The Catholic Liturgical Calendar offers us many wonderful opportunities to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church in the Mass readings and prayers throughout the year. Do you have a calendar filled with notes for appointments and other commitments? Does it have you feeling a little overwhelmed at times? The Catholic Liturgical Calendar can help!
During Advent, which starts the liturgical year, (usually about 3-4 weeks before Christmas) we await Jesus’s birth. From the season of Lent (starting with Ash Wednesday) until Easter Sunday we cover important aspects of His earthly ministry, including His passion, death and resurrection. Sandwiched in between Christmas and Lent is the first part of Ordinary Time. After Lent comes the Easter season (7 weeks long), a time in which the Regina Coeli, celebrating our Lord’s resurrection, is prayed with special fervor, followed by Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.
The second part of Ordinary Time follows and continues until the following Advent. There is nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time, however! Ordinary in this case is derived from ordinal or “numbered,” referring to the numbered weeks. (There are 34 weeks of Ordinary Time, altogether.)
During Ordinary Time, as during the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, the Catholic Liturgical Calendar also includes days called solemnities honoring events in the life of Jesus, Mary, and the saints. A few of the dates honoring Mary commemorate events such as her Assumption into Heaven, that are also mysteries of the Rosary, In November we honor both the saints and the souls in purgatory and pay homage to our Lord’s special place in our lives as our Creator and Redeemer in the feast of Christ the King as well. In addition there are many feast days honoring the saints throughout the year. (Just as a reminder, a feast day in the Catholic Church is a day to give special honor, that is to say recognition, to God, saints, doctrines, or sacred events.)
The readings in this calendar are divided into three-year cycles that cover different sections of the Old and New Testaments (including of course, the Gospels) and the psalms. (The cycles are called years A, B, and C.)
We really can live in, and with, Christ in prayer throughout the year! As mentioned earlier, we await Jesus at Advent, celebrate His birth at Christmas, and then join the Three Wise Men as they pay homage to Him at Epiphany (12 days after Christmas).
Moving along, His Presentation, Baptism, and all other aspects of His earthly ministry are also well covered in the Church's calendar. In the spring, after celebrating Our Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven in the Easter season, we commemorate the establishment of His Church after Pentecost. All these events make great material for prayerful reflections.
In addition, the psalms from the Old Testament that we read during Mass and at other times of the day, such as during night prayers, provide great spiritual nourishment.
No one knew that better than Jesus Himself. Indeed, when Our Lord said “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” on the cross, he was harkening back to Psalm 22! The night before, He sang a hymn with the apostles from Psalms 114-118 at the conclusion of the Last Supper. When we pray the psalms we are indeed praying along with Jesus!
In incorporating the Catholic Liturgical Calendar into our lives we can benefit from the richness of our faith. It gives us some wonderful opportunities for daily prayers! You might want to get a Catholic calendar that includes feast days and other such listings from one of your local parishes or bookstores. As you pencil in a note for Pentecost, you could find yourself planning to spend more time with Our Lord.
He’s always there for us in the Mass, in the Blessed Sacrament, or in other quiet times we may choose for prayer and reflection. Always remember that in the grand scheme of things, in terms of your eternal life and salvation, your “appointments” with Him are the most important ones of all!