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Epiphany: The season & the color

The Christian year is as old as the Resurrection of our Lord and as new as the latest revisions.
With the Resurrection, the disciples of Jesus began a weekly celebration of the event on the
First Day of the week. These disciples, like their Lord, had all their lives observed the Jewish
Ritual Year. But eventually they substituted Sunday, the First Day of the week, for Saturday, the
seventh day, Easter for the Passover, and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit for the giving of the law
from Sinai. Together with this they soon began to observe the Nativity of the Lord. Adding
certain preparatory and penitential seasons, they had by the sixth century developed a Christian
Year for the order of worship, substantially as we have it today.
The Liturgy of the Episcopal Church proclaims the story of Jesus' love in a rhythm that follows
the seasons of the year. Each year we are led through the birth, ministry, crucifixion, and
resurrection of the Christ. The church year begins with Advent and is synchronized with
calendar year on Christmas and Easter. Liturgical colors are used for vestments and altar cloth
to mark the seasons and to symbolize the themes.
• White, symbolizing joy, purity, and truth,
• Red, the color of fire and of blood
• Green, the color of living things and of God's creation
• Purple, symbolic of penitence and expectation
• Black, representative of deep sorrow

Epiphany is the third season of the church year. The word means making God manifest. It
marks the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. It reminds us that while Jesus was a Jew and
spoke largely to Jewish crowds during his life on Earth, he also spoke to non-Jews. It was made
very clear to the Apostles after the crucifixion that they were to spread the Word to all, Jew or
not. The primary theme is Baptism, beginning with the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. A
similar idea is reflected with the response of the magi who journeyed from afar to worship Jesus
at Bethlehem. January 6 was already kept and celebrated by pagans as the winter solstice in
the first centuries of the church.

This season begins on the Day of the Epiphany and lasts until Ash Wednesday at the beginning
of Lent. The length of the season varies according to the date of Easter Day. The liturgical color
used on vestments is generally green, representing the green things of God's earth and
referring to growth of the spirit of God within us in response to His coming at Christmas.

For a complete description of all of the church seasons and colors, refer to “Colors & Seasons of the Church Year” which follows.
The Seasons & Colors of the Church Year
The Christian year is as old as the Resurrection of our Lord and as new as the latest revisions. With the
Resurrection, the disciples of Jesus began a weekly celebration of the event on the First Day of the week.
These disciples, like their Lord, had all their lives observed the Jewish Ritual Year. But eventually they
substituted Sunday, the First Day of the week, for Saturday, the seventh day, Easter for the Passover, and the
Baptism of the Holy Spirit for the giving of the law from Sinai. Together with this they soon began to observe the
Nativity of the Lord. Adding certain preparatory and penitential seasons, they had by the sixth century developed
a Christian Year for the order of worship, substantially as we have it today.
The Liturgy of the Episcopal Church proclaims the story of Jesus' love in a rhythm that follows the seasons of
the year. Each year we are led through the birth, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Christ. The church
year begins with Advent and is synchronized with calendar year on Christmas and Easter. Liturgical colors are
used for vestments and altar cloth to mark the seasons and to symbolize the themes.
• White, symbolizing joy, purity, and truth,
• Red, the color of fire and of blood
• Green, the color of living things and of God's creation
• Purple, symbolic of penitence and expectation
• Black, representative of deep sorrow

A DVENT was the last season to be officially added to the church calendar, in about 600 AD. It was made the
first season of the year because it begins the story of the events of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Advent
refers to the approach or arrival of someone or something and is the season in which we anticipate God's birth
into our world. Advent is a time to examine ourselves and our lives and do an inner housecleaning as we make
ourselves ready to receive the wonder of Jesus. It is quiet, contemplative, time as we await the majesty of God.
Beginning in late November or early December, Advent contains the four Sundays before Christmas Day. The
color we use for Advent is either purple.
The liturgies of Advent are characterized by a sense of the majesty of the God for whom we wait. We use an
Advent Wreath of four purple candles and one white candle, lighting an additional purple candle each Sunday,
to mark the time of waiting. On Christmas Eve the fifth candle -the white candle or Christ candle is lit to
acknowledge the arrival of the Light of the world. Many families observe this custom at home.

C HRISTMAS was first celebrated about 336. The celebration of the birth of Christ on December 25 was set in
the 4th century, adopting the dates of the Roman Saturnalia on December 17, and the birth of the Iranian god
Mithras on December 25, together with ancient celebrations of the winter solstice. Christmas is the season when
we proclaim the unique nature of our God - that God does not stand aloof from us, but fully enters into our lives -
Emanuel, "God with us". The first liturgy of Christmas is on Christmas Eve. The late night liturgy, called the
Christ Mass is a high point of the year. A family liturgy is offered earlier that afternoon and an additional service
is offered on Christmas morning. The season of Christmas lasts for 12 days, beginning on December 25th and
ending on the 12th night, or January 5th. The color used in Christmas liturgies is white, symbolizing purity, joy,
and hope.
According to Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was used as a
form of catechism from the 1550s to the 1820s. Children were taught their doctrine in this way:
First Day - Partridge - God or Christ
Second Day - Turtle Doves - Old and New Testaments
Third Day - French Hens - Faith, Hope, and Charity
Fourth Day - Calling Birds - Four Gospels
Fifth Day - Golden Rings - First five books of Old Testament, the Torah
Sixth Day - Geese a laying - Six days of Creation
Seventh Day - Swans a swimming - Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
(from Isaiah 4:2 - wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, piety and fear of God)

Eighth Day - Maids a milking - Eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)


Ninth Day - Ladies dancing - Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
(from Galatians 5:22 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)

Tenth Day - Lords a leaping - Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)


Eleventh Day - Pipers piping - Eleven faithful disciples (Acts 1:13)
Twelfth Day - Drummers drumming - Twelve points of belief in the Apostles Creed

E PIPHANY is the third season of the church year. The word means making God manifest. It marks the
manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. It reminds us that while Jesus was a Jew and spoke largely to Jewish
crowds during his life on Earth, he also spoke to non-Jews. It was made very clear to the Apostles after the
crucifixion that they were to spread the Word to all, Jew or not. The primary theme is Baptism, beginning with
the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. A similar idea is reflected with the response of the magi who journeyed
from afar to worship Jesus at Bethlehem. January 6 was already kept and celebrated by pagans as the winter
solstice in the first centuries of the church
This season begins on the Day of the Epiphany and lasts until Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent. The
length of the season varies according to the date of Easter Day. The liturgical color used on vestments is
generally green, representing the green things of God's earth and referring to growth of the spirit of God within
us in response to His coming at Christmas.

L ENT is the next season of the year. In a sense, Lent "begins to begin" on the Tuesday before Ash
Wednesday. Depending on the culture, this Tuesday is called Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.
This is the last day before Lent -- traditionally a day to use up all of the perishable luxuries in the household --
eggs, milk, cream, meat, butter, etc. Hence, the traditional Anglican pancake supper on Tuesday. Jesus was
crucified and we, too, must suffer and die. The marvel of Faith is that God makes that journey with us. Lent
begins with the ashes of Ash Wednesday at the dark end of winter. (The word Lent means, literally, lengthening
referring to the lengthing days of spring.) It is a time of recognizing our need for God's presence on our journey.
Its highest message is that in the depths of our pain, we can still be joined to our God, who also knows pain and
tears and death. We use the pottery set for Eucharist instead of the silver and flowers are not used during Lent.
Lent is 40 days long (not counting Sundays, which are always feast days) reflecting the 40 days Jesus was
tested in the wilderness after his baptism in the Jordan River. It begins on Ash Wednesday with the imposition of
ashes and the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," to remind us that we are
mortal -- fallen and doomed to Death. Only through God's merciful gift (which we celebrate every Sunday and,
most of all, on the Sunday of Sundays, Easter) can we hope to anything else. For thousands of years, covering
oneself with sackcloth and ashes has been a sign of repentance and mourning. Early Christians also used these
symbols as signs of repentance. Liturgies during Lent are subdued, introspective, and penitential in nature, often
beginning in silence and with the general confession of the people. The color used is purple, signifying the
penitent mood of Lent.
Palm Sunday and Holy Week follow Lent and last until Easter. Palm Sunday begins with the triumphal
procession commemorating Jesus entering the Holy City on a donkey. Participants experience a dramatic
change in the middle of things. What had seemed like Jesus being joined by the crowd becomes the
confrontation of Jesus being sought for arrest by the authorities. The color for this Sunday is the red of martyrs,
the color of blood.
The next major liturgy is Maundy Thursday (the name comes from the Latin for mandate in the liturgy for foot
washing -a new mandate I give to you, that you might love one another.) This liturgy commemorates the Last
Supper of Jesus with his disciples. At the close of this liturgy we remember that Jesus departed from the upper
room for the Garden of Gethsemane. At this time, people strip the altar area of all ornamentation and all
symbols of God's presence. No Eucharists may be celebrated from this time until Easter.
On Good Friday ("good" meaning a day or season observed by the church) our Lord was crucified. We gather
for one of the most powerful liturgies of the year. Here we share the pain of the death of the Christ, the end of all
hope. We begin the observance of the three days of death, when our Lord was in the tomb. The lights are
dimmed and we leave in silence, again, without dismissal.
E ASTER is the highest point of the church year and the Great Vigil is the first Eucharist of Easter. This is the
most ancient liturgy of the church year. We go from death to life with Christ -- through fire, light, word, water,
bread, and wine. We will kindle new fire, both physically and in our hearts. We shall light the great Paschal
candle, and read the Bible by its light. In its light, we will offer prayer and praise. In the light, we will celebrate
the Easter sacraments of baptism and Eucharist. We gather in tomb-like darkness and, suddenly, a flame is lit
among us. This flame is the new fire of Christ born among us in the midst of darkness. The Paschal Candle,
symbolizing the pillar of fire by which God led the Hebrews out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, is lit from
the fire and the celebrant processes into the Nave. The celebrant pauses three times to chant, The Light of
Christ; and three times the people respond, Thanks be to God. The people light individual candles from the
Paschal Candle and the light spreads in the darkness among the congregation as we chant and read the Old
Testament stories of God's deliverance from death and slavery. Then, with the first reading from the resurrection
narratives all the lights come on and we sing alleluias for the first time since Epiphany season.
Easter Day is a movable feast, falling on the Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox (March
21). Easter lasts 50 days and ends on the Day of Pentecost. During this season, the liturgical color is white and
liturgies are uplifting and joyful. God has brought us full circle: from ashes into the fullness of life and joy. God
does, indeed, have the final word. The Paschal Candle burns in the church near the font throughout Easter.

P ENTECOST, (Greek for 50 days) commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles, 50 days
after the resurrection of Christ. The vestment and altar hanging color is red, symbolic of the tongues of fire as
the Holy Spirit descended.
The period called the Season after Pentecost is a time in which we reenact the story of salvation proclaimed in
the preceding seasons. The color used is green, symbolizing growth. This season is sometimes referred to as
"ordinary time". The last Sunday of the Season after Pentecost is often called the Sunday of Christ the King. It is
a day of triumph of our Lord and his final victory in the heart of the community. Then, since we are as yet
imperfect people in an imperfect world, we begin the cycle again with Advent... waiting for God to work His
miracles in our hearts.