Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Mark Your (Liturgical) Calendar
(A summary of this month's Youth Update)
If you would like to preview a
future edition in Youth Update's private online chat room,
You probably have a very full calendar.
On that calendar, however, you probably haven't recorded the First
Sunday of Advent or the Feast of Christ the King. In this Youth
Update, you will find an overview of the calendar year in
liturgical terms. The Church calendar includes all the festivals
to be celebrated publicly within a year. These celebrations encourage
and support you in making God's time your time!
1. Celebrate Sunday
Sunday is the centerpiece of every week
in the Catholic calendar. This is the day that Jesus rose from
the dead. The first Christians gathered on that day to break bread
and share the stories of Christ's redeeming work. This is what
you are expected to do as well.
The first Sunday of the Church's
liturgical year is the First Sunday of Advent, which comes very
near the end of the calendar you bought at Hallmark in January.
The date of this Sunday changes from year to year. The liturgical
calendar consists of two cycles or spirals of extraordinary time
framed by stretches of ordinary time. Each cycle includes a time
of preparation and ends in a season of celebration. Each has its
own color, mood, tone, special prayers, liturgies and unique rituals.
2. The Christmas Cycle
In the liturgical year, the Christmas cycle
begins with Advent, a season of desire, passion and hope. The
color is not the red and green of Santa and mistletoe, but purple,
which symbolizes the darkness of the world without Jesus, the
penitence of the season of waiting for his arrival and the hope
we place in Jesus' coming.
What is Christmas really? Christmas is
the dawning of salvation. In three words: God made flesh. While
December 25 begins the end of Christmas at the mall, it's
not so quickly over at church. Christmas lasts 12 days, with Epiphany
its conclusion. That feast, which commemorates the visit of the
Magi to Jesus, is considered a celebration of God being revealed
to the larger world, to all nations, races, classes and peoples.
In some countries, Epiphany is the gift-giving feast, and Christmas
is clearly focused on the gift of Jesus to usour best present.
3. The Easter Cycle
The second great cycle centers around Resurrection.
Easter celebrate the central event in the story of our salvation.
It is the highest of Church feasts, the Great Sunday. Easter
is also the oldest Christian festival.
The Easter cycle includes the six Sundays
of Lent, the seven Sundays of Easter and Pentecost Sunday. The link
between cross and Resurrection in Christian faith unifies this cycle.
The Lenten journey begins on Ash Wednesday,
when you begin what might be called a spring cleaning of the soul.
Purple returns. Decoration in the Church is sparse. Lent includes
six Sundays. At Lent's end is Holy Weekreally the Holiest
Week of the whole yearwhen you are directed to remember Christ's
suffering, death and Resurrection.
This week includes Holy Thursday, the celebration
of the Lord's Supper, Good Friday, the anniversary of the death
of Jesus, and the Easter Vigil, when the whole Church keeps watch,
while retelling the whole story of who we are as a community of
believers and who we are becoming. You might think of the Easter
vigil as a late evening campfire where you listened to the story
of how younot only the Israeliteswere made, chosen,
set free and planted in the promised land.
The celebration of Pentecost (50 days after
Easter) concludes the Easter season. On this Sunday, the Church
celebrates God's gift of the Spiritthe breath of God, the
closeness of God to us.
Jesus is the link among all the seasons
and the central reason for every celebration in the Church. The
Church's liturgical calendar is your calendar. It is what's happening
in your soul, day after day, season after season.
Nadia Hlebiczki (17), Natalie
Howard (16), David Lusher (16), Julie M. Maggard (16), Mark Tiemeier
(16), Matthew Wagner (16) and Michael Wagner (16) gathered at the
home of Chris and Beth Holmes, who coordinate Celebration! Retreats,
the Covington, Kentucky, diocesan youth retreat program. These seven
teenagers, members of the retreat team, previewed this issue.
Why didn't you say anything about the Advent
wreath, my favorite liturgical custom?
You're not alone. The lighting of the Advent
wreath is one of the most popular traditions today in both
churches and homes. The custom originated among Lutherans
in 16th-century Germany. Its rich symbolism speaks volumes:
the hopefulness of evergreens, the eternal and constant love
of God expressed in the circle without beginning or end, the
flames of the candles pushing out darkness to make way for
Christ, the light of the world, and the marking of time with
the lighting of a new candle each week.
You talk about the six Sundays of Lent,
but isn't it supposed to be 40 days?
Early in Christianity, the discipline of
fasting became associated with the number 40. Fasting was
done after the example of Jesus' 40-day fast in the desert,
Moses' 40 days on Mt. Sinai, Elijah's 40-day fast on his journey
to Mt. Horeb and the 40 years the Israelites spent in the
desert. This gradually determined the length of Lent. These
days were originally counted back from Holy Thursday to determine
the date of the first Sunday of Lent. Fasting, however, was
never done on Sundays, which are "Little Easters." By the
seventh century, the six-week season of Lent began on Ash
Wednesday, included Good Friday and Holy Saturday and excluded
Sundays, keeping the days of fast at 40.
It feels like Christmas is more important
than Easter, the way people celebrate--even at Church. Know
what I mean?
Part of the reason for that feeling might
be that Christmas is not just a Christian liturgical feast,
but also a seasonal mood not limited to believers rejoicing
over the birth of the Messiah. That mood seems to begin earlier
and earlier each year! The power of the media, marketing and
consumerism can have a strong influence on us. Lent and Easter
do not attract the same materialistic attitude. What must
be remembered is that although Christmas is the beginning
of Jesus' life on earth, the final act to accomplish our salvation
occurred with his death and resurrection. Without that sacrificial
gift, his birth might not be such a cause for celebration.