Easter to Advent
On Good Friday Jesus was crucified and buried, but on Easter Day, the first day of the week, God raised him from the dead. During the day Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, Peter, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and, we may be sure, to Mary, his holy Mother. The same evening he appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room, and gave them what is called their Apostolic Commission, that is, his authority to act on his behalf as his personal representatives. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. When Jesus had said this to the Apostles he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them…” (NRSV, John:20:21-23).
At the end of 40 days Jesus led them out of Jerusalem to the top of the Mount of Olives, and there, because they would not see him again, he said goodbye to them in a way he had never done before. He ascended or went up towards the sky and a cloud of light surrounded him and so he disappeared. So he returned at last to his home in Heaven on what is called Ascension Day.
But before Jesus went he told his Apostles to remain in Jerusalem and wait there for the Holy Spirit of God whom he would send to their souls to strengthen them and to guide them into all truth. And when the Holy Spirit came, Jesus himself would come too and, although they would not see him, he would now be with them “always, to the end of the age” (NRSV, Matthew 28:20).
So 10 days later, on the Day of Pentecost (Whitsunday), God the Holy Spirit filled their souls, and at once the Apostles began their work for which Jesus had chosen and trained them. They told the people how Jesus had risen from the dead and how he was Saviour of the world. And on that same day they baptised about 3,000 of them. These were the first members of the Church, and each of them received the Holy Spirit of God. So Pentecost is not only the Feast of God the Holy Spirit, but is also the Birthday of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We have already seen how God the Father made the world and how God the Son came to save us from our sins. Now we have seen how God the Holy Spirit gives us the power to become holy like himself. And yet we know that these Three Persons are together One God, and we call them the Holy Trinity. We remember this truth on Trinity Sunday, which is the Sunday after Pentecost.
The following Thursday is the Feast of Corpus Christi, which is the Latin for the Body of Christ. This is a day kept in honour of the Blessed Sacrament which we receive in Holy Communion and in which Jesus is truly present in his Risen and Ascended Body. Jesus instituted the Blessed Sacrament on Maundy Thursday, but we cannot really rejoice then because he was betrayed and crucified so soon afterwards. Instead, we keep this Feast of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
Some other important celebrations
The season of Trinity lasts almost until the end of the Church’s Year, but during that time there are some important celebrations:
June 29th – St Peter and St Paul;
August 15th – the Assumption of Our Lady, when we remember how Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was taken to Heaven and reunited with her Son;
September 29th – Michaelmas Day, the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, when we remember how the angels, who worship God in Heaven, also guard us here on earth.
November 1st – All Saints’ Day, when we honour all those who are now in Heaven.
All Souls’ Day
On November 2nd is All Souls’ Day when we pray for the souls of all those who are waiting in Purgatory until they are fit to go to Heaven. But all of us whether on earth or in Purgatory or in Heaven, we all belong to the great Church of God, and in prayer and Sacrament we have fellowship or communion with one another. We speak of this as the Communion of Saints.
Christ the King
Then we come to the four Sundays before Advent and on the last Sunday in the Church’s Year (the Sunday before Advent) we keep the Festival of Christ the King. On this day we celebrate the Kingship of Christ and we own him as our Lord. Jesus himself made it very clear that his rule is not the oppressive one of a tyrant. On the contrary, he is the Servant King who “came not to be served but to serve…” (NRSV, Mark 10:45) and to die to free us from our sins. On Maundy Thursday, he showed this in a very practical way by washing his disciples’ feet, a role normally performed by a servant.
So we reach the end of the Church’s Year. Soon another Advent comes round again and we think of how the Jewish people prepared for the coming of Jesus. At the same time we look ahead and get ourselves ready for that day when Jesus will come again at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead.
Then evil people who do not love God and do not want him will remain in Hell, but all those who really love God will live with him for ever in Heaven, as God meant all human beings to do when he made the world.
The liturgical colours
The spirit of the various seasons and festivals is expressed by the use of different colours for the vestments and altar frontals.
Purple is used in Advent because it is a solemn time of prayer and preparation, but as soon as Advent is over and Christmas Day comes, we have white or gold to show our joy. So white or gold is the colour for Feasts of Our Lord, like Christmas and Easter and Ascension; for Feasts of Our Lady; and also for those Saints who were not martyrs.
The colour of the season of Epiphany is green. Green is the colour of growth, and represents the growth of Jesus to boyhood and manhood in Nazareth. For the solemn season of Lent we go back to purple again, and then we have white or gold from Easter to Pentecost. Pentecost is red, representing the tongues of fire which were the sign of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Red, being also the colour of blood, is used on the Feasts of Martyrs, like St Peter and St Paul, who shed their blood for the Christian Faith.
Black, being the colour of mourning, is used for Requiems when the Eucharist is offered for the repose of the souls of the Faithful Departed. It is also used as a sign of mourning on Good Friday. Purple may be used instead of black of these occasions, as it is also a solemn colour.
The colour for the long season of Trinity is green, representing this time the growth of the Catholic Church throughout the world from the first Pentecost until today.
Advent: preparing for Jesus to come.
Christmas: Birthday of Jesus.
Epiphany: Jesus revealed as God and King to the Wise Men.
Lent: we think of Jesus fasting for 40 days in the desert.
Good Friday: Jesus died to save us.
Easter: God raised Jesus from the dead.
Ascension: Jesus returned to Heaven.
Pentecost: God the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles – the Birthday of the Church.
Trinity: remembering the truth of the Holy Trinity, three Persons in One God.
Corpus Christi: thanksgiving for Holy Communion.
Michaelmas: St Michael and All Angels.
All Saints' Day: honouring all those now in Heaven.
All Souls' Day: praying for the souls in Purgatory.
Christ the King: celebrating the Kingship of Jesus.