The Liturgical Year | te Whakaritenga e Tau

"Picking up the liturgical calendar to see "where we are" in time, and "who we are", according to the liturgical year is like choosing to ride the carousel of sayings and stories, songs and prayers, processions and silences, images and visions, symbols and rituals, feasts and fasts in which the mysterious ways of God are not merely presented, but experienced, not merely perused, but lived through - the challenge is to address ourselves to the liturgical year on its own terms, the terms of the imagination."
- Mark Searle

Liturgy comes from the ancient Greek word, ‘leitourgia’ which means the work of the people. Liturgy is what we do when we gather together as a Catholic community for public worship. Liturgy is the name that is sometimes given to the celebration of the Mass, as well as the other Sacraments and the Prayer of the Church.

In order that the liturgy may possess its full effectiveness, we must be fully aware of what we are doing in the rite, actively engaged in it and openly enriched by it (cf Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #11).
When we intentionally take part in the liturgical life of the Church, we open ourselves to meeting the grace and presence of Christ in each member of the assembly, in the minister who leads our liturgical celebrations and in the Scriptures that are proclaimed; in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharistic elements (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7).

Liturgy is at the heart of who we are, as individuals and as community: the Body of Christ, alive and present in these Islands of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Advent - Te Wā o Aweneti

Longing and waiting in our lives for the coming of the Lord.

Advent: Litany of the Word by Bernadette Farrell. Suitable for processions, lighting of the Advent candles, Holy Communion, to accompany Leaders and Children or Leaders and Catechumens being sent to deepen their attention to the Liturgy of the Word.

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Advent has a twofold character: as a time to prepare for the solemnity of Christmas when the Son of God’s first coming to us is remembered, and as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, the season of Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation.

Advent begins with Evening Prayer I of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November and ends before Evening Prayer I of Christmas.

“The Sundays of this season are named the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays of Advent. The weekdays from 17 December to 24 December inclusive serve to prepare more directly for the Lord’s birth.”

Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n. 39-42

The First Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Calendar. The season of Advent lasts between 21 and 28 days.

The word "advent" comes from the Latin word "adventus", which means "coming" or "arrival". Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for the coming of Jesus. We prepare for the celebration of Christmas, the anniversary of the first coming of Jesus to us. We also prepare for him to come again at our death or at the end of time.

The Sunday readings in Advent reflect these themes of waiting, longing and hope for the coming of Jesus. The readings of the First Sunday of Advent look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. On the Second and Third Sundays the readings are about the role of John the Baptist who came to 'prepare the way of the Lord'. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent the Gospel is about the events which lead up to and follow the birth of Jesus.

The liturgical colour worn of Advent is purple but it is a time of joyful preparation rather than being a penitential season. Purple was once the colour of royalty and it is used in Advent to signify the coming of Christ and his kingdom.

Advent Symbols

The Advent wreath has four candles to mark the waiting period before Christmas. One additional candle is lit each week, reminding us that Jesus comes to bring light to the world.
The Jesse tree is a branch or small tree which refers to Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots". The decoration of the tree with symbols during Advent records the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, beginning with Adam and Eve.

Christmas - Te Wā o Kirihimete

Birth is the heartbeat of these Christmas days; Word - made-flesh. Come let us adore.

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Next to the yearly celebrations of the Paschal Mystery, the Church considers nothing more important than the memorial of Christ's birth and early manifestations. This is the purpose of the season of Christmas. Christmas Time runs from First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Nativity of the Lord up to and including the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January.

“The Mass of the vigil of Christmas is used in the evening of 24 December, either before or after Evening Prayer I. 
On Christmas itself, following an ancient tradition of Rome, three Masses may be celebrated: namely, the Mass at Midnight, the Mass at Dawn, and the Mass during the Day.

Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n. 32-34

The Christmas season is a time for giving thanks for the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation, God becoming human, like us in all things except sin.


The Octave of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and extends until the solemnity of Mary Mother of God on 
1 January. There are some major feasts during the octave:

  • 26 December is the feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr;
  • 27 December is the feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist;
  • 28 December is the feast of the Holy Innocents;
  • Sunday within the octave is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary,and Joseph. This is celebrated on 30 December if there is no Sunday in the octave.

Christmas Time extends from the vigil on Christmas Eve to the Monday after the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. In New Zealand the Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday closest to 6 January. The Epiphany commemorates the visit of the three wise men to Jesus, and symbolises his recognition by all nations and peoples as foretold in the scriptures. It is the end point of the traditional 'Twelve Days of Christmas'. The liturgical colour of the Christmas season is white, which symbolises light and the joyfulness of the season.

Lent - Te Wā o Reneti

Forty days of intense preparation for the renewal of baptism.

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Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. The Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the Paschal Mystery: catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices.

The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. (Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year 2228). The Alleluia is not used from the beginning of Lent until the Easter Vigil. On Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent and is observed everywhere as a fast day, ashes are distributed.

“The Sundays of this season are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. The Sixth Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, is called Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday). Holy Week has as its purpose the remembrance of Christ’s passion, beginning with his Messianic entrance into Jerusalem. At the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning the bishop, concelebrating Mass with his presbyterate, blesses the oils and consecrates the chrism.”
Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n27-31

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday in February or March, depending on the date of Easter. On Ash Wednesday people receive a mark on the forehead made with ashes as a reminder that "we are dust and unto dust we shall return". The ashes symbolise our mortality and need for the mercy of God.

Lent lasts for forty days, which commemorates the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, and the forty years the Israelites spent in the desert. (The six Sundays of Lent are not included in the calculation of the forty days.)
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving or good works are the traditional activities of Lent. During this time we reflect on the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ through his suffering, death and resurrection, and on the events which led up to his death. Lent is a time for self-examination and repentance, as we strive to conform our lives more closely to Christ.

During Lent the final preparation of the catechumens intensifies, marked by events in the liturgy, as they prepare for their baptism and/or reception into the Church at Easter.

The last week of Lent is called Holy Week, and is the most sacred week of the Church’s year. It begins on the sixth Sunday of Lent, Passion (Palm) Sunday, which commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, welcomed by people waving palms and acclaiming him as the Messiah.

In New Zealand, the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday may be anticipated on another day of Holy Week. During this Mass the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and the oil of chrism are blessed by the bishop, and taken from the Mass to all the parishes of the diocese. The priests of the diocese renew their commitment of service during the Chrism Mass and the congregation prays for them. 

The beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter Triduum.

The liturgical colours of Lent are violet or purple.

Easter - Te Wā o Pākate

Sing Alleluia! The 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in unbounded joy and exultation as one 'great Sunday'.

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Easter Triduum

The unity of these three days from evening prayer on Holy Thursday until evening prayer on Easter Sunday celebrates the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. It is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Come let us adore.

Christ redeemed humankind and gave perfect glory to God principally through his Paschal Mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Therefore the Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of the Lord is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Thus the solemnity of Easter has the same kind of preeminence in the liturgical year that Sunday has in the week.

The Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of the Lord begins with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday, the Sunday of the Lord’s resurrection. On Good Friday and, if possible, also on Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the Easter fast is observed everywhere.

“The Easter Vigil, during the holy night when the Lord rose from the dead, ranks as the “mother of all holy vigils.” Keeping watch, the Church awaits Christ’s resurrection and celebrates it in the sacraments. Accordingly, the entire celebration of this vigil should take place at night, that is, it should either begin after nightfall or end before the dawn of Sunday.”

Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n18-21

The Latin word 'triduum' refers to the 'three great days' in the Church’s calendar, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. These three days recall the events of the night before Christ’s death, his passion and death, and his resurrection.

On Holy Thursday the last supper Jesus had with the apostles is commemorated, during which he instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood.
Good Friday commemorates the events of the passion and death of Jesus, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and ending with his crucifixion and death on Calvary.
Holy Saturday is a time of prayer and fasting, and meditation focused on the death and burial of Jesus. Masses are not usually celebrated on this day, and in churches the altar is stripped and the tabernacle open and empty.

The celebration of Easter begins with the :Night of Grace”, the Easter Vigil. “In the darkness of the night, a new fire is blessed ,to be a guide to “the feast of eternal splendour.” The Paschal candle is lit as a luminous symbol of Jesus, the “Morning Star which never sets”, while there rises to God the song called the “Exsultet.”

The sacraments of Christian Initiation are celebrated: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. And all of salvation history is evoked in the biblical readings about the creation, Abraham and Isaac, the passage through the red Sea and other prophetic events which Jesus, risen from the dead, has fulfilled. Now the Resurrection should appear in the truth and purity of our lives”. An Introduction to the Liturgical Year. Inos Biffi .

Easter Sunday, and therefore the Triduum, varies in date from year to year. The Council of Nicea in 325AD decreed that the day of Easter is to be celebrated on the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the day in Spring when there is a 12 hour day and a 12 hour night (March 20). This means that Easter can be as early as 22 March and as late as 25 April.

The liturgical colour of Easter is white.

The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better as one 'great Sunday'. These above all others are the days for the singing of the Alleluia.

“The Sundays of this season rank as the Sundays of Easter and, after Easter Sunday itself, are called the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sundays of Easter. The period of fifty sacred days ends on Pentecost Sunday. 
The first eight days of the season of Easter make up the octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord.
On the fortieth day after Easter the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated, except in places where, not being a holy day of obligation, it has been transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
The weekdays after the Ascension of the Lord until the Saturday before Pentecost inclusive are a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.”

Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n22-26

The Easter Vigil, in which the Church keeps watch through the night, awaiting the Resurrection of Christ, leads us into Easter Time – the 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday, described by St Athanasius as ‘one great Sunday’ of joy and exultation. The eight days following Easter are observed as the Octave of Easter and each day has the same solemnity as a Sunday. If another solemnity falls during the octave it is transferred to the following Monday.
The fifty days between Easter and Pentecost are a time of joy and thanksgiving for what Christ has done for humanity. The paschal candle is in a prominent place in the sanctuary of the church and is lit for all liturgical celebrations.

In New Zealand the Ascension is celebrated on the Seventh Sunday after Easter. The feast of the Ascension commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven after his resurrection.
One week after the Ascension, on the 50th day after Easter, the feast of Pentecost is celebrated. Pentecost commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, which empowered them to go out and begin spreading the Gospel. On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the founding of the Church (sometimes called “the birth of the Church”) and the beginning of its mission to all peoples.
The liturgical colour of most of the Easter season is white. The liturgical colour for Pentecost is red, which symbolises the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire which appeared above the heads of the apostles when they received the Holy Spirit.

Ordinary Time - Te Wā Noa

A time to observe more fully the first and original festival of the Christian calendar that is 'Sunday'.

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There are 33 or 34 weeks in the yearly liturgical cycle that do not celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ. They are devoted to the mystery of Christ in its fullness, especially on Sundays. This period is known as Ordinary Time.

“Ordinary Time begins on Monday after the Sunday following 6 January and continues until Tuesday before Ash Wednesday inclusive. It begins again on Monday after Pentecost and ends before Evening Prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent.”

Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n43 44

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the first period of Ordinary Time occurs during the summer months of January and February. In this period between the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of Lent the readings are about the early life of Jesus and the beginning of his public ministry.


The second period of Ordinary Time runs like a great river through the middle of each year, carrying us through the winter and spring months. During the 33 or 34 weeks of Ordinary Time the Gospel readings lead us to reflect upon the life and ministry of Jesus and their application for our lives and spiritual growth.

The name "Ordinary Time' refers to the numbering of the weeks. It comes from the Latin 'ordinalis' meaning 'counted time'.

Major feast days which occur during Ordinary Time include the Holy Trinity, the Body and Blood of Christ, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saints Peter and Paul, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the patronal feast of Aotearoa New Zealand), All Saints, All Souls, and the Feast of Christ the King which is the final Sunday in Ordinary Time and the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

The liturgical colour worn in Ordinary Time is green, although other colours may be worn on the various feasts.