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“For I was hungry and you gave me food.” Matt. 25:35

The Christian Year

The festivals and seasons of the Christian year (or liturgical calendar) offer a way to order the annual life of the church according to the life of Christ and the events of salvation history. The Revised Common Lectionary provides a set of Scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments that is both organized around the Christian year and attentive to the broad themes and narratives of the biblical story.

The Risen Lord, He Qi. Christ's resurrection is the center of the church's life and the Christian year

The Directory for Worship elaborates:

As God created and appointed days, God created a rhythm of time and appointed seasons for worship. In the Old Testament, people observed seasons of fasting and feasting as occasions for festival worship of God. Jesus kept these festivals. For the Church in the New Testament, the festivals were transformed in meaning and purpose by Jesus’ life and teaching, his death and resurrection, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return give meaning to the seasons which order the annual rhythm of worship and guide the selection of lessons to be read and proclaimed in the life of the Church. (W-1.3013)

Through two millennia of Christian worship, a certain cycle of festivals and seasons has emerged and is now recognized and observed throughout the ecumenical church. Some of these events (Pentecost, Holy Week and Epiphany, e.g.) can be traced to the earliest centuries of Christian practice; others (Trinity Sunday and Christ the King, e.g.) developed later in the history of the church. The Directory for Worship provides a helpful outline of these festivals and seasons:

God’s work of redemption in Jesus Christ offers the Church a central pattern for ordering worship in relationship to significant occasions in the life of Jesus and of the people of God. The Church thus has come to observe the following days and seasons:

a.   Advent, a season to recollect the hope of the coming of Christ, and to look forward to the Lord’s coming again,

b.   Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Christ,

c.   Epiphany, a day for commemorating God’s self-manifestation to all people,

d.   Lent, a season of spiritual discipline and preparation, beginning with Ash Wednesday, anticipating the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ,

e.   Holy Week, a time of remembrance and proclamation of the atoning suffering and death of Jesus Christ,

f.    Easter, the day of the Lord’s resurrection and the season of rejoicing which commemorates his ministry until his Ascension, and continues through

g.   the Day of Pentecost, the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

The church also observes other days such as Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration of the Lord, Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day and Christ the King. (W-3.2002)

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  • David, It's always interesting to be in a worship gathering where there are folks from different traditions and everyone says the Lord's Prayer in unison until this line, and then half say "debts" and the other half "trespasses." The version of the Lord's prayer that we recite is found in Matthew. Luke's version is much shorter. The Greek word in Matthew is most strictly translated as "debts." The Greek word in Luke's version is more appropriately translated as "sins." However, the church has always understood "debts" as being a broader category than strictly financial or economic, and so many have substituted Luke's "sins" for Matthew's "debts." "Trespasses" is much closer to "sins" in meaning. When the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549, "trespasses" was used instead of "debts." Thus, Episcopalians and Methodists (a child of the Anglicans) almost always use trespasses. Presbyterian love for biblical textual integrity has meant that we tend to use the Matthew text unaltered, hence "debts." Because the Reformed and the Methodists can never come to an agreement on "debts" vs. "trespasses," many modern versions of the Lord's Prayer just substitute the Lukan "sins." by Charles Wiley on 08/04/2011 at 7:31 p.m.

  • A member said that she was raised that Protestants said "forgive us our debts" and that Protestants said "forgive or trespasses" Any history on the use of these two words in PC(USA) and it's predecessors by David Preininger on 08/04/2011 at 6:26 p.m.

  • I'd love to see a new Book of Common Worship. One with all of the services in the current one plus those from Special Occasions. I, personally, would be willing to sacrifice the section of Psalms and even Lectionary (since it is avaible other places). Daily prayers can stay a separate book (as it is now). by David Preininger on 06/03/2011 at 2:24 p.m.

  • Stanley, glad to hear of your engagement in this ministry. The article you mention refers to a provision that was added to the Book of Order in 1999. Unfortunately, many congregations aren't aware of this practice. We hope others will follow your lead! by David Gambrell PC(USA) Staff on 05/12/2011 at 3:12 p.m.

  • just read article on "Holy Communion, Extending the table "regarding taking the sacrament to shut-ins and other handicapped people. Have been doing it for 50 years and can't believe someone in Theology is just now thinking about it by Stanley Hartung on 05/03/2011 at 3:13 p.m.

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