Good morning, mamas! This week we're talking about the Church's calendar and today we're going to look at one of the most confusing aspects of being Catholic (in my opinion) and figure it all out together: the movable dates of the liturgical year.
Have you ever wondered why certain dates changed every year, while others stayed the same? This always led to a planning nightmare for me because I never took the time to understand which were fixed and which were movable. (You can find my list of Fixed Dates to put in your calendar & set to repeat every year - here.)
Now I know I'm not an expert or master liturgist of any sort, but I'm excited about learning all of this and happy to share with all of you! Getting to know the Church through her calendar is a fun, easy way to walk in step with the liturgy - it's something that can bring the seasons even more meaning in our lives, in such a tangible way.
Understanding these feasts in light of the natural year - the changing of seasons, the equinox, full moons, etc. - rather than the calendar year helps things make a lot more sense. Also, keep in mind that since Easter Sunday is a result of Christ's sacrifice on Passover, the date for Easter is obviously based on the Jewish calendar's date of Passover, which was largely based on lunar cycles.
The Gregorian calendar we use today wasn't even introduced until 1582, and even then it wasn't adopted by many countries until the 1700's. So dates were set based on the moons and equinoxes, and specifically in this case Easter was set to follow the vernal (spring) equinox.
To accommodate planning, the calendrical spring equinox is used - March 21 - so Easter is always going to be the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21.
Confusing? Yes. But understanding the history and basis in the Jewish calendar & its relation to the natural calendar definitely help. Here are a list of the movable dates of the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical year.
These will change every calendar year so it's a good idea to figure out when everything is at the beginning of the year, get it set in your calendar (we use Google calendar), and then you won't forget. Or, if you prefer paper calendars, print off the RomCal - for 2016 & 2017.
Movable Dates of the Liturgical Year
- Closest Sunday to January 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord
- 46 Days Before Easter Sunday: Ash Wednesday
- First Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal (Paschal) equinox: Easter Sunday
- Easter Sunday to 2nd Sunday of Easter inclusive: Octave of Easter
- 2nd Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday
- Forty days after Easter: Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord
- Nine days after Ascension: Solemnity of Pentecost
- First Sunday after Pentecost: Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
- Thursday after Holy Trinity: Solemnity of Corpus Christi
- Friday following second Sunday after Pentecost: Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Saturday following second Sunday after Pentecost: Immaculate Heart of Mary
- Last Sunday in Ordinary Time: Solemnity of Christ the King
- The Sunday Closest to November 30th: First Sunday of Advent
- Sunday within the Octave of Christmas or if there is no Sunday within the Octave, December 30th: Feast of the Holy Family
Dates for 2016
- Epiphany: January 3
- Ash Wednesday: February 10
- Easter Sunday: March 27
- Divine Mercy Sunday: April 3
- Ascension: May 5
- Pentecost: May 15
- Holy Trinity: May 22
- Corpus Christi: May 29
- Sacred Heart of Jesus: June 3
- Immaculate Heart of Mary: June 4
- Christ the King: November 20
- First Sunday of Advent: November 27
- Feast of the Holy Family: December 30
Dates for 2017
- Epiphany: January 8
- Ash Wednesday: March 1
- Easter Sunday: April 16
- Divine Mercy Sunday: April 23
- Ascension: May 25
- Pentecost: June 4
- Holy Trinity: June 11
- Corpus Christi: June 18
- Sacred Heart of Jesus: June 23
- Immaculate Heart of Mary: June 24 (Superseded by Solemnity of Nativity of John the Baptist)
- Christ the King: November 26
- First Sunday of Advent: December 3
- Feast of the Holy Family: December 31
- Catholic Answers Staff: How is Easter Sunday determined? Palm Sunday? Ash Wednesday?
- Catholic Straight Answers: How does the Church's Liturgical Calendar work? (LOVE this one.)
- USCCB: Announcement of Easter and the Movable Feasts (lists dates for 2016)
- USCCB: 2016 & 2017 Calendars available for purchase (print or PDF)
- Aquinas and More: What is the Liturgical Year?
- Scott Richert: Living the Liturgical Year (Podcast)
- History.com: 6 Things You May Not Know about the Gregorian Calendar