An Ever Circling Year

As  we journey through the Christian Year we meet Christ. Each season  and festival helps us explore the riches of the love of God revealed in Jesus. So great are the riches of Christ’s love that even when we have journeyed the Christian year many times there is always some new facet and treasure to be discovered.


Our Year starts in early winter as the days grow shorter, the nights darker, the cold stronger. As November ends and December begins we enter Advent.

 


ADVENT

Advent is a season of great depth and richness.  It is a season for preparation. Advent  purple speaks of the coming of Christ who is Lord and Judge for the use of purple was originally  restricted to the Emperor alone – once the ruler of the whole  Roman world. Christ comes as the true King, as the Judge in whom truth and mercy meet.  Christ comes as child and as Lord of all. Advent holds out to us a vision of God in whom both child and Lord are One. Advent looks back to the story of the Old testament: God summoning a people to witness to Him so that the world may be healed. Advent looks  forward to the end of all time when this present universe will be remade in God’s love.


The Advent wreath celebrates the Advent story: past, present and future. We give thanks for Abraham, for Moses and the prophets, for John the Baptist and for Mary in whom Christ is made flesh.  We look forward to Christmas.

 

CHRISTMAS
The Christ-mass child is “thrice born”. So rejoiced ancient Christian thinkers. Born of Mary: the Word made flesh – God’s very being becoming wholly human with all our limitations and gifts.  Born at the end of all time when the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus will be revealed as Lord of all. Born in us who turn to Christ in our Baptism, are fed by Him through the Word of Holy Scripture and nourished by Him in the Sacrament of the bread and wine of the Eucharist.  As we come to the crib we are not merely looking back to “once” in royal David’s City. We are coming ourselves to the Christ child, now, for He is present in all times and all places. We look forward to the time when “the hopes and fears of all the years” will be reconciled and healed in Christ who makes all things new.


Christmas is celebrated for  12 days –and what a shame that contemporary culture suggests that we should throw out the tree on Boxing Day. The Church year is wiser and more humane. We need time to celebrate, time off work, time to be together; we need time too to cope with the inevitability that not every Christmas season is “jolly” for everyone. Christmas is primarily a holy season. It speaks of homelessness, suffering, anxiety and , in the Feast of the Massacre of the  Holy Innocents the vulnerability and pain that is too often the human lot. Yet too there is hope and joy,  for Christ enters this world and trusts to Mary, to us, for nurture, care and love. As we worship day by day so we may know the grace of God’s healing love and hope however dark our personal situation.

 

EPIPHANY & CANDLEMAS
Christmas moves seamlessly into Epiphany, another great richness.  Epiphany, lasting right up to Candlemass (February 2)is the season of “shining revelation” – for such is the meaning of the Greek: Epiphany. Christ is revealed in the visit of the magi with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh- speaking of Christ as King, as priest and as Victor over suffering and death – for myrrh is used  as medicine and for embalming.  Christ is revealed in his Baptism in the River Jordan – anointed (“christened”)  as Son of God and Saviour. Christ’s glory that renews all creation is revealed in the Cana wedding feast where Christ changes water into wine. Christmas and Epiphany draw to a close with the lovely Feast of Candlemass, coinciding with drifts of snowdrops in the churchyard,   when the Christ-child is presented in the Temple by his mother and hailed by old Simeon as light for all the world.

 

LENT

Simeon’s prophetic words at Candlemass (“A sword shall pierce your own soul too”)point forward to Lent and to the Cross. The old country weather lore fits well with the mood of the season: “as the day lengthens so the cold strengthens” and we move from the joy of Christmas and Epiphany into the stark chill of Lent, its name coming from the “lengthening” of daylight. Lent asks us to enter the desert with Christ, to be aware of our frailty, our mortality and our sin. The 40 day fast speaks of the need for simplicity, for concern for those with little or nothing, for our need of contemplation and prayerful Bible study.. Since the first days of the church this season has been a time of preparation for baptism and confirmation and serves for all as a time of renewal and re-commitment to Christ.  On the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday we are marked with ashes as a sign of our necessary penitence and a stark reminder of our mortality: “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”


PASSIONTIDE & HOLY WEEK                  
                                                                                                                        Mid Lent or Mothering Sunday (Lent Sunday 4)  comes as a brief respite from  Lenten rigour before plunging ever more fully into Passiontide and Holy Week.  This is the season of Christ’s passion and death, the Way of the Cross. While Christians never cease to rejoice in Christ’s victory over sin and death it is vital that we journey with Christ into the fear and loss of Holy Week- such is the human condition without which there can be no resurrection. On Palm Sunday (Lent 6) we rejoice to sing “Hosanna” (“Save us Lord”) and to wave palms – but the palms are shaped as a cross and all too soon we hear the cry of “Crucify”.


MAUNDY THURSDAY

On Maundy Thursday we celebrate the Eucharist of the Last supper. Christ offers himself to the Father for us and gives himself to us in the signs of bread and wine. We seek to stay with him and pray as he enters the agony of Gethsemane, his arrest, his trial.


GOODFRIDAY

Good Friday – God’s Friday – can only ever be “good” if we see it in the light of Christ’s Easter victory; yet that victory can only be real if first we dare to journey into the dark of cross, death and tomb. Good Friday ends in a  silence which extends into Easter.


HOLY SATURDAY - EASTER: CHRIST IS RISEN ALLELUIA!

Late on Holy Saturday evening –the beginning of the third day – fire is lit, a  sign of warmth, hope, light.  Outside the church we share in reading scriptures foretelling God’s Easter glory of new creation in Christ  : the first creation, the crossing of the Red Sea, Ezekiel’s vision of new life for dead bones. Then very hesitantly, for now it is quite dark, we take a single candle flame from the fire and enter into the blackness of the church itself – Christ’s tomb. In the dark we  need to take great care of one another – itself a  symbol of Christ’s new Easter community of love. The great Easter (Paschal –Passover) candle is prepared and lit: “Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the end all times exist in Him and all ages”. With this single fragile light we dare to proclaim into the darkness: “The Light of Christ”. As all light their candles from the one Christ-light so the darkness is overcome, for “Alleluia, Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, alleluia.”

ASCENSION DAY
Our Easter alleluias roll on for six glorious weeks as together we reflect on the mystery of Easter glory. Then comes Ascension Day : Christ’s resurrection is now as well as then, now as well as future for Christ has opened the Way into the Kingdom of God and even now he holds us in God’s eternal love, making intercession for us through the Cross. Even now true humanity is made one with God in our Ascended Lord. 

PENTECOST
Christ pours out his Spirit  on his Church , the community of the Lord. At Pentecost (it means 50 days after Easter) we rejoice that we today are just as much present to and with Christ as were the very first disciples; we today are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ  so that the whole world may come to be healed and renewed.

TRINITY
The red of Pentecost  gives way to the green of the so-called “ordinary” time of the year. Green speaks of growth – the natural world for which we must care, our own inner spiritual growth. These green Sundays are the “long Sundays after Trinity” beginning with Trinity Sunday itself  when we celebrate the mystery of God the Holy Trinity. In this green season comes the lovely Festival s of Lammastide (1 August) when we give thanks for the first new bread  and then Harvest Festival itself.


KINGDOM SEASON

As November appears and the leaves fall,  so we reflect on the dead: Remembrance Sunday, All Souls Day. First comes All Saints Day. We rejoice that thanks to Christ’s Easter victory death is no longer the end but a new beginning  for  in Christ there is a new creation and all tears are wiped away.


So we are taken a full circle and we move once more into advent as Christ comes in glory to bring hope and renewal to a broken world . 


An Ever Circling Year
Webpage icon All Saints-tide - the Kingdom Season
Webpage icon Pentecost
Webpage icon Ascension Day
Webpage icon Easter: On the Edge of Glory
Webpage icon Easter : Evidence for the Resurrection
Webpage icon Praying Holy Week
Webpage icon Christmas and Epiphany
Webpage icon Advent
Webpage icon Lent