From the 4th century onwards, the Christian church began to structure itself into a predictable rhythm of worship and community life. It had a story to tell and so broke the year into manageable pieces for the telling. The church used popular cultural seasons and holidays to overlay its teachings. When communities came to turns in the road, the Christian church was there waiting with a word or a ritual to smooth the transition. This timing of seasons and key events became the Liturgical Year.
For example, Christmas (the birth of the Messiah) was placed against the Roman celebration of the sun, and used the winter solstice as a springboard. Of course, we celebrated the birth of Jesus and this representation of God's love for man. The timing, however, precedes Christian observance of the Messiah's birth. (Note the blue and white colours in the Metropolitan Christmas image at the left.)
The season of Lent is an intentional stretching of the story of the "battle of the worlds" taking place in Messiah's suffering and death. Each of the six weeks of Lent opens a particular part of the story for reflection. The season is sombe. The music is introspective. The preaching tackles the great human themes of death and life, and the purpose of life.
Easter traces its non-Christian beginnings to a lunar festival, and marks the return of life to the earth after winter. As Christians, Easter connects us to the sacrifice of Jesus for all the sins of mankind. It celebrates the rebirth of the earth, and the resurrection of all mankind through the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. (At Metropolitan, we light the altar, chancel and the church itself in purple during this period.)
Pentecost was originally a Jewish festival (shuvat), repurposed by the Christian church to celebrate spring and natural rebith.
Ordinary Time is the time between the end of Pentecost and the beginning of Advent.
All of our Sunday services are planned around the structure of the church year, from Bible readings, to sermons, to music. The worship of God involves all the senses: we see, hear, smell, taste and touch the mystery of God. From this mystery we try to understand our relationship to the sacred, to the cycle of birth, life, and death, and to our purpose here on earth.
At Metropolitan United, music helps us to define the cycles of the Liturgical Year. We also use Bible readings, sermons, prayers and colour to understand the traditions and ideas that define the progress of Christian thought and faith through the year.
This chart helps to explain our banners and chancel colours through the year:
|Advent||Four Sundays before Christmas||Blue (signifies a time of waiting)|
|Christmas||Christmas Eve - January 6||White (signifies purity and innocence)|
|Epiphany||January 6 until Lent. This is when the meaning of Messiah is explored.||Green (the pastoral colour of the church year)|
|Lent||6 weeks before Easter. This is the season that takes us to the heart of the Christian story: the suffering and death of the Messiah.||Purple (signifies penitence)|
|Easter||Easter and 50 days following||White (signifies purity)|
|Day of Pentecost||50 days after Easter, which marks the blessing of the church.||Red (the colour of blood and martydom)|
|Ordinary Time||Pentecost until next Advent||Green (for growing, living things)|