The word liturgy comes from an ancient Greek phrase meaning 'public duty' or 'public work.' In the Liturgy of the Mass we come together, publicly, to celebrate the mystery of Christ. We rejoice in God's presence and power in the world. This is the work the Lord has given us. Like the school year or the Calendar year, the liturgical year moves in cycles and seasons. During each season we concentrate on a specific aspect of the life of Jesus Christ. And like the calendar year each season is marked with its own holidays and colors.
We begin the liturgical year with the season of Advent. Advent is a time of anticipation and preparation as we await the birth of Jesus. The Advent season begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve at the Vigil Mass. The color of Advent is purple or deep blue as a reminder of our solemn anticipation of the coming of our Lord.
The Christmas season is the celebration of Jesus' birth and the joyful events associated with it. It follows Advent, beginning at the Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and continuing until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The primary colors of the Christmas season are white and gold signifying the purity and joy we feel in the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
After the Christmas season is the first of two seasons of Ordinary Time. During these seasons we learn and rejoice in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The first season of Ordinary Time is usually six to seven weeks long. The color for Ordinary Time is green to remind us of life and hope.
Lent is the next season and begins on Ash Wednesday. Like Advent, Lent is a season of anticipation and preparation. However, since the Resurrection is proceded by Jesus's suffering and death, the emphasis during Lent is more reflective and more personal. During Lent we remember that Jesus suffered, died and rose again to save us from sin and to give us eternal life in God's presence. In preparation for the Easter season we are commanded by Church to a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The color of Lent is purple, reminding us of our penance and sadness. Lent culminates in the Easter Triduum, the shortest (at three days) and the most important, season in the liturgical year. Beginning on Holy Thursday and ending on the evening of Easter Sunday, the Triduum is the remembrance and the celebration of the essential mystery of our faith, the suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The color for Good Friday is red for Jesus' suffering on the Cross. The color for the rest of the Triduum is white.
Easter season begins on the evening of Easter Sunday and continues for fifty days until Pentecost Sunday. The Easter season is a celebration of Jesus' Resurrection and the new life we have been granted in Jesus Christ. We also remember Jesus’ Ascension to heaven 40 days after Easter and we end the season with Pentecost and a celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. The colors of the Easter season are white and gold for joy and purity. Pentecost is celebrated in red for the Holy Spirit.
After Pentecost Sunday we begin the second season of Ordinary Time. This is the longest season in the liturgical calendar at approximately 25 weeks. The emphasis during these weeks is instruction in our Christian faith and morals. The color for Ordinary Time is green.