Seasons of Grace
Every period of Christ’s life with us on earth has significance. But it is easy to dwell too much on one aspect or the other — for example, his birth or his death — and to neglect the rest. To avoid this, the Church developed the concept of the Seasons of the Christian Year. Each season emphasizes God’s revelation as shown through one aspect or another of Jesus’ life. The Anglican Communion and the other historic churches shape their pattern of worship around this sequence of observances. During each, the scriptures and prayers examine the associated events and words, and look for “what the spirit is saying,” celebrating that in liturgy and song. This, when combined with observances of local tradition and integrated with the Common Lectionary, serves to make worship time a constantly moving panorama of the riches of our faith.
The seasons are:
A time of preparation for the coming Nativity of Our Lord, and for exploring Christ’s entry into our lives;
The celebration of Christ’s birth or what is called the Incarnation;
Epiphany (early January):
The celebration of Christ’s baptism, and the recognition of Jesus’ role (as noted by Simeon in Luke 2:30) “. . . my eyes have seen your salvation. . .”);
Lent (movable: February/March/early April):
A time of preparation for Christ’s death and resurrection; used as a time for the examination of our own lives;
Holy Week and Easter (movable: March/April):
The celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the triumph of life over death;
Pentecost (movable: May/June):
The celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit; and
After Pentecost or Trinity or Ordinary Time (June to October):
The working out of God’s love in our lives.
Within each of these there are particular festivals and days of penance that serve to point out aspects of God’s love and unfolding purpose, or our own need for repentance and renewal of faith. Among others, we observe Trinity Sunday, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, and All Saints and All Souls Days.
These and other signposts along the way serve to structure our spiritual practices throughout the year, and to focus our attention on God’s living presence in Christ at all times.
A related custom followed by many Anglican churches, including St. Michael’s, is to use colours to emphasize these seasons and special days. This will be seen in the fabrics on the cover on the altar, reading desk and pulpit, and in the garments worn by the clergy and assistants.
Most typically, these colours are (as used at St. Michael’s):
• Blue: The colour of the sky and symbolic of truth, is used for the season of Advent;
• White: Representing purity, innocence and holiness, is used for festivals such as Christmas and Easter; (White is also used for celebrations, including weddings and funerals.)
• Purple: The colour of mourning and penitence, and also of royalty, is used during Lent;
• Red: Representing courage and sacrifice, is used for feasts of saints and martyrs and for Passion Sunday with the Liturgy of the Palms and the Feast of Pentecost;
• Green: Representing growth and the triumph of life over death, is used for the Ordinary season between Pentecost and Advent.