The Liturgical Calendar, for Roman Catholics, starts on the first Sunday in Advent and documents religious life by event instead of by date. This is a description published by the Irish Diocese.
The year for the Roman Catholic Church begins with the first Sunday in Advent. This is calculated by counting back four Sundays from Christmas Day. It can fall as early as 27th of November or as late as the 3rd of December. There are four Sundays of Advent, the third sometimes being known as Gaudete Sunday.
The great feast of Christmas is when the Birth of Jesus is celebrated. The first Sunday after Christmas is known as Holy Family Sunday, remembering Mary, her husband Joseph and the child, Jesus. The Christmas season ends with the Feast of the Epiphany, when the coming of the three Wise Men to visit the child Jesus in Bethlehem is remembered.
There follows what is known as ‘ordinary time’ or ‘weeks of the year’.
The next season is Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Wednesday of Holy Week. Lent is considered a time of preparation for Easter. It was traditionally a time of fasting and abstinence, when faithful Christians ate just enough to keep alive but much less than normal and ate no meat. Days of fasting and abstinence from meat have now been reduced to just two, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. However, as a remnant of this penitential practice many Catholics still give up something for the period of Lent, sweets, alcohol etc.
The day before Ash Wednesday was a time to eat up all the goodies that were to be given up for Lent.
Mid-Lent Sunday was known as Laetare Sunday and considered something of a ‘day off’ the observances of Lent. In Ireland and the UK it is also known as ‘Mother’s Day’ or ‘Mothering Sunday’.
The exact dates of Lent varies dependent upon the date of Easter. Easter falls on the Sunday after the first full moon after the March equinox.
Holy Week Triduum
There follows the three most solemn days of the Church’s year,
Holy Thursday is the day the Last Supper of Jesus is celebrated.
Good Friday, the day on which the death of Christ, crucified on a cross is commemorated.
Holy Saturday, when in the evening’s Solemn vigil the Resurrection of Christ into new life is celebrated with great joy.
The Easter season last for six weeks and ends with the feast of Pentecost.
At Pentecost (or Whitsun), when the Church remembers the story of the Apostles of Jesus, in the upper room in Jerusalem, being inspired by the Holy Spirit and coming down and proclaiming the story of Jesus to all who would listen. This is considered to be the birth of the Church. (Prior to liturgical reform in the 1970’s the time after the Easter Season was known as Sundays after Pentecost).
After Pentecost, there follow what is known as ‘ordinary time’ until the end of the Church’s year on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent.