What Are the Liturgical Seasons of the Catholic Church?
The liturgy, or public worship, of all Christian churches is governed by a yearly calendar that commemorates the main events in salvation history. In the Catholic Church, this cycle of public celebrations, prayers, and readings is divided into six seasons, each emphasizing a portion of the life of Jesus Christ.

These six seasons are described in the "General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar," published by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship in 1969 (after the revision of the liturgical calendar at the time of the promulgation of the 
Mass of Paul VI).

As the General Norms note, "By means of the yearly cycle the Church celebrates the whole mystery of Christ, from his incarnation until the day of Pentecost and the expectation of his coming again."
Liturgical Seasons


Advent: Prepare the Way of the Lord

The liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of 
Advent, the season of preparation for Christ's Birth. The emphasis in the Mass and the daily prayers of this season is on the threefold coming of Christ—the prophecies of His Incarnation and Birth; His coming into our lives through grace and the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and His Second Coming at the end of time. Sometimes called a "little Lent," Advent is a period of joyful expectation but also of penance, as the liturgical color of the season—purple, as in Lent—indicates.

Christmas: Christ Is Born!

The joyful expectation of Advent finds its culmination in the second season of the liturgical year: Christmas. Traditionally, the Christmas season extended from First Vespers (or evening prayer) of Christmas (before Midnight Mass) through Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2)—a period of 40 days.

With the revision of the calendar in 1969, "The Christmas season runs," notes the General Norms, "from evening prayer I of Christmas until the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January, inclusive"—that is, until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Contrary to popular celebration, the Christmas season does not encompass Advent, nor end with Christmas Day, but begins after Advent ends and extends into the New Year.

The season is celebrated with a special joy throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, ending with the Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6).

Ordinary Time: Walking With Christ

On the Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the longest season of the liturgical year—Ordinary Time—begins.

Depending on the year, it encompasses either 33 or 34 weeks, broken into two distinct portions of the calendar, the first ending on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and the second beginning on the Monday after Pentecostand running until evening prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent.

(Before the revision of the calendar in 1969, these two periods were known as the the Sundays After Epiphany and the Sundays After Pentecost.)

Ordinary Time takes its name from the fact that the weeks are numbered (ordinal numbers are numbers indicating positions in a series, such as fifth, sixth, and seventh). During both periods of Ordinary Time, the emphasis in the Mass and the Church's daily prayer is on Christ's teaching and His life among His disciples.

Lent: Dying to Self

The season of Ordinary Time is interrupted by three seasons, the first being Lent, the 40-day period of preparation for Easter. 

In any given year, the length of the first period of Ordinary Time depends on the date of Ash Wednesday, which itself depends on the date of Easter.

Lent is a period of fasting, abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving—all to prepare ourselves, body and soul, to die with Christ on Good Friday so that we may rise again with Him on Easter Sunday.

During Lent, the emphasis in the Mass readings and daily prayers of the Church is on the prophecies and foreshadowings of Christ in the Old Testament, and the increasing revelation of the nature of Christ and His mission.

The Easter Triduum: From Death Into Life

Like Ordinary Time, the Easter Triduum is a new liturgical season created with the revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969.

It has its roots, though, in the reform of the ceremonies of Holy Week in 1956. While Ordinary Time is the longest of the Church's liturgical seasons, the Easter Triduum is the shortest; as the General Norms note, "The Easter triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper [on Holy Thursday], reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday." 

While the Easter Triduum is liturgically a separate season from Lent, it remains a part of the 40-day Lenten fast, which extends from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, excluding the six Sundays in Lent, which are never days of fasting.

Easter: Christ Is Risen!

After Lent and the Easter Triduum, the third season to interrupt Ordinary Time is the Easter season itself.

Beginning onEaster Sunday and running to Pentecost Sunday, a period of 50 days (inclusive), the Easter season is second only to Ordinary Time in length.

Easter is the greatest feast in the Christian calendar, for "if Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain." The Resurrection of Christ culminates in His Ascension into Heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which inaugurates the mission of the Church to spread the Good News of salvation to all the world.

Rogation and Ember Days: Petition and Thanksgiving

In addition to the six liturgical seasons discussed above, the "General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar" lists a seventh item in its discussion of the yearly liturgical cycle: the Rogation Days and Ember Days. While these days of prayer, both of petition and of thanksgiving, do not constitute a liturgical season of their own, they are some of the oldest annual celebrations in the Catholic Church, celebrated continuously for over 1,500 years until the revision of the calendar in 1969. At that point, the celebration of both the Rogation Days and the Ember Days were made optional, with the decision left up to the bishops' conference of each country. As a result, neither is widely celebrated today

Catholicism Expert

What Are Holy Days of Obligation?


Definition: Holy days of obligation are feast days on which Catholics are required to attend Mass and to avoid (to the extent that they are able) servile work. The observance of Holy Days of Obligation is part of theSunday Duty, the first of thePrecepts of the Church.

There are currently ten Holy Days of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

  1. Solemity of Mary the Mother of God
  2. The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  3. Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  4. The Ascension of Our Lord
  5. Corpus Christi
  6. Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul, Apostles
  7. The Asummption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  8. All Saints Day
  9. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
  10. Christmas

Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar 2016

This 2016 calendar lists the dates of the Holy Days of Obligation in the United States for 2016, as well as the dates of moveable feasts (holy days whose dates change from year to year). Please note that only those days that have "Holy Days of Obligation" listed beneath their entries are Holy Days of Obligation; all others are moveable feasts.
  • Mary, Mother of God (Friday, January 1, 2016)
    Holy Day of Obligation
  • Ash Wednesday (Wednesday, February 10, 2016)
  • Palm Sunday (Sunday, March 20, 2016)
  • Holy Thursday (Thursday, March 24, 2016)
  • Good Friday (Friday, March 25, 2016)
  • Holy Saturday (Saturday, March 26, 2016)
  • Easter Sunday (Sunday, March 27, 2016)
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (Sunday, April 3, 2016)
  • Ascension (Thursday, May 5, 2016)
    Holy Day of Obligation (transferred to Sunday, May 8, 2016
  • Pentecost Sunday (Sunday, May 15, 2016)
  • Trinity Sunday (Sunday, May 22, 2016)
  • Corpus Christi (Thursday, May 26, 2016; transferred to Sunday, May 29, 2016)
  • Sacred Heart of Jesus (Friday, June 3, 2016)
  • Assumption of Mary (Monday, August 15, 2016)
    Holy Day of Obligation (abrogated because it falls on a Monday)
  • All Saints Day (Tuesday, November 1, 2016)
    Holy Day of Obligation
  • First Sunday of Advent (Sunday, November 27, 2016)
  • Immaculate Conception (Thursday, December 8, 2016)
    Holy Day of Obligation


  • Christmas (Sunday, December 25, 2016)
    Holy Day of Obligation

What Is a Moveable Feast?

Definition: In the strictest sense, a moveable feast is a Christian feast day whose date changes each year because it depends on the date of Easter, which is itself a moveable feast.

By extension, the term moveable feast is used for any event on, or related to, the Christian calendar that varies from year to year. Thus the Baptism of the Lord, while not related to the date of Easter, is celebrated on a different date each year, and Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, while not officially a Christian celebration, is tied to the date of Easter, and both are colloquially referred to as moveable feasts.

Pronunciation: ˈmoōvəbəl fēst

Alternate Spellings: Movable Feast

Examples: "Ash Wednesday, Ascension Thursday, and Pentecost Sunday are all moveable feasts, because their dates change every year, depending on the date of Easter."

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