The Church Year

disciplesTo fully participate in worship at Saint James, and therefore to grow in your understanding and in your faith through worship, we encourage you to worship with us all year long. In fact, we encourage you to worship with us all year long for three years.

The Church Year is structured in such a way as to lead the worshipper through the life of Christ (as revealed in the Gospels) while also through the entire Bible, taking us deeper and deeper and wider and wider in our living relationship with the living God.

There are two significant life-of-Christ cycles in the Church Year. The first is the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle and the second is the Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle. The Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle begins four Sundays before Christmas Day (December 25) and extends through January 6. The Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle, in contrast, moves around quite a bit, because the date of Easter depends on the lunar cycle. The cycle begins in February or March and ends in May or June.

The time in between these two cycles are measured in “Sundays after.” The Sundays after Epiphany are called the First Sunday after Epiphany, the Second Sunday after Epiphany, etc. The Sundays after Pentecost (there are many of these, from late spring all the way to Thanksgiving) are called the First Sunday after Pentecost, the Second Sunday after Pentecost, etc.

Each year, the cycles repeat, except that the readings (and therefore the music and sermons which correspond to those readings) change so that the church can make it through most of the four Gospels in a three-year cycle, called Years A, B and C.

So, therefore, if you really want to grow in faith and understanding, you need to consider attending regularly for three years.

The Advent-Christmas-Epiphany Cycle

The cycle starts with the anticipation of the coming of Christ (Advent), then moves into the birth of Jesus (The Incarnation, or Christmas), and is completed with the revelation of Jesus as Christ (Epiphany).
The season begins on the First Sunday of Advent and lasts for four Sundays in Advent. The Parish Choir typically offers a Service of Nine Lessons and Carols for Advent during this time.

Finally, Christmas arrives. The 5pm service on Christmas Eve is the Family Service which includes the telling of the Christmas story to the children, and the 11pm service celebrates the long-awaited Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ with festival music offered by the Parish Choir often times augmented by orchestra.

Christmas begins the “twelve days of Christmas,” which end on January 6 with the Epiphany. Since Epiphany usually falls on a weekday, we celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday following Epiphany. 

The Lent-Easter-Pentecost Cycle

Lent is a period of 40 days (not including Sundays), a period of penitence and even fasting, as we turn to the Lord in preparation for his suffering, death and Resurrection. Easter, of course, commemorates the Resurrection—Christ’s decisive defeat of death—and gives us the very reason for a church in the first place. And Pentecost celebrates the birthday of that Church, the coming of the Holy Spirit, who through the centuries has worked through faithful men and women to spread the Gospel and grow the Church.

At Saint James, there is no more meaningful time to come to worship than during the Lent-Easter-Pentecost Cycle. We encourage you to join us for as many worship services as possible, especially as Lent reaches its climax in Holy Week, the final week before Easter and the time of Jesus’ Passion, his suffering and death. We offer special choral services during Holy Week.

But the heart of Holy Week is the Triduum, the three days beginning with Maundy Thursday and continuing through Good Friday and The Great Vigil and First Eucharist of Easter on Holy Saturday (celebrated before sunrise on Easter). The incomparable liturgies for these three days will take you from the great depths of our Lord’s suffering to the great heights of his complete victory. You may be tempted to simply show up for services on Easter Sunday and skip the rest, but that would be a mistake. The three days leading up to Easter Sunday are often regarded as the most sublime liturgies in the Lutheran tradition.

Last Published: March 17, 2011 11:56 PM