The church year is divided into a number of seasons:
Readings from the bible for each day of the year are set out in the Revised Common Lectionary, discussed below.
The church year is determined and calculated from the two major Great Festivals of the year, namely Christmas Day and the day of the Resurrection of the Lord (also known as Easter Sunday). Christmas Day falls on the 25th day of December each year. Because the date of Christmas Day is is fixed relative to the Gregorian calendar it is known as an immovable feast. The date of the day of the Resurrection of the Lord, however, moves relative to the Gregorian calendar and is hence a movable feast. The date of the start of Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox which occurs in March.
The church year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. The current church year began on 27 November 2016
Advent is the period which anticipates, prepares for, and builds up to Christmas. There are four Sundays in Advent.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and the Incarnation, in which God becomes human. Christmas extends from Christmas Eve until the eve of Epiphany. Depending on the day of the week that Christmas Day falls on, there may be one or two Sundays in the Christmas season.
The Feast of Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Epiphany is an immovable feast and falls on the sixth day of January. It may be celebrated on the Sunday which falls between the 2nd and 8th of January.
Lent is a period of 40 days of fasting leading up to the Easter season. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; if one counts the calendar days between Ash Wednesday and the day of the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Sunday) one will find that there are 46 days. The extra six days are the six Sundays in Lent. Because Sundays are Great Festivals and always feast days they are not counted as fast days, and so are not part of Lent.
The last week of Lent is known as Holy Week and begins on Palm Sunday.
Easter is the 50 day period from the day of the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Sunday) to the day of Pentecost, it is actually only 49 days (seven weeks) but if one uses inclusive counting then a case can be made for a 50 day Easter season.
Pentecost is the 50th day (using inclusive counting) after the start of Easter. The period following Pentecost is the second period Ordinary time and ends on the eve of the next Advent Season
Moveable Feasts are those feasts which are not fixed relative to the Gregorian calendar. The Resurrection of the Lord is a moveable feast upon which most of the other moveable feasts depend.
The Immovable Feasts are those whose dates are fixed relative to the Gregorian calendar, examples include Christmas Day, the Epiphany and feasts and commemorations of the saints and martyrs of the church.
Each and every Sunday in the year is a Great Festival, in addition the following days are Great Festivals:
Certain days are observed to celebrate or commemorate the lives of Christians past, in particular the Anglican Church of Southern Africa observes these days.
The seasons of the church year have colours associated with them, in the case of Advent and Lent purple or blue are the liturgical colours, representing the sombre colours of fasting and preparation. Rose may be used on the third Sunday of Advent and on the Second Sunday of Lent.
For Christmas and Easter the celebration colours of white or gold are used. White or gold are also used to commeorate a saint (not a martyr).
Red is used for Pentecost and for those occasions particularly associated with the Holy Spirit (confirmations and ordinations) and also for martyrs of the church.
Green is used for ordinary time, that is for the periods after Epiphany and after Pentecost.
The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is based on the Roman Lectionary that was the product of Vatican II. The Common Lectionary, which is the lectionary included in An Anglican Prayer Book 1989, was an international ecumenical version of the Roman Lectionary used for several years before a systematic evaluation of it gave rise to the Revised Common Lectionary, It was published in 1992. The RCL is used across the Anglican Communion and in many denominations and churches in Southern Africa and the rest of the world. Using the RCL Sunday by Sunday brings the same scriptures to millions of Christians around the world - with the result that the unity of the Church is experienced in the Word of God that is heard in common.
The RCL is a three year table of readings for Sundays and major festivals in which Matthew, Mark and Luke are each given a year in rotation. The Gospel of John, being both later and more theologically reflective, provides material to express the meaning of the high and holy days and also to fill in the gaps especially in the year of Mark, the shortest Gospel. The three years are designated Year A, Year B and Year C. We are currently in Year A , which began on Advent Sunday 2016 .
Each year of the three year cycle quite naturally falls into two parts, each more or less 26 Sundays long: the core seasons of the year - Advent through to the Day of Pentecost, and following it the season of Sundays after Pentecost. The RCL changed the way we refer to the Sundays moving away from the title Sundays of the Year which has caused much confusion, to naming the Sundays after events in the life of Jesus.
RCL provides a structure that is consistent across all three years. The pattern and themes for the Sundays in the respective seasons are identical in all three years, but are informed in each year by the Gospel as well as the First and Second Readings associated with it, thus giving each Sunday in any year a distinctive message.