LITURGICAL CALENDAR OF MALANKARA ORTHODOX CHURCH
By Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew
The Eastern Orthodox Liturgical Calendar describes and depicts the spiritual rhythm of the life in the Orthodox Church. The liturgical year is different from the normal calendar year. Liturgical calendar is organized in a way to commemorate the important events in the incarnate earthly life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So, the liturgical year is a distributed annual celebration of the incarnation of Son of God. The Church Calendar consists of a series of cycles by which feasts are celebrated in the Orthodox Church. As we live each liturgical year bestowed to us as a providence of God Almighty, we continually grow in the Spirit of God to comprehend more and more splendor in our worldly life.
The Lectionary [Reading of Passages of Holy Scripture], feast and fasts, commemoration of saints and other devout events are associated with each date in the liturgical calendar. There are two types of feasts in the Orthodox Church calendar, fixed and movable. Fixed feasts occur on the same calendar day every year, whereas day of movable feasts change each year. The moveable feasts are generally relative to Easter [Pascha], and so the cycle of moveable feasts is referred to as the Paschal cycle. The feast and fast days of the Holy Church are reckoned according to Gregorian calendar which emerged out in the sixteenth century as correction done by Pope Gregory XIII, to the existed Julian calendar attributed to the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.
The liturgical year basically continues through seven seasons.
SEASON OF ANNUNCIATION hN\n¸pImew (Adnbn¸pImew)
Subara or the Season of Annunciation is the first period and the beginning of the liturgical year. This season extends from Kudosh Eatho Sunday to Eve of Christmas [December 25]. The liturgical year commences with the Koodsh Etho Sunday. This Sunday falls on the eighth Sunday before Christmas. Alternatively, the Sunday comes after 29th of October of every year. This day signifies the Consecration and Sanctification of the Church. The liturgical year begins with the historical proclamation of the Good News of birth of Jesus Christ in the fullness of time and annunciation to St. Mary, the Mother of God. This is a preparation period for the celebration of the mystery of incarnation. During this season we meditate on the role of St. Mary in the history of the plan of salvation.
SEASON OF EPIPHANY Z\lImew
This season extend from Christmas or Nativity [December 25] to Eve of Great Lent. The Epiphany season is seen as in a sense, a continuation of the Christmas season, birth of Jesus and baptism of Jesus. After the Feast of Nativity the three main events focused on during the Epiphany season are the baptism of Jesus, Three days Nineveh Lent and Jesus' miracle at the marriage at Cana. Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus Christ falls on 6th January. The Three days Lent or Nineveh lent falls on this season, which ends eighteen days before the start of the Great Lent.
SEASON OF LENT [Fifty Days] t\m¼pImew
This season extend from beginning of Great Lent to Resurrection. The purpose of Great Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self denial. It is to be a season of soul-searching and repentance. Fasting and feasts are quite important in Orthodox Church. The Great Lent which is also known as Fifty Days Lent is the most important among the five canonical fasts of Malankara Orthodox Church. It includes forty days Lent and Passion Week. It commemorates the forty days fast observed by Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness. The last week of Lent is Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday. The Thursday in the Holy week is celebrated as Monte Thursday and crucifixion of Lord Jesus is commemorated on Good Friday.
SEASON OF RESURRECTION [Fifty Days] DbnÀ¸pImew
This season extends from Monday after Resurrection to Eve of Pentecost. Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ is the centrally focused doctrine of Christianity. Church celebrate the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday, two days after Good Friday, the day of his crucifixion and that is the end of the Great Lent of fifty days. Paul's proof of the resurrection is the appearances of the risen Lord to others and himself. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians St. Paul lists these appearances, first to the Apostle Peter, then to 'the Twelve,' then to five hundred at one time, then to James, then to 'all the Apostles,' and finally to Paul himself. According to the Gospels and Acts of Apostles, immediately after the resurrection, Lord Jesus appeared to three women Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome and then to the apostles at various occasions for forty days, giving many proofs that He was alive, and instructing them not to leave Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
SEASON OF PENTECOST s]´nt¡mkvXnImew
The Season of Pentecost begins with the Sunday of the Feast of the Pentecost and ends with Eve of Transfiguration [6th August]. When the disciples had gathered [Acts 2: 1 – 41], the Holy Spirit came down from heaven in tongues of fire and rested on the heads of everyone in the room. All the people began to speak in every language that had ever been heard in Palestine at that time. Because Pentecost is the day that the Holy Spirit touched ordinary people, the Season of Pentecost focuses on the Spirit and the way in which it touches everyone in the world. One of the ways the Spirit reaches the world is through the Christian church. Sunday of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The Feast of the Pentecost is a special time for baptisms of children.
SEASON OF TRANSFIGURATION tXPkvIcWImew
This season extends from Feast of Transfiguration [6th August] to Eve of Feast of Holy Cross [14th September]. The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated in devotion of the transfiguration of Lord Jesus Christ at Mount Tabor. Christ's Transfiguration was witnessed by Peter, James and John. Transfiguration is observed on 6 August. Transfiguration is also a feast of the Holy Trinity, as all three Persons of the Trinity were present at that moment: God the Father spoke from heaven; God the Son was the one being transfigured, and God the Holy Spirit was present in the form of a cloud. The three apostles Peter, John and Jacob were wonderfully delighted with this glorious vision of Transfiguration of Lord in the presence of Prophets Moses and Elias.
SEASON OF THE CROSS Éo_mImew
This season extends from the Feast of Holy Cross [14th September] to Eve of Kudos Etho. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated every year on September 14. The feast is also known as Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The feast commemorates three historical divine events related to the cross on which Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. 1) The finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine. 2) The dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulcher and Mount Calvary. 3) The restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heraclius II. Cross is very special for the Christian believers because Christ used it as the instrument of our salvation.