January 11, 2012 - 2012 is here and we usher in a new year, but did you know that when it comes to spiritual matters, for many, the year began weeks ago?
As we change calendars and begin a New Year I thought it might be helpful to explain a little bit about a different type of calendar and year, one for the soul.
Many people all over the world follow a calendar called the liturgical year. The whole point of the year is to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ.
It all starts four weeks prior to Christmas, with the season known as Advent.
This first period of the year is named from a Latin word that we can basically translate as "coming".
As you might expect, during the season of Advent, Christians prepare for the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. His birth is a time of such joy that it would be impossible to celebrate it for only a single day.
The celebration of God coming to earth is so momentous that Christmas has its own season within the liturgical year. The Christmas season continues into the first week of January, usually ending on Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.
On this day, Christians recall the day when the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the child Jesus, recognizing him as the Savior of the world. With this celebration the Christmas season draws to a close.
The next part of the liturgical year begins with the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus. This inaugurates the part of the year known as "ordinary time."
Ordinary here doesn't mean that during that time we have to be ordinary and nonchalant about spiritual growth.
The word ordinary is used because during the weeks of ordinary time, no one particular event in the life of Jesus is highlighted. Ordinary time is the longest period of the liturgical year, lasting for 33 or 34 weeks.
This series of weeks is not continuous, however, because it is broken up by the period called the season of Lent.
Lent is a period of forty days beginning on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, the followers of Christ devote themselves in a special way to prayer, sacrifice, and good works.
This time reminds Christians of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert praying and fasting.
Lent is a preparation for the most important events of the whole liturgical year: Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday and his Resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Although the time of preparation is long, the period of celebration is even longer. The Easter celebration lasts for fifty days and ends on Pentecost Sunday when Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginnings of the Church.
You might have noticed that there's no vacation time on this liturgical calendar. That's because when it comes to spiritual matters we save our vacation days for heaven.
Fr. Daniel Pajerski, LC, is Formation Director for Everest Academy.