What season of the church are we in?
a liturgical note from Deacon Mary Baker
Today you may have noticed that our vestments and altar colors have turned from white to green, which symbolizes that our season of Epiphany has ended and the pre-Lenten season has begun. As this is an in-between season — between Epiphany and Lent — it comes under the category we call “ordinary time,” and the color for ordinary time is green.
You may also notice that we are calling this Sunday the Fifth Sunday “after Epiphany,” rather than “of Epiphany.” This is because the season of Epiphany traditionally has been understood to end with Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. Here we have come to the end of the Gospel narratives surrounding the birth of Jesus, which is what we celebrate in what we call the Christmas triad of Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphany. The Sunday Gospel readings in the Epiphany season have served as a bridge from the infancy/childhood stories of Jesus to the period of his baptism and the beginning of his ministry, as recorded in Luke and John.
The Feast of Candlemas is understood as a bridge too — between Epiphany and Lent. At the close of our service on Wednesday, we processed together with lighted candles to the Baptismal font, where we prayed: “We turn from the crib to the Cross; let us shine with the light of the Cross.” We end Epiphany with a festal procession out of our nave and our next festal procession will be processing back into the nave on Palm Sunday, the day when we return specifically to the story of Christ during Holy Week.
Ordinary time is when we turn in the lectionary readings from the Paschal mysteries of Jesus’ incarnation, cross, and resurrection to hearing the teachings of Jesus. This is the time when we turn from walking in time with Christ to learning how to live the life of Christ. However, as mentioned above, the ordinary time of Epiphany and Easter is also called the pre-Lenten season. Next Sunday we will begin marking down the Sundays to Lent with the three Sundays before Lent called: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.
This is what I love about our Anglican tradition: how the readings and collects work together to help us understand our conception of keeping time with Christ. I hope you will notice how the readings and collects in the weeks ahead have a gentle way of leading us into the repentance of the Lenten season.