A quick Google search can confirm for you that the liturgical calendar can be very detailed and complicated, particularly in the Roman Catholic tradition. So I’ll say from the start that I am working from the simplest version of the calendar that I could find, and there is tons more to say on this topic than I know or care to address in this one week. (I’m trying to keep my post length reasonable, but you’ll have a difficult time believing that if you keep reading this week!)
So if you know all about the liturgical calendar already, you’re going to feel like this week’s posts belong on Sesame Street. But if, like me, you’re new to this way of keeping time, I hope that this simplified calendar feels like something you can wrap your head around, something you can picture yourself incorporating into your own family traditions.
(Side note: I’ve been meaning to make a “church calendar” for years, and the idea that I’d finally have a kick in the pants to get this finished was one of the deciding factors in whether or not to attempt this series. Yay!)
Here’s what you’re looking at:
Each rectangle of colored felt represents a week of the year. The yellow rectangles represent the weeks of Advent followed by the twelve days of Christmas (who knew that’s actually a thing?). This is where the church calendar begins.
From January 6 to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday we celebrate the season of Epiphany. On the calendar, these weeks are green.
46 days before Easter Sunday we observe Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent. On the calendar, these are the purple rectangles. The black rectangle represents Holy Week, the six days preceding Easter.
The Easter season, represented by white rectangles, lasts for fifty days.
It ends on Pentecost (the red rectangle), which is the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of the apostles in Jerusalem following the ascension of Jesus.
The remaining weeks of the year are known as Ordinary Time.
Hmm…too many words? I think yes. How about another visual?
A project like this requires a deliberate lack of precision, because the placement of each season varies from year to year depending on when Easter falls. So I’ve made peace with the fact that, depending on the year, there are some weeks that I’ll have to move the arrow ahead more than one rectangle, and other weeks that I won’t move it at all. Guess what! It’s okay. I’m assuming that by the time my kids are old enough to notice my fudging, they’ll be old enough to understand my explanation.
Also, just in case this needs to be said: You can notice in the photo above that there is also a regular monthly calendar in our house. Marking time according to the liturgical seasons does not mean that you have to write “the third Sunday in Advent” in the date line of your utilities check. I still do know that it’s October, that it’s football season, that we’re closing in on the end of the fiscal year.
But as I look at my multiple calendars, I keep a question in the front of my mind: which way of marking time motivates and defines my attitudes and my practices? I could even go so far as to ask, in which calendar do I base my whole identity?
Keep Reading: Advent/Christmas/Epiphany