Calculation of the Ecclesiastical Calendar
The Ecclesiastical year is used by the Catholic Church. The Church divided the year into seasons and periods and each of these have their own sets of holidays, feasts, and fasts. By following this same cycle every year and living with the spirit of each passing season, whether that season is a season for penance or rejoicing, Catholics believe that the year will be sanctified and God will be pleased. In other words, following the Ecclesiastical Calendar is a way to “unite ourselves with Christ.”
So how is the year divided up when it’s converted to the Ecclesiastical Calendar? On the Ecclesiastical Calendar, there are six seasons. These seasons are not all the same length, like they are in the years that most people are familiar with. These periods or seasons are identified as: Advent, Christmastide, Septuagesima, Lent, Paschal time, and Pentecost, which is the time between the end of Paschal and the start of the Advent period.
Within these periods, there are three feasts: the Christmas feast, the Easter feast, and the Pentecost feast. Unlike the typical year, which always begins on January 1, the Ecclesiastical year begins on the first Sunday of the Advent period – or 4 Sundays before the Christmas holiday, December 25 – so it changes ever year. These feasts coincide with periods of the year: Christmastime is the time to celebrate the Lord, Easter celebrates His resurrection from the dead, and Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Ghost. The preceding season is meant for preparation and the season after each feast is dedicated to commemoration.
Knowledge of the arrival, the duration, and occurrence of periods helps plenty in the calculation of the Ecclesiastical Calendar. The Advent period, or “coming” period, lasts from the first Sunday of the month and lasts through the first four Sundays up until Christmas. Christmastide, a celebration of Christmas, is regulated by the position of what’s called the Septuagesima Sunday, which occurs sometime between January 16 and February 22. The next season is Septuagesima, the preparation for lent, which lasts two-and-a-half weeks, from Septuagesima to Ash Wednesday. There are always three Sundays in between this period and each has a special name: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.
Lent is the period before Easter, the time for penance. It beings with the Wednesday after the Quinquagesima Sunday, and this day is always 46 days before Easter. However, Lent is 40 days because the six Sundays are not included in the total as there is no fasting on those days. The last two weeks of Lent are known as Passion Week and Holy Week. Then, there’s the Paschal Time, the time from Easter until the evening of Trinity Sunday. This period lasts ten days, between the feast and the Pentecost, and the 40 days between Easter and the Ascension are meant to commemorate the time Jesus spent on Earth after his resurrection. The period after this begins with the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, which takes place on a Sunday, and lasts from 23 to 28 weeks. There is no formal name for the period.
It can be difficult for the average person to calculate dates according to the Ecclesiastical Calendar even after knowing how long each period lasts. As a result, it may be easier to use some of the online Ecclesiastical Calendar calculators.