The liturgical year begins with First Sunday of Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas (December 25). In this Liturgical year which begins on the 29th of November , 2015, Circle C, the Church meditates on the Gospel of Luke and uses it for most of Sunday readings (St. Matthew for Circle A and St. Mark for Circle B). St. John, who appears several times in the Liturgy of the Word of almost all three years, is offered in a special way during the time of the Lord's Passion.
The Gospel of Luke
Who is Luke?
Luke the Evangelist (Ancient Greek: Λουκᾶς, Loukás) is one of the four evangelists or authors of canonical Gospels of Jesus Christ. A native of the Hellenistic city of Antioch in Syria, He was ascribed, by early church fathers, the authorship of both, the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles, which originally conformed a single literary work. Such authorship was later reaffirmed by prominent figures in early Christianity such as Jerome and Eusebius, although within scholar circles, both secular and religious, discussions have been held due to the lack of evidence as to the real identity of the author of the works.
In the New Testament, Luke is mentioned briefly a few times, and referred to as a doctor in the Pauline epistle to the Colossians, thus He is thought to have been both, a physician and a disciple to Paul. Considered by early Christians as a Saint, He is believed to have died a martyr, although re-accounts of the events do vary.
Why did Luke write his account?
In his introduction to the gospel (see Luke 1:1-4) Luke speaks in the first person. This is a somewhat unique approach since the other gospels all speak in the third person. Luke addresses his friend, Theophilus, a name which means "beloved of God". In so many words he says, "I am writing to you the most incredible story humankind has known." And this story is utterly believable because it comes from many reliable firsthand witnesses of those who knew Jesus Christ personally, heard his teaching, and saw his miracles, death and resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Who were these many? Mark the evangelist was certainly one of them. Luke’s account contains over half of the verses in Mark’s account (some 350 verses out of a total 660 verses in Mark) . Some 325 verses of Luke are also common to Matthew’s gospel. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Luke was in Israel for some time. This would have given him an opportunity to speak with many contemporaries of Jesus.
Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
For Luke, Jesus is our “Compassionate Savior.” Luke's image of Jesus is presented as the compassionate Savior of the world, with love and compassion for all people, whether rich or poor, Jew or Gentile. He reaches out especially to poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the women and the poor and outcast of society. Luke emphasizes divine mercy, depicting God as the Father who forgives his prodigal children with unbounded love. Meeting Jesus as the compassionate Savior draws us to imitate the Lord by approaching the Father in confident prayer. The story of the widow of Nain teaches us about Jesus' mercy to a grieving mother (Luke 7:11-17).
The Gospel of Women
Luke gives a special place to women in his gospel account. More women appear in Luke than the other gospels. The events leading to Jesus’ birth are told from Mary’s point of view. We read of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, of Anna the prophetess, of the widow at Nain, and of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Luke tells us of the special friendship Jesus had with Martha and Mary and how Jesus transformed the life of Mary Magdalene. Luke also mentions many women who traveled with Jesus and the apostles and who “ministered to their needs” (Luke 8:1-3).
The Gospel of Prayer and Praise
Luke gives special emphasis to prayer and to the power of intercession. He shows Jesus at prayer on many occasions (Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 9:29; 11:1; 23:46). Jesus prayed for Peter in his hour of testing (Luke 22:32). And Jesus told two parables about the power of prayer (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8). Jesus concludes the Lord’s Prayer with an exhortation to pray confidently knowing that “for every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:10).
The Gospel of the Holy Spirit
Luke’s gospel emphasizes the role and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is active in the initiation of the Incarnation (Luke 1:5, 35, 41, 67, 80), in the early witness to Jesus (Luke 2:25-27), and in the activity of Jesus himself (Luke 4:1, 17; 10:21). Luke’s gospel is infused with the joy of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:14, 47, 58; 2:10; 6:23; 10:17, 20; 19:37). The gift of the Holy Spirit is available to all who seek: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).
THE MEANING OF THE LITURGICAL YEAR
• The Liturgical Year celebrates the Mystery of Christ
By preaching the Church “announces” “the whole mystery of Christ” (CD 12) and with the Liturgy it “celebrates it presenting the sacred memory (SC 102). In such a way it makes present today “the unfathomable treasure of Christ” (Eph 3, 8 ff; cf. 1, 18; 2, 7): his signs of salvation, with which the faithful come into contact in order to draw from it the grace of salvation. The Liturgical Year which has its “source” and its “summit” in the Paschal Mystery is articulated into five “periods of time” which have a special relationship with the diverse moments of the Mystery of Christ (SC 10; LG 11). Therefore, they follow a progressive order: Advent and Christmas; Lent and the Passover or Easter; Ordinary Time.
• Time of Advent and of Christmas
Advent is a time of preparation with a twofold characteristic: it recalls the first coming of the Son of God in humility and pre- announces the second coming in glory: it is a time of active waiting, of expectation, of desire, of prayer, of evangelization, of joy. Christmas is a time of joyful contemplation of the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of his first manifestations, who has come for our salvation “man among men”. During this time Mary is particularly celebrated as “Mother of God”.
• Time of Lent and of Passover or Easter
Lent is a time of preparation the purpose of which is to guide to a more intense and gradual participation in the Paschal Mystery. During this time the catechumens are accompanied through the various degrees of Christian initiation, and the faithful through the living memory of Baptism and Penance. The Passover or Easter is the summit of the Liturgical Year, from which all the other parts draw their efficacy of salvation, it is the fulfilment of the redemption of humanity and of perfect glorification of God: it is the destruction of sin and of death, communication of resurrection and of life.
• Ordinary Time
During this long period of time, which has a first stage between Christmas Time and Lent, and develops more extensively from Pentecost to the following Advent, is a global celebration of the mystery of Christ, which is taken up again and deepened in many of its particular aspects.
Already, we can say that Sundays – “The Day of the Lord” – are the “Weekly Passover or Easter” and therefore, a living grafting into the central nucleus of the mystery of Christ throughout the whole year; but then the Weeks (33 and 34) develop through an intense and continued recourse to the Bible the deepening of small cycles of the mystery of Christ, offering these to the meditation of the faithful in order that this may become a stimulus to the action in the Church and in the world.
Liturgies celebrated during the different seasons of the liturgical year have distinctive music and specific readings, prayers, and rituals. All of these work together to reflect the spirit of the particular season. The colors of the vestments that the priest wears during the liturgy also help express the character of the mysteries being celebrated.
White, the color of joy and victory, is used for the seasons of Easter and Christmas. It is also used for the feasts of Our Lord, for feasts of Mary, the angels, and for saints who are not martyrs. Gold may also be used on solemn occasions.
Red (the color of blood) is used on days when we celebrate the passion of Jesus on Passion Sunday and Good Friday. It is also used for the birthday feasts of the apostles and evangelists and for the celebrations of martyrs. Red (the color of fire) recalls the Holy Spirit and is used on Pentecost and for the sacrament of Confirmation.
Green, seen everywhere in plants and trees, symbolizes life and hope and is used during Ordinary Time.
The colors violet or purple in Advent help us to remember that we are preparing for the coming of Christ. Lent, the season of penance and renewal, also uses the colors violet or purple.
Rose may be used on the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, and on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday. It expresses the joy of anticipation for Christmas and Easter, respectively.