The Church Year
To fully participate at Saint Thomas, and therefore to grow in your understanding and in your faith through worship, we encourage you to attend services all year long.
The church year is structured in such a way as to lead the worshipper through the life of Christ (as revealed in the Gospels) while also through the Bible, taking us deeper and wider in our living relationship with the living God.
There are two significant life-of-Christ cycles in the Church Year. The first is the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle and the second is the Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle.
The Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle begins with Advent Sunday, which is always four Sundays before Christmas Day (December 25) and extends through Epiphany, which is always January 6 (the day after the Twelfth Day of Chistmas). The Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle, in contrast, moves around quite a bit, because the date of Easter depends on the lunar cycle. The cycle begins on Ash Wednesday in February or March and ends with the Day of Pentecost in May or June. Easter Day itself falls in late March or in April.
The time in between these two cycles are measured in “Sundays after," seasons which are called Ordinary Time or Green Seasons. The Sundays after Epiphany are called the First Sunday after Epiphany, the Second Sunday after Epiphany, etc. The Sundays after Pentecost (there are many of these, from late spring all the way to Thanksgiving) are called the First Sunday after Pentecost, the Second Sunday after Pentecost, etc.
Each year, the cycles repeat, starting anew with the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle in late November or early December, except that the readings (and therefore the music and sermons which correspond to those readings) change so that the church can make it through most of the four Gospels in a three-year Sunday cycle, called Years A, B and C. In Year A, we focus on Matthew’s Gospel. In Year B, Mark’s. In Year C, Luke’s. John’s Gospel is used a lot in all three, and in reality all four Gospels are used from time to time all three years. But the focus in Years A, B and C is on Matthew, Mark, or Luke.
The Church Year that began on December 3, 2017 is Year B. Therefore, while you will hear from all four gospel writers throughout the year, you will especially hear from Mark.
On weekdays, we offer the Daily Office: services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (or Evensong). We also offer a Mass three times a day on Monday through Friday and once each Saturday. These services allow you to go even deeper because the daily readings (as opposed to Sunday readings) are organized by the Prayer Book lectionary in such a way as to get you through most of the Bible in just two years, called Year 1 and Year 2. While Sunday services will expose you to most of the four Gospels and bits of the rest of the Bible, weekday lessons cover almost the whole thing, including a very large part of the Old Testament. You can see the assigned readings for each day by clicking on individual services on the worship calendar.
Punctuating all of this are various feast days, which commemorate saints and others. There are major red-letter saints, such as Mary and the twelve apostles, and there are "lesser saints" and others, ranging from Aelred to Wulfstan. They each have assigned days generally based on the date they died. When a red-letter saint's day falls on a Sunday during Ordinary Time, we often celebrate the saint on Sunday. For lesser saints, we celebrate them when they fall on weekdays but not when they fall on Sundays. You can observe all of this via the day titles on the worship calendar. The day title appears immediately below the date on each individual calendar page. If there is not title for the day (other than the date itself) that means that there is no special observance on that day.
So those are the basics. But how this plays out is complex and interesting. So we encourage you to visit the individual days on the calendar and to read the details for each day and week within the church year.
Questions about any of this? Email us.