Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More on Epiphany and Christmastide

In the revision of the Roman Missal after Vatican II, Epiphany remains a fixed feast and falls on 6 January in many countries (like Italy). In other countries (like the U.S.) it falls on the first Sunday after 1 January, the Feast of the Holy Family being observed the Sunday following the Nativity.

The liturgical season of Christmas ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is observed on the Sunday following Epiphany. When observed in the "efficient" way, in years when Epiphany falls on 7 or 8 January, the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the next day, Monday. When observed on Monday, this feast is not a holy day of obligation. In case you were wondering...

I am not railing or resisting, just observing and joyfully celebrating. I must admit, however, that it does get a bit confusing at times, which I think is one reason, among many, some of which are far more fundamental, that many people lose track and ultimately lose interest.


  1. When I worked at LTP, my fellow editors were liturgists, and this is the sort of thing that they really enjoyed knowing and explaining to others. Observing their pleasure and delight, as I found it difficult to follow, really opened my eyes to the fact that there are many different sorts of people.

  2. Thanks Scott. It was confusing me up there on Sunday, when it was Epiphany, but not Jan. 6th. Now I get it!

  3. Working on the pastoral front lines I am glad that I can explain all this to others, but I also notice their annoyance, whether it comes from an "It's all too complicated" mindset, or a "This seems an inexcusable break with tradition" POV. I guess I would like to see all the exceptions we have sought and been granted here in the U.S. thoroughly reconsidered.

    I can't claim to be old enough to remember the "old way". Even if I had been raised Catholic, I was born in 1965. I am a staunch supporter of the liturgical reforms and not terribly happy with the new rules about the extraordinary form of the Mass and other rites. I liked JPII's solution, which left it up to the local bishop to determine whether or not there was a pastoral need for the Latin Mass. However, I'd like Epiphany to be Epiphany, Ascension Thursday to be Ascension Thursday, and 1 January to be a holy day, etc. Overall, I realize that is just my opinion. What I wrote about the effects all the liturgical side-stepping has on cultural observances is all too true and unfortunate. I also think that we want something to anchor our lives. Fixed feasts and observances that cause us to pause and reconsider why we do what we do day in and day out, what point or purpose any of it has, do that. I mean just think about how we observe the Baptism of the Lord when Epiphany falls on 7-8 January we observe it on Monday and it is not a holy day of obligation. In the sacred realm I despise this kind of efficiency and see it as an invasion, a triumph of the profane over the sacred.


  4. Tell it like it is, Scott! I've been having a conversation with my friend Paul Z (of the blog called Communio) about how we receive Communion. This stuff is so interesting. In the end, it all comes down to obedience, doesn't it?

  5. As I wrote, when we observe Epiphany is hardly the most important thing and I am only expressing an opinion. Apart from getting our national act together and in sync with the rest of the Church (I would also like 19 March, the Feast of St. Joseph to be a holy day here as it is in most of the world), I am more than fine with communion in the hand. et. al.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...