What Is the Liturgical Year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.
I have also heard it explained as a source of sermon topics if the preacher doesn’t have something in particular that he feels led to preach about.
What are the seasons of the church year? Following is an Article by Dennis Bratcher with the Christian Resource Institute (CRI) that explains the seasons of the Church Year:
We keep track of time and seasons of the year by using calendars that provide us opportunities to observe, commemorate, and celebrate certain events or occasions. The changing seasons of the year also provide us with recurring opportunities to celebrate the Christian Faith in worship. The Christian church, following earlier Jewish tradition, has long used the seasons of the year as an opportunity for festivals and holidays, sacred time set aside to worship God as the Lord of life.
While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus. The sequence of festivals from Advent to Resurrection Sunday becomes an annual spiritual journey for worshippers as they kneel at the manger, listen on a hillside, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hear the roar of the mob, stand beneath the cross, and witness the resurrection! The rest of the church year provides opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus and his commission to his people to be a light to the world.
Beyond Christmas and Easter, many churches in the Protestant tradition do not celebrate the various seasons of the church year in any deliberate or sustained way . However, the observance of the seasons of the church year has a long history in the life of the Christian Faith. When most of the people in the church were poor and had no access to education, the church festivals and the cycle of the church year provided a vehicle for teaching the story of God and his actions in human history. Even in the Old Testament, the concept of sacred time became a vehicle for teaching the faith (for example, Exodus 12-13). Planned and purposeful observance of the Christian seasons and festivals can become an important tool for education and discipleship in the Faith, as well as a vehicle for spiritual growth and vitality.
As a congregation moves through the church calendar, they are presented in an organized way with the opportunity to talk about, reflect upon, and respond to the entire range of faith confessions that lie at the heart of the Christian Faith. This is important, not only for the vitality of the whole community, but especially for children to become aware in the context of community celebration those things that are important to their Faith (Deut 6:20-25).
The Christian calendar is organized around two major centers of Sacred Time: Advent,Christmas, and Epiphany; and Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, concluding at Pentecost. The rest of the year following Pentecost is known as Ordinary Time, from the word “ordinal,” which simply means counted time (First Sunday after Pentecost, etc.). Ordinary Time is used to focus on various aspects of the Faith, especially the mission of the church in the world. Some church traditions break up ordinary time into a Pentecost Season, (Pentecost until the next to last Sunday of August) and Kingdomtide (last Sunday of August until the beginning of Advent).
So What is a Lectionary?
I have heard it described as a “Read through the Bible in One Year Plan.” A Lectionary is really a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion.
There are many, many lectionaries but probably the most commonly used one is the
Revised Common Lectionary. Click Here.
Some music publishers have their own version of a lectionary. An example of one that includes links to scriptures and even links to sacred music anthems is the one on the website of Hope Publishing Company. Click Here for Hope’s Lectionary Calendar.
Often you will find this info at a publisher’s site under: “Worship Planning.”
Do you have a favorite Worship Planning source? Let us know by Contacting Us.