Early on in the history of Christianity, the Christian Church Year combined feasts related to Christian salvation with other liturgical days. It included days to commemorate people in the Bible, the history of the Church, and various other important events. ‘Christian Feasts’ can refer both to feasts related to the life of Christ and to other holy people. In Finland, the celebration of name days was originally based on the Church’s Calendar of Saints, which is why a number of celebrations of Christian Saints are included in this calendar.
Over the centuries some differences have occurred in the Church Year based on the life of Christ and the Calendar of Saints as celebrated in Eastern and Western churches. In this calendar, the Eastern Churches are represented by the Orthodox Church of Finland. The part of the Church that split off from the Roman Catholic Church through the Reformation has itself split into several churches. In Finland, the reformed churches are represented by the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and several communities of the so-called Free Churches, such as the Evangelical Free Church of Finland, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church and Pentecostal communities. The Finnish Ecumenical Council is an organ for cooperation between Churches and the Christian communities of Finland, both old and new <>. The Finnish Ecumenical Council has members, observers and partners.
Feasts and Major Holidays in the Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church divides days observed in the liturgy (celebrations or public worship in the Church) into four categories: solemnities, feasts, memorials, and optional memorials. Solemnities are marked on set days which don’t usually change. Most have their own Vigil or specific Mass (divine service with Eucharistic sacrifice) on the evening before the solemnity. Some solemnities are so-called ‘holy days of obligation’ according to Canon Law (see explanation below), which means the faithful are obliged to participate in Mass that day unless they are unable to do so. All Sundays are holy days of obligation.
(What is Canon Law? It is the system of laws and legal principles developed within the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches, among others, to define the Church, create order within it and to define the relationship between the Church and other institutions. Canon Law is the oldest legal system still in use in the Western world.)
This calendar includes feasts and memorials of the Catholic Church, and lists the 24 most important holy days of the Catholic Church.
Sundays are Christian Feast days at a minimum.
Calendar of Memorials in the
The Reformation of the Western Church removed most of the Saint Days from the Calendar of Memorials, as is evident in the calendars of the Lutheran Church of Finland and of the Free Churches (see explanation at the end of this section). In all the old churches, the Christian year focuses on the liturgical year of seasons, which divides into Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
Even in the Lutheran Church, the break with remembering important people in Church history was incomplete. One of the founding texts of the Lutheran Church, the ‘Augsburg Confession’, states: ‘The memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling.’ The days of the Apostles and Evangelists were included in the Lutheran calendar until 1772. Of all the saints’ days, the most important was the Memorial of Saint Henry, who was celebrated for a long time in Finland in the Lutheran Church.
The Free Churches have developed and now mark other days, such as the March for Jesus, a global prayer event that continues to expand. It was first held in Great Britain in 1987, when 15,000 Christians gathered to pray in the streets of London, and has since spread rapidly to other parts of the world. Its organisers reported that, in 1997, some 40 million Christians in more than 170 countries ‘marched for Jesus’. The event is held annually in June in various time zones around the world. Finland saw its first March for Jesus in 1992. Finnish Christians began by marching in June, but because many Finns take their summer vacation in that month, the March for Jesus was moved to May Day. In Finland today the march now takes place in dozens of towns and cities, including Helsinki, Tampere, Joensuu, Heinola and Kokkola. Although some relatively young events are not yet included in this calendar, that is in no way meant to discount their importance.
(What are the Free Churches? A bridge builder for the Free Churches in Finland is the Free Church Council of Finland (Suomen vapaakristillinen neuvosto, SVKN ry). The Council was founded in 1967 to promote the work and mutual understanding of its member churches and communities. Council members are the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Finland, the Pentecostals, the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army and the Evangelical Free Church of Finland. The Council represents established Christian communities that have a considerable history in Finland.)
The Lutheran Church
The rhythm and content of the liturgical life of the Lutheran Church and its parishes arises from the Church Year. For each Sunday and festival of the Church there is a given Bible reading and prayer.
The liturgical calendar year of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is framed around the liturgical festivals of the Western Church: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
The Church Year of
the Orthodox Church
The liturgical year of the begins on September 1 and ends on the last day of August the following year. The tradition of starting the Church Year at the beginning of September originated in the ancient Byzantine Empire. Central to the Orthodox liturgical year and to the entire liturgical life of the Orthodox Church, is the most important event of all, the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ, .
In addition to Easter, the Orthodox calendar includes twelve major festivals and a few smaller holidays throughout the Church Year. Most of the major celebrations of the liturgical year commemorate some stage in the life of Christ or of the Virgin Mary. One exception is the Exaltation of the Cross (also known as Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross) on September 14. Celebrations are preceded by a preparatory period of fasting which varies in length. See also <>
Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox Holidays
For more detailed information, go to their websites:
Finnish-language liturgical calendar: <>
Church Year of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland: <>
Church Year of the Orthodox Church of Finland: <>
Catholic Feasts and Major Holidays
All Sundays are Christian Feast days at a minimum.
December 12 The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
December 25 The Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas
December 30 The Feast of the Holy Family
January 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
January 6 The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (Sunday after Epiphany)
January 19 Saint Henry, Bishop and Martyr, Patron Saint of the Diocese and all of Finland
February 2 The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple – Candlemas (Feast)
March 19 Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary
March 25 The Annunciation of Our Lord
The Ascension of Our Lord
Holy Trinity (first Sunday after Pentecost)
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi, second Sunday after Pentecost)
Sacred Heart of Jesus (first Friday after Corpus Christi)
June 24 Birth of John the Baptist
June 29 Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
August 6 The Feast of the Transfiguration
August 15 The Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Feast of All Saints (first Sunday in November)
Feast of Christ the King (last Sunday of the liturgical year)
The most significant of the liturgical days are:
– The Holy Triduum of Easter (the Three Holy Days of Easter)
– Ash Wednesday
– the days of Holy Week
– the days of the Easter Octave (the eight-day period of Easter)
– The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed – All Souls’ Day
See also: <>
Nativity of the Virgin Mary – September
8 (Cath., Orth.)
According to an ancient text, not from the Bible, Mary was born to an aging couple, Joachim and Anna, who were considered barren. Joachim had been ridiculed for his lack of children and had left, but was told by an angel of God to return to his wife and unite with her. The birth of the Theotokos – the Greek term for God-bearer, the Mother of God – was therefore the result of normal conjugal relations, giving rise to Christ’s humanity and the redemption of the world. In the Catholic Church the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is a feast day, not a solemnity.
In the Orthodox tradition, the Church Year begins on September 1, which makes the Nativity of the Theotokos, celebrated on September 8, the first feast of the liturgical year. Correspondingly, the last festival of the liturgical year is the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 15. (Dormition is the passing of the Virgin Mary from earthly life.) The birth of the Virgin Mary is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church.
For both Catholics and Lutherans, the liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent.
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Orth.), September 14
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, or the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross, originated in the fourth century when Empress Helena – mother of the Emperor of Byzantium, Constantine the Great – went to Jerusalem in search of the lost Cross of Christ. Also, the fourth century saw the beginning of Christian pilgrimages to important Biblical sites. The Cross was found and after a feast the Cross was split up and relics of it placed in churches, where people could come and pay their respects to them. For Christians, the Cross is a sign of protection and victory. The Christian message of the Cross is that Christ overcame death by rising up after his death on the Cross. The Cross and Easter are inseparable. This feast is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church.
Michael’s Day (Luth.), Feast Day of the Holy Archangels (Cath.),
Michael is the Archangel Michael. In Western Christianity since the fifth century, Michael’s Day has been celebrated on September 29. Michael is mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible as an archangel who fights evil. The Evangelical-Lutheran Church celebrates Archangel Michael on the Sunday after September 29. In the Lutheran Church, that day is devoted to all angels.
In the Catholic Church, September 29 is a Feast Day for all the Archangels, and on October 2 Catholics observe a memorial for the Holy Guardian Angels. Orthodox Christians celebrate the Synaxis of Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven on November 8.
of the Holy Guardian Angels (Cath.), October 2
(Cf November 8)
Saint Francis (Cath.), October
Francis was the son of Pietro di Bernardone, a rich cloth merchant from the small Italian town of . Born in the twelfth century, Francis spent his youth, until he was 25, living a life of luxury. He experienced a conversion while making a pilgrimage to . He had met people disfigured by the disease of and chose care for them. Having heard a mystical calling to repair God’s house, Francis used his father’s money to repair the ruined chapel of San Damiano near Assisi and a couple of others.
Francis’s preaching attracted some followers who, together with Francis, chose to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Two years before his death, while praying on Mount La Verna, Francis received the , wounds like those left on the body of the crucified Christ. Towards the end of his life, when he was very ill, Francis wrote his famous ‘’, praising all creatures and expressing his view of God, who is present in all that He has created. Francis died on October 3, 1226, and two years later was canonised as a saint.
Today, the feast day of the creature-loving St Francis also marks the start of World Animal Week.
Bridget (Cath.), October 7
Bridget – formerly Birgitta Birgersdotter – was the best known religiously and politically powerful person in the Nordic countries. She was famous for the visions she’d had since she was a child, usually related to the suffering of Christ and honouring of the Virgin Mary. At her death, Bridget left a considerable written heritage. Many churches in Finland are devoted to the memory of Saint Bridget who died in Rome in 1373 and was subsequently canonised as a saint on October 7, 1391. In 1999, the Catholic Church made Saint Bridget the Patron Saint of Europe.
The convent she founded in Vadstena, Sweden, and its daughter-house in Naantali (or Nådendal), in present-day Finland, were centres of religious and literary activity which had a huge impact on spiritual life in the Nordic countries.
Saints’ Day, November 1
All Saints is a merging of two feasts, the Feast of All Saints on November 1, (Festum omnium sanctorum) and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Commemoratio omnium fidelium defunctorum). It is the day we remember all the martyrs of the faith and all others who have died in Christ. All Saints’ Day was first celebrated on November 1, 609 ad, when the Pantheon in Rome was consecrated as a Christian Church. Before its consecration a large number of relics of martyrs may have been placed in the Church.
The Catholic Church still marks the two liturgical days separately. Outside Finland All Saints’ Day is always observed on November 1 and All Souls on November 2. Whereas, inside Finland, All Saint’s Day is traditionally observed on the first Sunday of November, and All Souls on the Saturday preceding that Sunday.
The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland marks All Saints’ Day on the first Saturday following October 30. The day is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. All Saints’ Day is one of the 24 major liturgical feasts of the year.
The Synaxis of Michael and all
the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (Orth.), November 8
Michael is the Archangel Michael. In Western Christianity since the fifth century, Michael’s Day has been celebrated on September 29. Michael is mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible as an archangel who fights evil. The Evangelical-Lutheran Church celebrates Archangel Michael on the Sunday after September 29. In the Lutheran Church, that day is devoted to all angels. In the Catholic Church, September 29 is a Feast Day for all the Archangels, and on October 2 Catholics observe a memorial for the Holy Guardian Angels.
Andrew’s Day (Cath., Orth.), November 30
In the New Testament of the Bible, Andrew was one of the 12 disciples of , and an apostle. Andrew, brother of the Apostle , was originally a disciple of . According to the Gospel of John, Andrew came from Bethsaida, but the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke suggest that his home town was Capernaum. say he was one of the disciples closest to Jesus, but in St Luke and he is only mentioned in the list of apostles. Saint Andrew was on a cross, and the St Andrew’s cross was named for him.
Andrew the Apostle is honoured as Patron Saint of Russia, and also of Scotland. The diagonal cross on the , the national flag of Scotland, is that of St Andrew. St Andrew’s Day is marked on November 30 in both the Eastern and the Western Church <http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirkkokunta>. It is also the national day of Scotland. Prior to 1774, it was a in Finland.
First Sunday of Advent (Cath.,
The Church Year begins with Advent, a season leading up to the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) in the Western Church. Since medieval times, the day’s main reading tells of Jesus riding into Jerusalem. The Bible says Jesus did not arrive in the manner of earthly princes, but humbly, on a donkey. In this way, his coming fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in the Book of Zecharia that a king would come in peace. Another reference to that is the old Latin name of the First Sunday of Advent, Adventus humiliationis or Advent of Humility.
The day’s Gospel reading links Advent and Christmas with the events of Palm Sunday and Easter, which from the outset puts Easter at the centre of the Christian Church Year. Christians see the meaning of Christmas in relation to the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.
On the First Sunday of Advent, the Lutheran church begins its Advent fast, although the fasting tradition is not very strong among Lutherans of today. Orthodox Christians prepare for Christmas with a 40-day fast.
St Nicholas (Cath., Orth.),
Nikolaos of Myra, Lycia (now Turkey), was a fourth-century Holy Bishop and a Wonder-worker. Among other things, he took part in the First Council of Nicaea in 325 ad and fiercely opposed the Arian heresy <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism>. His particular virtue was in giving gifts to the poor and vulnerable, and thus he inspired today’s Santa Claus. According to legend, among the miracles he achieved through prayer, Nicholas resurrected three murdered boys, and in the Middle Ages was made Patron Saint of Children. In the Netherlands, children receive gifts on St Nicholas’ Day, December 6. The Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas spread with Dutch Protestants to North America and over the centuries has evolved into the present-day, Santa Claus.
Feast of the Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary (Cath.), December 8
One of the 24 most important liturgical feasts in the Catholic Church is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to an ancient text, not from the Bible, Mary was born to an aging couple, Joachim and Anna, who were apparently barren. Joachim had been ridiculed for his lack of children and had left home, but was told by an angel of God to return to his wife and unite with her. The birth of the Theotokos – the Greek term for God-bearer, the Mother of God – was therefore the result of normal conjugal relations, giving rise to Christ’s humanity and the redemption of the world.
St Anna (Cath., Orth.),
December 8 and 9
The Lord’s grandmother Anna is honoured in December, making it nine months before the September Nativity of the Virgin Mary. In the Catholic Church, December 8 is celebrated as St Anna’s Day. Anna and her husband Joachim had been childless, the shame of which had driven Joachim to flee into the desert. Anna cried at home, until an angel of the Lord announced that Joachim would return and they would have a child who would become the Mother of the Redeemer.
Lucia (Cath., in practice also Luth.), December 13
Celebrating St Lucia’s Day on December 13 is traditional in the Nordic countries, particularly among Swedish-speakers and, increasingly, among Finnish speakers. Like many annual celebrations, it has its roots in the Catholic Calendar of Saints.
St Lucia (or St Lucy) is venerated as a bringer of light, in part due to her legend and in part because her day is celebrated during the darkest time of the year. Lucia died c. 304 ad, during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
According to legend, Lucia was a Christian girl in Sicily, whose betrothed – the man her mother had arranged for her to marry – betrayed her to the Romans after learning that she was distributing her riches to the poor. When she refused to burn a sacrifice to the Roman Emperor she was sentenced to work in a brothel but that and death by fire both miraculously failed and, finally, Lucia was executed by sword.
Another legend has it that a young man fell in love with Lucia and often praised her beautiful eyes. Lucia, however, did not want his attentions and finally gouged out her own eyes and sent them to him. The man was so shocked he converted to Christianity. Lucy was, among other things, made patron saint of the blind and visually impaired.
of Christ, Christmas, December 25 (Cath., Luth., Orth.)
The Nativity of Our Saviour Jesus Christ is when ‘God’s Word became flesh’, which is one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith. God is said to have become flesh to save the world, which had fallen with Adam, and to reconnect the Creator with those he had created. In Christianity, the birth of Christ has been celebrated widely since the seventh century. It is of such huge importance that the Orthodox Church prepares for it with a 40-day fast and Western Churches with the season of Advent, through the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The celebration is based on the story of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel according to St Luke (Luke 2:1–20). In times past, Christmas celebrations in Finland used to last a full week, but nowadays it is celebrated over two days: Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day (Tapaninpäivä in Finnish), or Boxing Day.
The Nativity of Christ is one of the 24 most important liturgical feasts of the Catholic Church.
St Stephen’s Day (Cath., Luth.), December 26
In addition to Christmas Day, the Lutheran calendar includes St Stephen’s Day (second day of Christmas), St John the Apostle (third day of Christmas), and Holy Innocents’ Day (fourth day of Christmas). In the Catholic Church nearly all of the days after Christmas are feast days and even the weekdays are included in the Christmas Octave (a period of eight days) and are therefore considered special. The Orthodox Church celebrates December 26 as the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos (God-bearer, Mother of God). In the Orthodox Church, the Christmas period ends on December 31.
Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Cath.), December 30
The Feast of the Holy Family is one of the 24 most important feasts of the Catholic Church.
The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Baptism of Christ (Cath., Luth., Orth.),
This feast has been celebrated since the third century. Epiphany, which means manifestation or revelation, has also been called the Theophany, the revelation of God. In Christianity, the day is about God’s own revelation of himself in the world through his Son, Jesus Christ. In Western tradition, the gospel reading of the Epiphany is about the Wise Men, or Magi, who came to pay their respects to the newborn Jewish king. The Magi came as representatives of other nations, which is thought to signify that Christ is a light to all nations of the world.
The Theophany is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. In the Catholic Church, the Epiphany of Our Lord is one of the 24 most important liturgical feasts. For Catholics, the Sunday after Epiphany is the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.
Saint Henry (Cath.), December
Saint Henry came to Finland with King Eric of Sweden in the twelfth century and was a bishop in south-west Finland. Historians have yet to agree on the details of Saint Henry’s life.
Tradition has it that Bishop Henry was martyred in Köyliö (Kjulo in Swedish) in 1156. In the Middle Ages he was honoured on two separate days: January 20 (nowadays, January 19) to mark his death (called talvi-Heikki or Winter Henry), and on June 18 to mark the translation of his remains to the Cathedral in Turku (kesä-Heikki or Summer Henry).
The days of the Apostles and Evangelists were included in the Lutheran calendar until 1772. The most important of the Saints Days was that of Saint Henry, and the marking of his feast day continued for a long time even in the Lutheran Church. For Catholics, the day of St Henry, bishop and martyr, is one of the 24 most important liturgical days of the year, as he is the Patron Saint of the Catholic Diocese of Helsinki and of all Finland.
Candlemas Day (Cath, Luth.),
Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (Orth.), February 2
Candlemas, Candlemas Day or, as the Orthodox Church prefers it, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, is celebrated 40 days after Christmas, on February 2. For Catholics, Candlemas is one of the 24 most important feasts of the year.
In the Middle Ages, candles to be used in churches the following year were blessed on Candlemas Day. The Evangelical-Lutheran Church marks Candlemas on the Sunday following February 2. The biblical theme of the feast is the presentation of the baby Jesus at the Temple and the divine light that came with him into the world. In blessing the child and his parents, old Simeon praised God for the salvation he sent for all nations, and for the light he shines for his people of Israel.
On February 2, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. According to Jewish tradition, 40 days after the birth of a child, when the period of purification for a postnatal mother has passed, a sacrifice should be made for the child. According to Mosaic Law (Law of Moses), the firstborn child belonged to God and should be presented at the Temple at the age of 40 days.
Beginning of the Great Fast
(Orth.), Shrove Sunday or Reconciliation Sunday (Luth., Orth.)
Shrove Sunday begins the Great Fast (or Great Lent) of Orthodox Church tradition, six weeks in which believers prepare themselves for the celebration of Christ’s suffering and resurrection. The Lenten fast is also described as a school of repentance, when Christians contemplate themselves and their sins, and give up certain foodstuffs and other unnecessary things. For them, repentance can only begin by the reconciliation of themselves with God and with other people. Which is why in the Orthodox tradition one begins a fast by asking forgiveness of everyone else who is fasting.
Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary
Ash Wednesday (Cath. Luth.)
In the Western Church, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day fast that precedes Easter. The Orthodox Church begins fasting on the preceding Sunday. The name Ash Wednesday comes from the tradition of sprinkling ashes, as a sign of penitence and repentance, over the heads of people to mark the beginning of Lent.
In Finland, too, early in the Middle Ages the day was called Ash Wednesday and then the Day of Ash and Sackcloth (dies cineris, dies cinerum et cilicii). Later, the name was forgotten, but in recent decades it has come back into use in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church.
The Annunciation of Our Lord,
The subject of this feast day is the appearance of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce that she would give birth to the baby Jesus. The Annunciation has inspired other names for the feast in other languages, such as Evangelismus, the Feast of Good Tidings. Christianity holds that the promise given to Mary shows the wealth of God’s grace.
The Annunciation of Our Lord has also been called the Beginning of the Redemption. The angel’s visit to the Virgin Mary was believed to have occurred exactly 9 months before Christmas. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit within Mary’s womb when the angel told her of his forthcoming birth.
In early times, the Annunciation occurred at the beginning of the new year. In many languages, including English, the names of the autumn months refer to months that are two ordinals earlier than they are today: September means the seventh month, October the eighth, November the ninth, and December the tenth month.
The Annunciation is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. For Catholics, the Annunciation is one of the 24 most important feasts of the year. The Lutheran Church marks the Annunciation on March 25, but it is celebrated on the Sunday that falls between March 22 and 28. If that Sunday is Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday, the Annunciation is celebrated a week before Palm Sunday.
The Great Week (Orth.), Holy Week (Cath.), and Quiet Week (Luth.) all begin on Palm Sunday. Its name refers to the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the people laying down palm leaves ahead of him. This is traditionally commemorated by bringing palm leaves and decorations made out of palm leaves into the church. Palm leaves have also been carried in Palm Sunday processions. In countries where palms don’t grow, branches of willow or olive have been used instead. The origins of the Finnish tradition of virpominen stem from this feast.
In the Christian tradition, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the subjugation of the King of Glory. Having been anointed at Bethany, Jesus rode into Jerusalem towards his suffering and death, but for Christians this became a sign of hope and victory, now symbolised by the branches of palm trees. On Palm Sunday, the Church of Christ stands to follow Him through the final days of his life.
Maundy Thursday (Cath., Luth.)
On Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, according to the Gospel of St Luke, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Luke 22:14–20).
According to the Bible, on the evening of Maundy Thursday Jesus entered the garden of Gethsemane to pray for strength from his Father. But the Apostle Judas, who had betrayed his Master, led the enemies of Jesus – the Jewish priests of the Temple, the Sadducees and Roman soldiers – to arrest Him.
In the Catholic Church the three-day period that marks the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, begins with the Evening Mass on Maundy Thursday, reaches its climax at the Easter Vigil and ends with vespers on Easter Sunday. This period is called the Easter Triduum or three holy days of Easter (Triduum sacrum).
Friday (Cath., Luth., Orth.)
The Christian message of Good Friday is that Christ died for us all, his work of reconciliation fulfilled. This makes Good Friday a great day in Christianity. In many languages this is expressed by the name of the day. In several Slavonic languages, and in Hungarian and Estonian the name translates roughly as Great Friday (in Estonian it is suur reede).
In English, the name Good Friday corresponds closely to the idea of it as a great day. In many Romance languages it is known as Holy Friday (for instance, in Italian it is Venerdi Santo – Saint Friday). The Finnish name pitkäperjantai (Long Friday) is a literal translation from the Swedish långfredag. Today, only in Nordic countries is the idea of ‘long’ used to describe it, but old sources show that in Anglo-Saxon English it was also known as Long Friday.
Bible readings for Good Friday tell of the events on Golgotha, from the crucifixion of Jesus to his death. At 3 p.m. a service can be held to mark the death of Jesus (see Jeesuksen kuolinhetken rukoushetki in the Finnish order of service). The evening service on Good Friday is traditionally dedicated to the burial of Jesus, which is also seen as God’s blessing of our own graves as places of rest.
In the Orthodox tradition, Great Saturday commemorates the burial of Christ and His descent into Hades. It is the old day for Baptisms, the day on which catechumens (converts) were baptised during the liturgy of the Eucharist. Even today, the celebration of Easter still begins with the liturgy on the evening of Holy Saturday.
Vigil, Easter Day and Easter Week (Cath., Luth., Orth.)
For Christians, Easter is the most important feast of all and is the basis of the entire Christian Church. Traditionally, the Church believes the resurrection of Christ to be an absolute victory over the sin and death brought into the world by the Fall of Man through Adam. The heart of the Christian confession, its inalienable good news, is the resurrection, which they believe has enabled all people to take part at the end of the world, when Christ comes again in glory. Easter is celebrated for 40 days, up until Ascension Day, the Feast of the Ascension of Christ into Heaven. Easter Week, or Bright Week as it is known in the Orthodox tradition, is a week-long Sunday. Of this week-long festival, the Finnish calendar retains only the Second Day of Easter.
Easter Sunday is one of the 24 major liturgical feasts of the Catholic Church.
Ascension Day (Cath., Luth., Orth.)
Ascension Day, Ascension Thursday, or the Feast of the Ascension, is marked 40 days after Easter in accordance with the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament (Acts 1:6–14). The Finnish word Helatorstai for Ascension Thursday comes from the Swedish for Holy Thursday.
On Ascension Day, Christians celebrate the ascension of Christ into Heaven. Christians believe that He has reached his Heavenly throne and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, that he has been given all power in Heaven and on Earth and that nothing can separate Christians from the love of God, that people cannot reach Christ through the human senses, and that he through his Holy Spirit is present among his flock through his Word and Sacraments.
Ascension Day is one of the 24 major liturgical feasts of the Catholic Church.
(Cath., Luth., Orth.)
Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Christian Church. Fifty days after Easter, Christians mark the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Christ promised his disciples that he would send them another Comforter, which according to the Bible happened in Jerusalem behind closed doors, when the disciples heard the sound of a wind and saw flames as if of fire descend upon them. On that day, 3,000 people were baptised. The feast is based on the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. Throughout most of Christianity, Pentecost is still a two-day feast.
Pentecost is one of the 24 major liturgical feasts of the Catholic Church.
Feast of the
Holy Trinity (Cath., Luth.)
In the Western Church, it was decreed in 1334 that the Sunday after Pentecost would be marked as the Feast of the Holy Trinity, or Trinity Sunday. This feast sums up the teaching of the Church on the Trinity of God. Holy Trinity Day is also the day of the Creed.
The Biblical readings of the day speak of God’s mystical being, which they say surpasses human understanding. God is one, but he has announced himself to mankind as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He appears as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Faith does not work on the being of God by making factual distinctions, but in wonder, praise and celebration of his acts of grace.
In the Western Church, Trinity Sunday marks the beginning of the half of the church year which has fewer feasts. The Feast of the Holy Trinity is one of the 24 most important feasts of the Catholic Church.
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi, second Sunday after Pentecost) is one of the 24 most important liturgical feasts of the Catholic Church.
Hemming (Cath.), May 22
Hemming, or Hemingus, born in Sweden (c.1290–1366), was Bishop of Turku from 1338–1366. He was one of the greatest bishops and rulers of medieval Finland.
Hemming founded the Dean’s office at Turku Cathedral in 1340. He also set up a school and a hospital and donated his own books to start the Cathedral Library. He vigorously defended the interests of the Church versus the Crown, helped the Church increase its land ownership and in 1352 published Finland’s first collection of Church Regulations.
Blessed Hemming was a close friend of Saint Bridget. The translation of the relics of Hemming to Turku Cathedral and his beatification there were celebrated in 1514. He was to be canonised in 1530, but the process was abandoned due to the Reformation. The Hemming reliquary is in Turku Cathedral.
John the Baptist (Cath.,
The birthday of John the Baptist, son of the priest Zechariah and Elizabeth, gave Midsummer it’s Finnish name of juhannus, which is celebrated on June 24. The Evangelical-Lutheran Church celebrates St John the Baptist, and Midsummer, on the Saturday following June 19.
The Feast of St John the Baptist is one of the 24 most important feasts of the Catholic Church.
of Saints Peter and Paul (Cath., Orth.), June 29
From early in the Middle Ages, the martyrdom of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul was marked on June 29. In 1772, when the days of the Apostles were eliminated from the calendar of the Kingdom of Sweden (which at the time included present-day Finland), the Church stopped marking a separate feast day for the Saints Peter and Paul.
According to the New Testament, St Peter was the leader of the Apostles. Christ himself had said to him, ‘You are Peter (the rock) and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ Peter was the first Bishop of the Congregation in Rome. Saints Peter and Paul, also called Princes of the Apostles, are thought to have been killed in 67 ad during the persecutions of the Emperor Nero in Rome. St Peter was crucified head down and Paul was beheaded by sword. They are buried in Rome’s biggest churches.
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is one of the 24 most important liturgical feasts in the Catholic Church.
In the Evangelical-Lutheran Church Peter and Paul are remembered on the Day of the Apostles (the sixth Sunday after Pentecost), when all Apostles are celebrated.
Lawrence (Cath.), August 10
, Saint Lawrence (Lauri in Finnish, from Laurentius) was a deacon of the Church in and suffered during Emperor persecution of Christians on August 10, 258. He had been ordered to deliver the property of the congregation in Rome to the Emperor. Lawrence, however, gave the money to the poor and brought them before the Emperor, saying they were the true treasure of the Church. Lawrence was first whipped, then put on a to be burned. Staying steadfast and calm in his pain, he is even said to have told his executioners, ‘I’m well done. Turn me over!’
Lawrence was one of the most famous Saints of the . In Finland, many churches are named Saint Lawrence’s after him, for instance, those at Lohja, Vantaa and Janakkala.
of the Transfiguration, Transfiguration Sunday (Cath., Luth.,
Orth.), September 6
In Sweden and Finland since the sixteenth century, the Feast of the Transfiguration has been celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday on the seventh Sunday after Trinity Sunday (now the eighth Sunday after Pentecost). The Transfiguration of Christ was a turning point in his life. The Bible says the Apostles saw his Divinity with their own eyes and heard God’s voice say: ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’
In the Bible it says the Apostles not only saw the transfigured Christ on the mount, but also saw Moses and Elijah, representatives of the Law and the Prophets. From the beginning, the Christian Church has seen the life, death and resurrection of Christ as fulfilment of Old Testament promises.
The Feast of the Transfiguration is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, and one of the 24 most important liturgical feasts of the Catholic Church.
of the Theotokos, the Assumption of
the Virgin Mary (Orth., Cath.), August 15
The final feast of the Church Year according to Eastern tradition is the Dormition of the Theotokos. It is based on the extra-Biblical but traditional story of the death of the Virgin Mary, for which the Apostles miraculously gathered at her bedside. The Apostles buried her, but three days later the body could not be found. Iconography shows how Christ came to take his mother’s soul to Heaven.
The life of the Theotokos began and ended like that of any other human being. Respect for Mary is a central Christian tenet, and this feast, too, is part of the common heritage of Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition it is preceded by the second-strictest fast of the year, lasting two weeks.
On August 15, Catholic Christians celebrate The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, one of the 24 major liturgical feasts of the Catholic Church Year.