Both East and West have calendar issues. In the Eastern Churches, some follow the old Julian calendar and some the newfangled 16th-century Gregorian. In the Western Church some follow the Roman Rite’s traditional calendar while others that of the novel Novus Ordo.
At no time of year are these differences more pronounced than the time from Christmas through and around Epiphany. Traditional Romans will celebrate the Holy Family on Sunday January 12 and the Lord’s Baptism on Monday, while Epiphany was on January 6 (where it ought to be). Novus Ordo Mass-goers got Epiphany on January 5, the Holy Family on December 29, and will celebrate the Baptism on January 12. And the Julian Easterners celebrated Christmas on Gregorian Tuesday, January 7.
Traditionally, the Christmas cycle extends during the time after Epiphany to Candlemas, February 2. In the Novus Ordo reckoning, the Christmas cycle thuds to a halt with the Baptism of the Lord. The feast of the Baptism, however, provides a logical transition point between the Christmas cycle and what is called Ordinary Time, when green vestments return to our altars. The Baptism of the Lord was one of three mysteries associated with Epiphany, along with the changing of water to wine during the wedding at Cana and the adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi: all three were manifestations of the Lord’s divinity. The Baptism of Christ at the Jordan by John marked the end of the hidden years of the Lord’s life and the beginning of His public ministry. So, too, liturgically we move from the bright white Christmas cycle to the Tempus per annum, the green time through the year.
Regardless of the calendar you follow, Eastern or Western, traditional or newfangled, their cycles and rhythms are important for your personal and collective Catholic identity. Our Church’s life has seasons and so does yours. Year in and year out, Holy Mother Church presents us anew with the mysteries of our salvation. Those mysteries don’t change with the turning of the calendar’s pages, but you do. Each year you are a little different. Each year you can gain something more, something new from the ritual celebrations. Provided, of course, that you are paying attention and living a life open to grace. Do not, this year, be content to drift. Be a liturgical being. Let the sacred calendar guide your plans and choices.
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