Advent is Coming (pt 2)
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I'm a fan. So I'm of the option that, at least in this case, the whole is greater than the parts. I say this as a chocolate lover and peanut butter enthusiast. So I'm not critical of the parts. I like it all, separately and combined.
In my previous post, I began writing about the season of Advent by looking at parts and wholes. The parts, or days, join together and compose seasons. Seasons construct the entirety of what we call the Christian Calendar. In this post, we'll look at seasons and how they work. And to get there, we'll look at the two days most central to the the major seasonal cycles.
Easter Day and Christmas Day are each foundational for the structure of the entire Church calendar. Each day is at the center of its related cycle of celebration. And each cycle of celebration has three basic parts: a season of preparation, the day of celebration, and following season of reflection.
This develops first with Easter. Since converts were often baptized at Easter, there was a season of preparation for baptism that developed into what we now practice as the season of Lent, a 40-day season of penitential preparation. Following Easter Day is the great 50 days of the Easter season—a season longer and greater than Lent.
As the date for Christmas Day became settled, a similar season of preparation developed. This is where we get our Advent season. Advent is not as penitential as Lent, though there is a solemnity since the Advent season not only considers Jesus' birth but also, and primarily, his promised return in glory to judge the living and the dead. As Easter season follows Easter Day, so the Christmas season—or Christmastide—follows Christmas Day. The Christmas season is the twelve days of Christmas, special days that lead us from Christmas Day on December 25th to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.
So the following pattern emerges: preparation, celebration, reflection. These are the three parts of the two major cycles, Christmas and Easter. And these parts form distinct yet related wholes. Each part is a unique and valuable season unto itself. The preparatory seasons are followed by a special day, and this day is followed by corresponding season. So we have Advent, Christmas Day, and Christmastide. And we have Lent, Easter Day, and Eastertide.
These parts unite to form whole units of devotion and worship that set the major rhythms and Gospel themes of the Church Year. Again, through each cycle, we are given gifts and practices—seasons of preparation, days of celebration, and season for reflection.
Filling in the remainder of the Church calendar, we have seasons that connect these two great cycles of Christmas and Easter. These seasons help us apply the Gospel that is proclaimed in our Christmas and Easter cycles. These two connecting seasons are called Epiphanytide and Trinitytide.
Epiphanytide follows the conclusion of the Christmas Season on the Feast of the Epiphany. In it we celebrate the light of Christ going out through Israel to the whole world. Trinitytide follows the conclusion of the Easter Season at Pentecost. It is a season of spirit-empowered discipleship and mission in communion with the life and love of the Holy Trinity.
As result—through the architecture and message of the Church Calendar—disciples are invited to build the parts and the whole of our days, along with the parts and the whole our lives, around the Gospel. This Gospel centers on the womb and the tomb: the holy womb of Mary from whom was born our savior Jesus Christ both God and man; and the empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea which briefly held the crucified body of Jesus who rose from the dead. Centered on these saving events of incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, we prepare, celebrate, and reflect.