Liturgical Year Calendar

The Yearly Cycle of Services

CHRIST – OUR PASCHA

|565 The services of the liturgical year, or Church year, are built upon the immoveable and movable cycles. The former is linked to the fixed dates of the year, and the latter—to the movable date of Pascha. The liturgical year is joined to the astronomical year in such a way that the year is crowned with the goodness of God.390 This is accomplished by commemorating, rendering present, and experiencing all the major events of salvation history in the Divine Services.
 
|566 The immoveable cycle of the Church Year begins on September 1; according to the Old Julian) Calendar calculation, this occurs on September 14. The two calculations of the liturgical calendar (new and old) result from the fact that eventually it was noticed that every 128 years the civil calendar (in use since Julius Caesar) differed by one day from the actual astronomical cycles. In 1582, in order to renew the correspondence between the calendar year and the astronomical cycles, Gregory XIII, Pope of Rome, ordered a calendar reform, cancelling ten days from the calendar of the time. The reformed calendar was called the New or Gregorian calendar , while the unreformed remained the Old or Julian calendar. Since the time of the calendar reform, the difference between the two calendars has grown to thirteen days, and will continue to grow. A result of the different calculations is also the different dates for Pascha (Easter) and, consequently, of the feasts of the moveable cycle. Sometimes the date of Pascha coincides, but sometimes the difference between the Gregorian and Julian Calendar dates can reach
five weeks.

a. The Movable Cycle (Lenten and Floral Triodia)

|567 The centre and pivotal point of the liturgical year’s movable cycle of feasts is Pascha. The date of its celebration falls on the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox. This means that every year the date of Pascha will move, falling on different calendar dates. Thus, on the Gregorian calendar it can fall as early as March 22 and as late as April 25; and on the Julian calendar, as early as April 4 and as late as May 10. Accordingly, the dates of the beginning of Great Lent, and of the feasts of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem, Ascension, and Pentecost will also move. During this period, the Church accompanies the faithful with the services of the Lenten and Floral Triodia (from the Greek, meaning a three-canticle hymnic composition). The Lenten Triodion contains the services for the four Sundays before Great Lent and for Great Lent itself; the Floral Triodion for the period from Lazarus Saturday to the Sunday of All Saints. [The Floral Triodion is also called the Pentecostarion.]

 

|568 The services of the Triodia guide the Christian liturgically from an awareness of their own sinfulness to a spiritual transfiguration. Great Lent is preceded by four preparatory Sundays: the Sunday of the Publican (Tax Collector) and the Pharisee; the Sunday of the Prodigal Son; Meatfare Sunday; and Cheesefare Sunday. As preparation for Great Lent, on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Church calls us to imitate the humbleness of the Publican and shun the pride of the Pharisee. On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Church points to the necessity of repentance as a return from the foreign land of sin to the Father’s home. On Meatfare Sunday, when the Gospel about the Divine Judgment is read (see Mt 25:31-46), the Church defines the aim of the coming Lenten fast: to recognize our sins, confess them, and perform works of mercy. On Cheesefare (or Forgiveness) Sunday the Church calls us to take the first step in repentance—mutual forgiveness. During the Lenten fast, Christians practice restraint in eating, but this is not an aim in itself, only a means to cleanse ourselves of passions: “If you refrain from eating but do not purify yourself of the passions, then your fasting is in vain, for it will not serve for correction. Rather, through insincerity the soul will become similar to the evil demons,

who in fact never eat.” 391

 

|569 Authentic fasting means “to put away all evil, to control the tongue, to resist anger, and to abstain from lust, slander, falsehood, and perjury.” 392 The meaning of fasting for the Christian is presented in a sticheron from the Vespers of Cheesefare Sunday: Let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our soul and cleanse our flesh; and as we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness behold his holy Passover. 393

The Lenten liturgical services progressively reveal the essence of true fasting: if we sow the “seeds of repentance” (First Sunday of Lent), our “shoots of virtues” will grow to maturity (Second Sunday of Lent), to allow us to consume the fruit of the life-giving Tree “which leads us back to paradise” (Third Sunday of Lent, the Veneration of the Holy Cross), and by way of the “spiritual ladder” (Fourth Sunday of Lent, Commemoration of Saint John of the Ladder) reach the summits of 190 spiritual purification and repentance (Fifth Sunday of Lent, Commemoration of Saint Mary of Egypt).

 

|570 Saint John Chrysostom, in his teaching on fasting, emphasizes the fruits of fasting in the moral and spiritual life:  What advantage is it, if we have gone through the Fast devoid of good works? If another says, “I have fasted the whole of Lent,” then you should say, “I had an enemy, but I was reconciled; I had a habit of speaking evil of others, but I put a stop to it; I had a habit of swearing, but I have broken through this evil practice.” 394 If we engage the Fast with zeal, we will experience what is described by Saint John Chrysostom in his teaching: Having in this week attained the practice of not swearing at all; and in the following having extinguished wrath; and in that which succeeds it, having pulled up evil-speaking by the roots; and after that, having amended what yet remains; thus going forward in our course, we shall come by little and little to the very summit of virtue.395

 

|571 Once we have “completed the Forty days that bring profit to our soul,” on Lazarus Saturday, the day that begins the Floral Triodion [in the Kyivan tradition], the Church beseeches the Lord: “Grant us also to behold the Holy Week of your Passion, that in it we may glorify your mighty acts.” 396 Indeed, we pray to behold the Resurrection, the Ascension, the sending of the Holy Spirit, and the glorious second coming. On the days of Passion Week, we liturgically commemorate and experience anew the last days of the earthly life of Jesus—his passion, death and burial—and we await his Resurrection, when the Lord, as a “grain of wheat, buried in the earth, has yielded a rich harvest, raising to life the mortal sons of Adam.”397
|572 The growth of the Christian in deification is marked by the services of the Sundays from Pascha to Pentecost: it begins with the encounter with the Risen Christ (Sunday of Pascha, Thomas Sunday, and Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women), which leads to radical changes in particular persons—and in us as well (Sundays of the Paralytic, of the Samaritan Woman and of the Man Born Blind ). The image of “living water” at the feast of Mid-Pentecost indicates the promise of the Holy Spirit, through whose grace we receive divinization.
|573 On the fortieth day after Pascha, the Church sings the praises of Christ’s Ascension. But Christ does not depart from his Church. On the contrary, those who are in Christ are taken up with him “into heaven.”398 This is why the Holy  Fathers of the First Nicene Council (whom we commemorate on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers) already contemplated the Most Holy Trinity, and in the Creed and in conciliar fashion together pass on the experience of the knowledge of God. Imitating the Holy Fathers, the entire liturgical assembly ascends to the contemplation of the Most Holy Trinity on the day of Pentecost: “Today the nations have acquired wisdom through the glory of the vision of God.”399 The Floral Triodion reaches its climax, attaining this summit of the knowledge of God by commemorating on the Sunday after Pentecost all the saints—the fruits of the Spirit.

b. The Immovable Cycle of Feasts (the Menaion)

|574 Another series of Church feasts—of the Lord, of the Mother of God, and of the saints—always falls on the same day of the year and they are thus called immovable (fixed) feasts. Chief among the fixed feasts of the Lord are the Birth (Nativity) of Christ (Christmas, December 25/ January 7) and Theophany ( January 6 /19). Their meaning lies in the manifestation of Christ, the Light that overcomes the darkness of sin. On the second day of each of these feasts the Church celebrates the persons principally involved in the salvific events of Christ’s Birth and his Baptism in the River Jordan: the Synaxis of the most holy Mother of God and the Synaxis of John the Baptist, respectively (synaxis is a Greek word which means ‘ gathering’ and refers to the fact that we gather for a Eucharist to celebrate their memorial). Moreover, linked to the Birth of Christ is the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God (March 25/April 7), which is nine months before Christmas.

|575 Another feast linked to the Birth of Christ is the Birth of John the Baptist. Since he was born six months before Christ (see Lk 1:26), we celebrate his birth on June 24/
July 7, and his conception on September 23/October 6. The Christmas cycle of feasts also includes the Circumcision of the Lord ( January 1/14), celebrated on the eighth day after Christmas, and the Encounter of Our Lord (February 2/15). The latter celebrates Christ’s presentation in the Jerusalem Temple as the first-born Son and the offering of a sacrifice from him on the fortieth day after his birth. In this feast, the Church celebrates the meeting or encounter of the Old and New Covenants, in the persons of the elder Simeon and the prophetess Anna with the Mother of God and the Child Jesus in her arms. In the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor (August 6/19), the Church celebrates the manifestation of the fullness of the divine light, begun at the Theophany in the Jordan. As “our Saviour shone forth to the world, God manifested as light from light”400 in the Incarnation, so in the Transfiguration “the entire human nature divinely shone”401 and the Light of Christ effects the transfiguration of all creation. In the feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (September 14/27), the Church sings the praises of “the Tree of true life, planted on the Place of the skull” (Golgotha). On it “the Eternal King has rendered salvation in the centre of the earth, and today through its exaltation the ends of the earth are sanctified.”402

|576 With particular love the Church venerates the most Blessed Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary. She is inseparably tied to the salvific work of her Son. In the course of the yearly cycle, besides the feasts of the Mother of God (the Encounter and the Annunciation), we celebrate her Nativity (September 8/21), her Entrance into the Temple (November 21/December 4), and her Dormition (August 15/28). The Nativity of the Mother of God is the beginning of our salvation,403 the Entrance is its proclamation,404 and her Dormition is a sign of its fulfilment.405 Related to the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God is the feast of the Conception of Saint Anna when She Conceived the Most Holy Mother of God. This feast is also called the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God (December 9/22, nine months
before her Nativity). Since in her Dormition the Mother of God “did not abandon the world,”406 her “standing before us in the Church” and her unfailing intercession for humankind before her Son are expressed in the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God (October 1/14). In the Dormition, the Mother of God was bodily taken up to heaven. However, she left us her precious relics—her robe and her sash—as “a powerful safeguard”407 for her faithful children. These relics are venerated in the feasts of the Placing of the Precious Robe of Our Most Holy Lady in the Church at Blachernae in Constantinople ( July 2/15) and the Placing of the Precious Sash (August 31/September 13).

|577 The Church also professes the Paschal mystery in the feasts of her saints, who suffered with Christ and with him were glorified. The Church offers the example of the lives of the saints to the faithful for imitation, in order to bring all to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.408 The liturgical commemoration of saints is effected in the services and in the veneration of their icons and their relics. The date of the veneration of saints is usually the day of their death, that is, their birth to heaven. It can also be the day of the finding or transferral of their relics. Every day of the Church Year is dedicated to one or more particular saints. The liturgical services (hymnography) for the saints are collected month by month in twelve volumes called the Menaia (from the Greek, meaning monthly).

|578 In the Mystery of Baptism, Christian parents usually give their newborn children names of Christian saints. In giving a name, a spiritual relationship is established between the saint and the person who receives their name. According to an ancient Church custom, children receive the name of the saint on whose day they were born.

 

 

The Twelve Major Feast:

The faithful are obliged to celebrate all Sundays, the patronal feast of their parish, and the following twelve feasts which are:

  • The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8/21)
  • The Exaltation of the Holy Cross; (September 14/27)
  • The Entrance into the Temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary; (November 21/December 4)
  • The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ; (December 25/January 7)
  • The Theophany of Lord Jesus Christ; ( January 6/18)
  • The Encounter of the Lord; (February 2/15)
  • The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; (March 25/April 7)
  • The Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem; (Changes depending on Easter date)
  • The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ; (Changes depending on Easter date)
  • he Descent of the Holy Spirit; (Changes depending on Easter date)
  • he Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ; (August 6/19)
  • The Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (August 15/28)

The faithful are exhorted to participate in liturgical celebrations on the following feasts of the church year:

  • The Falling Asleep of St. John, apostle and evangelist; (September 26/October 9)
  • The Protection of the Mother of God; (October 1/14)
  • St Demetrius, great martyr and Myrrh-yielder; (October 26/November 8)
  • St. Michael the archangel and other incorporal powers (November 8/21)
  • St. Josaphat, hieromartyr, archbishop of Polotsk, (November 12/25)
  • Blessed Josaphata; (Novemeber 20)
  • St. Nicholas archbishop of Myra, wonder-worker; (December 5/18)
  • The Conception of St Anne of the Mother of God; (December 9/22)
  • The Synaxis of the Mother of God, (December 26/January 8)
  • St. Stephen, First Martyr and archdeacon; (December 27/January 9)
  • The Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Basil the Great archbishop of Caesarea Cappadocia; ( January 1/14)
  • Blessed Martyrs of Pratulyn; (January 10/23)
  • The Three Hierarchs; Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom; (January 30/February 12)
  • St. George, great martyr and wonderworker; (April 23/May 6)
  • Monday of the Holy Spirit; (Changes depending on Easter date)
  • The Holy Eucharist – solemn adoration of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ; (Changes depending on Easter date)
  • The Nativity of St. John the Baptist; (June 24/July 7)
  • Saints Peter and Paul; (June 29/July 12)
  • Blessed hieromartyr Mykolaj, those who suffered with him and Blessed Emelian ; (June 27)
  • The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – (1st Sunday of July)
  • St. Volodymyr the Great, equal to the apostles; (July 15/28)
  • The Commemoration of the consecration of the Major Archbishops cathedral in Kyiv; (August 18)
  • St. Elias, prophet; (July 20/August 2)
  • The Beheading of St. John the Baptist. (August 29/ September 11)