What is the Liturgical Calendar?

By Father Edward McNamara, Professor of Liturgy,  Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University

Liturgical Calendar Chart

In the early Church the readings were usually organized on a simple basis of continuity; that is, they took off from where they had finished the previous Sunday.

As the liturgical year developed, certain readings began to be reserved for certain feast days and seasons and so a thematic cycle developed.

When the Second Vatican Council asked for the selection of readings used at Mass to be increased, the experts took inspiration from the two ancient methods of continuity and thematic readings.

For Sundays they developed a three-year cycle, one for each synoptic gospel: A for Matthew, B for Mark (with five readings from St. John, Chapter 6, inserted after the 16th Sunday), and C for Luke. So during Ordinary time each Sunday Gospel continues on from the previous week.

The New Testament readings also follow this continual system, the Letters of St. Paul and St. James being read during Ordinary time because those of John and Peter are read during Christmas and Easter.

This continuous system is why they do not always seem to fit in well with the Gospel.

The Old Testament reading (or the Acts of the Apostles during Eastertide) and the responsorial psalm are chosen so as to somehow relate to the Gospel text.

During Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter and on solemnities all three readings are chosen so as to highlight the particular spiritual message of the season.

With respect to the daily readings: during Ordinary time all four Gospels are read using a semi-continual system during the course of the year. Mark weeks 1-9; Matthew 10-12; and Luke 22-34.

St. John’s Gospel is read semi-continuously, above all, during part of Lent and almost all of Eastertide on both Sundays and weekdays.

Thus almost all of Mark 1-12 is read, then the texts of Matthew and Luke that are not found in Mark.

The first daily reading, taken from either Testament, also uses a semi-continuous system organized in a two-year cycle for odd and even numbered years.

The New Testament readings offer the substance of almost all the letters whereas the Old Testament readings offer a selection of the most important elements of each book. Almost all of the books are represented except some brief prophets and the Song of Songs.

Toward the end of the year the reading come from Revelation and Daniel, which fit well with the apocalyptic sermons from Luke.

Unlike the readings for ordinary time the daily readings of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter have been chosen to relate to each other and to reflect the liturgical season.

A special characteristic of Eastertide is the reading from the Acts of the Apostles as first reading every day.

They also repeat the same readings each year and are not divided into an even-odd cycle.

Seasons of Church Year

[Originally posted on Zenit]

Midnight Apostolate

This is a midnight apostolate.  Anyone who has ever maintained a blog will know how difficult it is to regularly post engaging content.  It’s not easy and so many forces work against us.  Thanks for coming back, again.  I’ve been gone for a while.  I hope Our Good Lord has blessed you and that you’ve fallen more in love with Our Mother.  May the Virgin bless you with her maternal smile, save you from unnecessary suffering, and bring you consolation in times of difficulty.

How was your Easter?  I celebrated my sixth anniversary as a Catholic Christian.  It was my third time going to the Vigil Mass and I chide myself for not going every year.  It was so beautiful.  There is something incredible about that experience… the anticipation which culminates in a community outpouring of love for our Lord, Jesus Christ.  And, it’s not a spontaneous, chaotic outpouring of ecstatic praise, but a unified chorus of prayer.  It’s the liturgy.  Have you ever really paid attention to the Easter Vigil Liturgy?  You can’t read about it.  You can’t have someone else tell you what it’s like.  You have to pray and prepare yourself to receive this generous gift — the gift of the Easter Liturgy.

I want to get back into the habit of writing to you.  This time, though, I will pray for you, as well.  It’s so important to know that we are loved here in this world.  And, if you happened to have stopped by this corner of the Internet, please know that I’ve been praying for you.

Where are you in your life?  Do you believe?  Do you hate God?  Could you care less?  Whatever the state of your soul, know that this anonymous stranger is and has been praying for you.

I do this because my love for God is overflowing from my family life into other areas.  I no longer want to offer just my Sunday mornings, but every moment to God.  This has led me to pray more.  And, so I’ve prayed for strangers.  I’ve prayed for friends, family, and co-workers; for my parish; the Pope’s intentions; for the victims of tragedy that I read in the news.

As my prayer life grows, I feel this need to love more and more, to give more of myself.  I’m restless with love.  So, instead of going to sleep next to my family, I have this midnight apostolate where I pour out my thoughts into these posts.

Pentecost is coming on our liturgical calendar.  Isn’t our calendar amazing?  It’s like we can be sure to see the sunrise again tomorrow in case we missed it, today.  It’s the same with our Catholic liturgical calendar.  If you missed something, then you can be sure it’ll come again next year.  Over a lifetime of the liturgical seasons, we will see so many Lenten sunsets and Easter sunrises.  Oh, and all the lovely moments inbetween!

Thanks again for stopping by.  God loves you.  I will pray for you.  Let me know in the comments if there is a special intention you’d like me to pray for.  May the Lord bless you, protect you from evil, and bring you to everlasting life.  Amen!

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