehead. This symbolises our mortality and the way in which all our best intentions come to dust and ashes. Flowers and decorations are removed from the church, and Lent is a time when we try to make time and space to spend with God.
HOLY WEEK - RED from Palm Sunday to Wednesday , GOLD for Maundy Thursday, after which all hangings are removed until Easter day, when Gold is worn again.
- PALM SUNDAY – Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowd acclaims him. Palm crosses are distributed in church.
- MAUNDY THURSDAY - the Last Supper. Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a day on which we give thanks for the Eucharist. We also keep vigil in Church, thinking of Jesus and of all who have suffered imprisonment and torture.
- GOOD FRIDAY – the Crucifixion. You might spend time thinking about the cross and what it means. You could build an Easter Garden like those which we have in Church.
- HOLY SATURDAY - Jesus’ body lies in the tomb. This is a good day to remember those who are in despair and cannot find hope. Sometimes we need to just sit and wait- we can do nothing.
- EASTER SUNDAY – the Resurrection. You might use flowers, eggs (for new life), and candles – anything which speaks to you of hope and joy.
This runs from Easter Day to Ascension Day. We focus on stories of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection – e.g. the supper at Emmaus, doubting Thomas, and the miraculous catch of fish (John 21).
ASCENSION DAY- GOLD
Jesus ascends to heaven. The disciples are sent out to proclaim the Gospel to the world. We think about the Good News of Christ and the ways in which we can pass it on. It is also a time for thinking about the glory and majesty of Heaven. You might like to find some ‘heavenly’ pictures or music to focus on.
PENTECOST (Whitsun) - RED
The season of Pentecost begins on the day after Ascension Day and leads up to the Day of Pentecost. This festival celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and the beginning of the Church. (Acts 2) Symbols associated with the Holy Spirit are fire, wind and the dove. It is a time of excitement which marks the birthday of the church. Why not fly a kite as part of your prayer, or do something else which you find exciting!
TRINITY SUNDAY - GOLD
The Holy Trinity. At the heart of God is a relationship of love. On Trinity Sunday we give thanks for the way in which God weaves us into this relationship of Father Son and Spirit. You could plait or weave, and picture yourself woven into the life of God.
SUNDAYS AFTER TRINITY- GREEN
Twenty or so Sundays during which there is no particular set theme.
A chance to explore what it means to live a Christian life.
THE KINGDOM SEASON– All Saints to Christ the King - RED
The kingdom of God – here and now, made by us as we make a difference to the world, but also still to come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
This period includes All Saints, All Souls and Remembrance Day.(The colour for All Saints' Day is Gold and for All Souls', purple, but in the rest of the season we wear Red - perhaps because the underlying theme is the cost of the kingdom - the blood of Christ, and of those who have followed in his steps) We remember those who have gone before us in faith, both the Saints of the church and those who have been special to us personally. We celebrate their gifts to us and treasure their memories. You could find some photographs of those whom you remember, or consider who your own saints are.
CHRIST THE KING- GOLD
Christ in majesty. Heaven, and the rule of Christ in our lives. This is the end of the story which started at Advent. It is a good moment to look back on the year and consider what we have learnt and how we have grown.
Textweek - the set readings for each week , plus discussion of themes and art and movie links
Lent and Easter resources
Advent and Christmas resources