Worship

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.

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.


Lent

On Wednesday, February 26, we will enter the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.

The origins of Lent date back to the earliest centuries of the Church, when newcomers were baptized into the Church at Easter, the great celebration of the Resurrection, the conquest of death and the beginning of new life. These catechumens were prepared for this event by a time of instruction and prayer and self-denial. It was believed that all this helped to make them more spiritually mobile and agile. And so Lent began as a period when people were diligently preparing for a new life with God.

This season of the Church also became associated with Jesus’ forty days of fasting and praying in the wilderness, when he immediately departed from his own baptism into the desert to overcome temptation. In early Christian history, it became more and more common in Lent for churches to strip away some of the decoration to make themselves look a bit simpler, a kind of outward manifestation of the austerity within. Over time, the color used during Lent for vestments and hangings became purple, a serious color associated with judgment. In the Middle Ages, Christians began to mark the beginning of Lent by smearing ash on their heads as a solemn sign of their mortality, Ash Wednesday.

But it is important to remember that the word “Lent” itself comes from the Old English word for “Springtime” This season is not about being miserable for forty days. It is not even about giving things up for forty days. Ultimately, Lent is the time to prepare for that great climax of Springtime, Easter.

And as we prepare ourselves for new life to conquer death with seasonal prayer, programs, worship, study and self-denial, we should remember that we do not seek discipline or austerity as an end to itself. We aim to tidy our own minds and hearts, so that God’s life may have room to come in and transform us at the Great Feast of the Resurrection.