The liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation for Christ's Birth. The emphasis in the Mass and the daily prayers of this season is on the threefold coming of Christ—the prophecies of His Incarnation and Birth; His coming into our lives through grace and the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and His Second Coming at the end of time. Sometimes called a "little Lent," Advent is a period of joyful expectation but also of penance, as the liturgical color of the season—purple, as in Lent—indicates.
Prepare the Way of the Lord
The joyful expectation of Advent finds its culmination in the second season of the liturgical year: Christmas. The Christmas season does not encompass Advent, nor end with Christmas Day, but begins after Advent ends and extends into the New Year. The season is celebrated with a special joy throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, ending with the Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6).
Lent: Dying to Self
The 40-day period of preparation for Easter. In any given year, the length of the first period of Ordinary Time depends on the date of Ash Wednesday, which itself depends on the date of Easter. Lent is a period of fasting, abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving—all to prepare ourselves, body and soul, to die with Christ on Good Friday so that we may rise again with Him on Easter Sunday. During Lent, the emphasis in the Mass readings and daily prayers of the Church is on the prophecies and foreshadowings of Christ in the Old Testament, and the increasing revelation of the nature of Christ and His mission.