Special Services for the Seasons
In the Episcopal tradition, our services are driven by the church calendar that begins with the season of Advent – the four Sundays before Christmas – when we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. We sing hymns and songs and readings all lead us into a feeling of anticipation. And the Holy Family travels to Bethlehem by way of our home – Inns who do not turn them away. The statue of Mary, Joseph, and their donkey Nestor, and a reminder to all, een our pets, of the need to prepare our homes and hearts for the arrival of the Baby Jesus.
Christmas season includes two services on Christmas Eve, one at 5:00 pm that is a family service with a Christmas Pageant that depicts the birth narrative and Midnight Mass at 11:00 pm. The season of Christmas follows and may have several Sundays observed as Sundays after Christmas.
Epiphany Day is always January 6th. We have a Festival of Light to begin the season of light – follows and , again, may have several to many Sundays, depending upon when Easter falls ever year.
Lent is observed as a time to prepare ourselves for Easter with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.Lent begins with the Ash Wednesday service where we are reminded of our mortality and marked with ashes made from burning the palms from Palm Sunday. Lent lasts 40 days, but to count the number of days, Sundays are cast out of the total.
The last week in Lent is called Holy Week and begins with Palm/Passion Sunday. We begin the service celebrating Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. But the service continues with the reading of the Passion, that recalls the last few days of Jesus's life, his suffering, his trials, his death, and we leave in silence. Every evening during Holy Week we waslk the "Way of the Cross" inside the church. On Thursday we relive the institution of the Last Supper where our Lord washed the feet of his disciples. The service ends with the stripping of the altar and the church of anything that represent our Lord Jesus Christ. Thursday os day one of the three days that our Lord was dead, so in the church he is dead to us for those three days. Good Friday we recite the story of his crucifixion. On Holy Saturday morning we read morning prayer together.
Then comes the day of resurrection – Easter Day, when we celebrate the day Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Alleluia! There are 50 great days of Easter. We are Easter people and the date of Easter Day drive much of the seasons of the church. There are immovable feasts in the church, but many of our church seasons are actually determined by Easter Day which is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
Pentecost day is the 50th day of Easter when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. The color of this season is red. Our custom at St. Stephen's is to fly doves above the chancel in the church to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
The long season of Pentecost follows (25-27 Sundays) and ends with Christ the King Sunday which is the last week of the church year. Advent begins the next Sunday.