Our Church Year
Current Liturgical Season -- Advent and Christmastide
Worship provides the center for our community of faith. Each of our services offers an opportunity to gather together for fellowship, share joys and concerns, hear the Word proclaimed, celebrate the Eucharist (Communion), experience the unity of our faith, and feel God's presence.
The people of God who are the Church of the Holy Apostles gather together to raise our voices in worship each Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.
From the First Sunday of Advent, 28 November 2021, until Christmas Day, 25 December 2021,
we are in the liturgical season of Advent. The liturgical color is blue (or violet).
From Christmas Day until Epiphany – the 12th day of Christmas, 06 January 2022 –
we are in the season of Christmastide. The liturgical color is white (or gold).
The First Sunday of Advent is 'New Year's Day' on the church calendar. Each Advent we begin a new liturgical year, and begin telling the story of our salvation history over again. ('Liturgical' simply means 'pertaining to public worship.') In the Episcopal church, we follow (with a few exceptions) the Revised Common Lectionary. (A 'lectionary' is a book containing the ‘lections’ – the ‘lessons’ or ‘readings’ or ‘portions of scripture’ appointed to be read at worship on any particular day.) Following the lectionary means that the readings you hear at Holy Apostles on any given Sunday will be the same lessons heard at any other Episcopal church, as well as many Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and United Methodist churches. The selections of scripture we read in worship repeat over a 3-year cycle, with each year of the cycle focusing on a different Gospel. Lectionary year 'A' is devoted to readings from the Gospel according to Matthew; year 'B', the Gospel according to Mark, supplemented by texts from John (we also read from John each year on various Holy Days and Feasts); and year 'C' the Gospel according to Luke. Selections from the Gospel according to John are read across all 3 years, but especially in year 'B' given the brevity of Mark's Gospel. If you are curious about the readings chosen for any given Sunday, they may be found here:
The word ‘advent’ comes from the Latin adventus (Greek: parousia) and means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival.’ The season of Advent is focused on the ‘coming’ of Jesus as Messiah (Christ or King). Our worship, scripture readings, and prayers not only prepare us spiritually for Christmas (the Incarnation, Christ's first coming), but also for his eventual second coming. This is why the Scripture readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah, and New Testament passages concerning Jesus' second coming as judge of all people. Also, passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah, are read.
The liturgical color for Advent (including the candles in the Advent wreath) is either violet or blue. (At Church of the Holy Apostles we use blue.) In many churches, Holy Apostles included, the liturgical color for the 3rd Sunday of Advent (and the color of the third candle in the Advent wreath) is rose.
Why violet? Violet (or Purple) is the traditional color of royalty, as purple dye was very difficult to make and therefore so expensive that it could only be used by those with wealth and power. Given this royal association, it is the more widely used color for the season of Advent, the season in which we look forward to the coming of the King – both his ‘first coming’ in the flesh of the incarnation, and his ‘second coming’ in power and glory. Since we, as Christians, prepare for the coming of our King through reflection and repentance, purple has also taken on symbolism as a penitential color; and Advent has historically had a penitential character. However, penitence is only one of the themes of Advent. The primary emphasis is on the character of the one who is coming – the King. Thus, where violet/purple is used, it is a rich hue proclaiming the royal lineage of the coming Messiah.
Why blue? Blue was the color often appointed for Advent in medieval and also in later English use. (Blue was used at Salisbury Cathedral, and the ‘Sarum’ rituals of Salisbury form much of the basis of our Anglican (and therefore Episcopal) liturgical practice.) In the Middle Ages, blue, purple, and even black were often regarded as interchangeable, and when blue itself was specified it was often identified as indigo, a deep blue; symbolically suggestive, perhaps, of the darkness of night in which the world sleeps, before the dawn of the Sun of Righteousness. Blue, however, is also the color traditionally associated with ‘hope’ and hope is another of Advent’s predominant themes. Further, in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions, blue (the color of the heavens) represents the Virgin Mary, often referred to as the Queen of Heaven. This gives blue, also, connotations as a royal color.
Why rose? The third Sunday in Advent, in parishes of a relatively Anglo-catholic piety, is called ‘Gaudete Sunday.’ The term ‘Gaudete’ is derived from the Latin opening words of the ancient introit (a hymn, psalm, or anthem that is sung as the ministers enter to begin the Eucharist) ‘Rejoice (Gaudete) in the Lord always.’ The theme of the day expresses the joy of anticipation at the approach of the Christmas celebration, and pink has long been a color signifying joy. This theme reflects a lightening of the tone of the traditional Advent observance, which was, as noted above, rather more penitential than is customary today.
Advent is a season with many special traditions and observations: Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, Jesse Trees, etc. One of the most prevalent (and one which is used at Holy Apostles) is the Advent wreath. Traditionally, this is a circle of greenery (fir, spruce, juniper, holly, etc.), symbolizing the continuation of life in the middle of the (in the northerly latitudes) cold and dark winter. Advent wreaths also have four candles which represent the four Sundays of the season of Advent. There are usually three violet or blue candles and one rose colored one; some wreaths have a central white candle known as the ‘Christ Candle’ which is lit on Christmas Eve. One candle is lighted on the first Sunday of Advent; two on the second Sunday; and so on. Some traditions assign specific symbolism to each of the candles, for example Hope for the first candle, Faith for the second, Joy for the third, and Peace for the last candle. Advent wreaths are used both in churches and in homes for devotional purposes. Additional information on Advent and its traditions may be found in many sources, including the following links:
Our word 'Christmas' comes from the Old English, Cristes Maesse, meaning the Mass (or Festival) of Christ. Christmas is the Feast Day commemorating the Incarnation of the Word of God in the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, it is also called The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Prayer Book, Christmas Day is one of the seven principal feasts. (Technically, Christmas Eve, when many more attend worship services than on Christmas Day, is still part of Advent, with its own appointed scripture readings. We do usually celebrate Christmas Day on Christmas Eve, however, as a 'vigil' for the upcoming feast day itself.) The Christmas season lasts twelve days, from Christmas Day until 05 January, the day before Epiphany. The season includes Christmas Day, the First (and possibly, depending on how the dates fall, the Second) Sunday after Christmas Day, and the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, celebrated on 01 January.
The customs associated with contemporary Christmas celebrations have developed from many sources. From early days the popular observance of Christmas was marked by the joy and celebration characteristic of the Roman Saturnalia and the pagan festivals which it replaced. It came to include the decoration of houses with greenery and the giving of gifts to children and the poor. In Britain (from where our Anglican tradition derives), other observances were added including fir trees, gifts, greetings, and the Yule log and Yule cakes. (The word 'yule' descends from various Old English words -- the ultimate origin is obscure. An Old Anglican form was recorded by the historian Bede as the name of the December-January timeframe, itself apparently derived from an Old Norse word (jol) for a heathen feast lasting twelve days, which Christmas replaced.) In the indigenous religious traditions, the sun was thought to stand still for 12 days at the end of the year -- a log, large enough to burn for this entire time, was cut to burn during this period, preserving life and burning away the previous year's evils. Fires and lights (symbols of warmth and lasting life) and evergreens (symbols of survival) were traditionally associated not only with pagan, but also with Christian festivals. Their use developed considerably in England with the importation of German customs and through the influence of the writings of Charles Dickens.
For more information on Christmas and its customs, try the following websites: