Happy New Year!

Sunday is the first day of Advent, the beginning of the new church year.  So happy New Year!

I have a question for you, one that I have been unable to answer, but I’m sure you readers can answer it for me:   Last Sunday we celebrated the last Sunday of the church year, in which we contemplate the final victory of Christ the King at His return.  It was a big deal, a fitting climax to the long, long season of Pentecost.  But we don’t move from that to Advent, which is a full week away, always beginning on a Sunday.  So what’s the story of the last week of the church year?  Specifically, what’s the last day of the church year?  Saturday will be the equivalent of New Year’s Eve.  Doesn’t it have a name and some meaning?  It seems odd to me that the church year seems to just fizzle out.

I would think there would at least be a saint’s day.  In the Catholic calendar, every day, as I understand it, is devoted to one saint or another.   There is St. Andrew’s Day on November 30.   But what saint is honored on November 26?   I had thought that the specific day of the month might vary from year to year.  (Is the first Sunday of Advent always the Sunday after Thanksgiving?  Since Christmas is always on December 25, perhaps there is some consistency.  So in the secular calendar we have Thanksgiving, Black Friday [!], but then, again, what is Saturday?)

I have found that among the readers of this blog are people who are experts on just about everything, up to and including quantum physics and beyond.  So who knows about the church year?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fws

    I am pretty certain that christmas and advent are fixed. easter is movable because it follows passover and the lunar calendar, and that is why lent can be longer or shorter and also then probably pentecost is longer or shorter? so I am guessing that our church calendar is a mixture of feast days that follow the solar calendar with those following the lunar calendar.

    really I am just guessing…..

  • fws

    I am pretty certain that christmas and advent are fixed. easter is movable because it follows passover and the lunar calendar, and that is why lent can be longer or shorter and also then probably pentecost is longer or shorter? so I am guessing that our church calendar is a mixture of feast days that follow the solar calendar with those following the lunar calendar.

    really I am just guessing…..

  • Spaulding

    The first Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day so it can fall between the 11/26 and 12/3 depending on what day of the week Christmas is. So 1 Advent isn’t always the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when 1 Advent is later (December) the Sunday after Thanksgiving is Christ the King Sunday.

  • Spaulding

    The first Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day so it can fall between the 11/26 and 12/3 depending on what day of the week Christmas is. So 1 Advent isn’t always the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when 1 Advent is later (December) the Sunday after Thanksgiving is Christ the King Sunday.

  • Rose

    I don’t think there is a ‘last day’ of the church year, just a last Sunday. Our choir sang “Therefore Watch That Ye Be Ready” (CPH) by Hammershmidt. He lived a century after Luther and a century before Bach. The basses sing the words of our Lord in the title and it’s a powerful warning.

  • Rose

    I don’t think there is a ‘last day’ of the church year, just a last Sunday. Our choir sang “Therefore Watch That Ye Be Ready” (CPH) by Hammershmidt. He lived a century after Luther and a century before Bach. The basses sing the words of our Lord in the title and it’s a powerful warning.

  • Tom Hering

    “I would think there would at least be a saint’s day.”

    From CatholicCulture.org:

    According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, [Saturday, November 26] is the feast of St. Sylvester … Abbot Sylvester founded the Sylvestrine Order, a reform congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, in 1231. Upon seeing the [decaying] corpse of an aristocrat relative, who had been very handsome, in the coffin, he cried out, “I am what this man was, I will be what this man is!” … By meditating at an open coffin St. Sylvester saw the vanity of this world and began a life of solitude. The thought of death is very appropriate at the end of the liturgical year. Glance back over the year and see how vain the world appears with its TV standard of living.

    Church stuff is such a downer. Thank America’s God that the secular calendar is upbeat! Today is Black Friday, and tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, which is followed by Cyber Monday – lots of online deals!. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    “I would think there would at least be a saint’s day.”

    From CatholicCulture.org:

    According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, [Saturday, November 26] is the feast of St. Sylvester … Abbot Sylvester founded the Sylvestrine Order, a reform congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, in 1231. Upon seeing the [decaying] corpse of an aristocrat relative, who had been very handsome, in the coffin, he cried out, “I am what this man was, I will be what this man is!” … By meditating at an open coffin St. Sylvester saw the vanity of this world and began a life of solitude. The thought of death is very appropriate at the end of the liturgical year. Glance back over the year and see how vain the world appears with its TV standard of living.

    Church stuff is such a downer. Thank America’s God that the secular calendar is upbeat! Today is Black Friday, and tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, which is followed by Cyber Monday – lots of online deals!. :-D

  • SKPeterson

    We’re still in Ordinary Time – Christ the King is the last Sunday in Ordinary, but it isn’t until the first Sunday in Advent that Advent begins.

    As Spaulding notes above, the date is often associated with St. Andrew’s Day, although I’ve seen several RC sources that simply say that Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas. So, take the day of Christmas and then work backwards four Sundays – that is the beginning of Advent, but it should also be right around St. Andrew’s Day.

  • SKPeterson

    We’re still in Ordinary Time – Christ the King is the last Sunday in Ordinary, but it isn’t until the first Sunday in Advent that Advent begins.

    As Spaulding notes above, the date is often associated with St. Andrew’s Day, although I’ve seen several RC sources that simply say that Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas. So, take the day of Christmas and then work backwards four Sundays – that is the beginning of Advent, but it should also be right around St. Andrew’s Day.

  • Abby

    “So who knows about the church year?”

    Now that’s a question for Paul McCain!

  • Abby

    “So who knows about the church year?”

    Now that’s a question for Paul McCain!

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Since the ultimate destiny of the Kingdom of Grace is the Kingdom of Glory (which is eternal), there is a limit to the representation in the Church Year. The year is finite, Heaven is infinite. One needs the calendar equivalent of…

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Since the ultimate destiny of the Kingdom of Grace is the Kingdom of Glory (which is eternal), there is a limit to the representation in the Church Year. The year is finite, Heaven is infinite. One needs the calendar equivalent of…

  • EGK

    Liturgically speaking, we (Lutherans at least) speak of Advent beginning the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day. But practically speaking, there are always four Sundays in Advent, so that really is how the date of the beginning of Advent is determined. Note that when December 24th falls on a Sunday, services held before sunset observe the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and sunset marks the beginning of our celebration of the Nativity.

  • EGK

    Liturgically speaking, we (Lutherans at least) speak of Advent beginning the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day. But practically speaking, there are always four Sundays in Advent, so that really is how the date of the beginning of Advent is determined. Note that when December 24th falls on a Sunday, services held before sunset observe the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and sunset marks the beginning of our celebration of the Nativity.

  • Mockingbird

    As others have noted, the rules are, the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest St Andrew’s Day (Nov 30), and you must have four Sundays in Advent. So the last day of the church year is the Saturday before Advent 1.

  • Mockingbird

    As others have noted, the rules are, the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest St Andrew’s Day (Nov 30), and you must have four Sundays in Advent. So the last day of the church year is the Saturday before Advent 1.

  • http://princetonlutherans.com jgernander

    There is a great devotion for the last day in the church year from Laache’s Book of Family Prayer (available from the Bethany Lutheran College Bookstore, 1-800-944-1722). I always make sure I read that devotion on that Saturday, regardless of what other devotions I am reading for the year. It is based on Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    The devotion begins:

    A marvelous passage! A good passage to close the Church Year! Everything changes, but *He* is the same. *His* power and love are unchanged. *His* concern for the Church and for each individual believer is just as great as it always has been. Our teachers pass away. *He* remains.The Apostles are dead, the Fathers are dead, those who supported our youth are dead, our faithful and pious old leaders are dead, the pillars are shaken, the foundations are laid bare. But *He* lives, *He* is the same, *He* doesn’t forsake His Church. …

    Pastor Jerry Gernander
    Princeton, Minnesota

  • http://princetonlutherans.com jgernander

    There is a great devotion for the last day in the church year from Laache’s Book of Family Prayer (available from the Bethany Lutheran College Bookstore, 1-800-944-1722). I always make sure I read that devotion on that Saturday, regardless of what other devotions I am reading for the year. It is based on Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    The devotion begins:

    A marvelous passage! A good passage to close the Church Year! Everything changes, but *He* is the same. *His* power and love are unchanged. *His* concern for the Church and for each individual believer is just as great as it always has been. Our teachers pass away. *He* remains.The Apostles are dead, the Fathers are dead, those who supported our youth are dead, our faithful and pious old leaders are dead, the pillars are shaken, the foundations are laid bare. But *He* lives, *He* is the same, *He* doesn’t forsake His Church. …

    Pastor Jerry Gernander
    Princeton, Minnesota

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  • http://dimlamp.wordpress.com/ Dim Lamp

    You asked: “Is the first Sunday of Advent always the Sunday after Thanksgiving?” Simple answer for us Canadians is nope, since our Thanksgiving is in October! :-)

    A book worth reading, that you may be aware of or have read already is The Days Before Christmas, by W.A. Poovey. I quote him on p. 16: “The exact amount of time to be observed varied for a long while. Among Easter Christians, Advent often started on November 11, St. Martin’s Day, and extended to Epiphany. But by the 8th century the practice we follow today was well established. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, which means that the new Christian year starts either on the last Sunday in November or the first Sunday in December.”

  • http://dimlamp.wordpress.com/ Dim Lamp

    You asked: “Is the first Sunday of Advent always the Sunday after Thanksgiving?” Simple answer for us Canadians is nope, since our Thanksgiving is in October! :-)

    A book worth reading, that you may be aware of or have read already is The Days Before Christmas, by W.A. Poovey. I quote him on p. 16: “The exact amount of time to be observed varied for a long while. Among Easter Christians, Advent often started on November 11, St. Martin’s Day, and extended to Epiphany. But by the 8th century the practice we follow today was well established. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, which means that the new Christian year starts either on the last Sunday in November or the first Sunday in December.”

  • Fr. Gregory Hogg

    For the Orthodox, Advent begins November 15.

  • Fr. Gregory Hogg

    For the Orthodox, Advent begins November 15.


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