Does the Church Know What Day It Is II?

This is a continuation of the another thread that I think had enough points in it already. This is also is meant to widen the discussion that’s already going on in some other threads.

I spent about an hour last night trying to figure out when Epiphany is. I googled it and found several different answers. Traditionally it was always January 6. Then I found some parishes have it on the Sunday nearest it, while others have it still on January 6.

I know the current answer in practice is that it’s up to the local bishop to determine when Epiphany is. Fair enough.

But my question is twofold. One, isn’t this confusing to the faithful? Just on this forum alone several people have said they’re confused. I’m confused about it too.

My other point is more basic. Does it matter when we celebrate our Holy Days? When he was still known as Cardinal Ratzinger, His Holiness Benedict XVI wrote in The Spirit of the Liturgy that time, space and matter are “bursting forth” with their holiness in preparation for the coming New Jerusalem. He says that the time, orientation, space, art and music all represent the purified Kingdom that’s already coming since the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus. If as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that time, space and matter in our liturgy represent what’s pure and holy, then how can we have two different dates for the Epiphany? Looking at the US Bishops’ web site, they list the Epiphany as a moveable feast that’s always on a Sunday. But the local parish here that uses the TLM Mass, thank God, still has it on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, as it’s been for over 1,200 years at least. If Cardinal Ratzinger’s idea is correct, and I believe that it is, then these things really do matter. It’s not just a matter of tradition or continuity. It’s a matter of the correct understanding of the Incarnation itself. You’d have to read his whole book to fully understand this, but it seems to be an idea that our ancestors in faith understood, but that we have lost.

Another point that others brought up is of January 1 is a Holy Day or not? Again, the practical answer is that it’s up to the local Bishop. Again, fair enough. But isn’t that confusing for the faithful? Did we have uniformity on this before Vatican II? Were the Bishops free to decide for themselves, but still had consensus as to when the Holy Days were? My guess is so.
Another related point is what day is January 1? When I grew up it was the Feast of the Circumcision, as it’s been since the days of the early Church. At Mass tonight (see other thread), the priest tonight said that since Vatican II the Church moved the Feast of the Virgin Mary from October to January 1 to put the Virgin Mary at the beginning of the year. Again, fair enough. But what happened to the Feast of the Circumcision? Doesn’t it matter anymore? If it was valuable for the faithful for almost two thousand years, what caused it to lose its meaning? Another point is that January 1 is not the beginning of the Church year, only the secular year. I have no problem with devotion to Mary. But this new Feast seems to have no spiritual connection to the Christmas season. In some sense the Virgin has a connection to the whole year, but I just don’t see the connection to January 1. By acknowledging the secular New Year, and connecting it with the Virgin, haven’t we broken up the Christmas season into two parts, one that happens in one year and the other that happens in another year? Again, does the Church not know what day it is? Do we now have two New Years days, one based on the secular calendar and one based on the liturgical one?
As I explained in the first thread, if someone says that this isn’t a big deal, I partially agree. In practical terms it comes down to me going to a parish that uses the TLM Mass, where January 1 is still the Feast of the Circumcision. I bet they still celebrate the Feast of the Virgin Mary in October.
Besides the practical confusion all this entails, doesn’t this also entail a lack of faith, or at least a misunderstanding of the faith? We can all see why the US Bishops moved the Epiphany to a Sunday – to fill up the pews. They’re reasoning seems to be that they’d rather have the pews filled on a Sunday where they can talk about the Epiphany, rather than a half filled church on a Holy Day during the week, where less people get to hear about the Epiphany. Fair enough. But isn’t that part of the same reasoning that said if the Mass was more fun (vernacular, folk music, peace greeting, etc.) that more people would come? Isn’t this the same reasoning that has lead to the churches being half empty?

It seems that Cardinal Ratzinger is right. Time, space and matter are sacred in the liturgy. When they are tampered with recklessly, the Mass becomes less sacred. And with a less sacred Mass, people lose interest, or be begin to wander off into all sorts of less than holy directions.

Why start a new thread? Just put this in the other one…

As I wrote in the previous thread you had begun, I completely understand what Pope Benedict said in “Spirit of the Liturgy.” I think that a good many of us are in agreement with that statement. I know that I am.

However, I do not agree with your assertion regarding the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. These feast celebrates the divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In about the fifth century (431, I think), there was a heresy floating around that doubted the humanity and the divinity of Christ. This was promulgated by a heretic named Nestorious. The Council of Ephesus, however, rejected Nestorion teaching and declared that Mary was the Mother of God, the Theotokos.

Now, the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, which references both the Circumcision of the Lord and the Purification, is celebrated on January 3rd. Irrespective of the Jewish custom, this feast marks the first time that Jesus shed his blood. You could say that it foreshadows what is going to happen 33 years later on Calvary. The feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which the Chruch celebrates on February 2nd, comes 40 days after Christmas. This marks the first time that the Lord was physically brought into the Temple. Anglicans call it the Meeting of the Lord, which, I suppose, means the same thing.

I would suggest that, if possible, you should try to catch the live feed of the Papal Mass that EWTN will carry at 3AM(CST) tomorrow morning. Perhaps the words of our blessed Holy Father will serve to clear up things for you.

Do you know why they removed the Feast of the Circumcision, or as you say, combined it with another Feast? What was the criticism of it that prompted this to happen?

I still don’t see the connection of Mary to January 1 though. I don’t think my confusion comes over her nature, just over her connection to this date.

Perhaps a larger issue that connect it all together is are our Holy Days just randomly assigned to dates, or is there a reason for them being on certain dates? I know that’s the case that there are reasons for them being when they are.

In his meditations on Advent and Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI writes that the Jews celebrated Hannukah on December 25th. Luke, according to Benedict, sets this date as the date of the birth of Christ, for the true light had come into the world, the light that was foreshadowed by the Maccabbees.

Furthermore, the Church sets December 8th as the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you reckon the months forward to nine, you will then have the feast of the Nativity of Mary on September 8th. Ditto for the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, which falls on March 25th (although in 2008 it will fall on March 31st because the 25th falls during Holy Week and Holy Week trumps all feasts).

I’ll try to elaborate more on this post later on tomorrow; I am trying to calm down four dachshunds who are frightened by fireworks.

Our Church always gives us lovely calendars at the end of the year. They have all the Holy Days marked on them. Plus, I usually check the readings on the USCCB website, and it says when Holy Days are. I never thought it was that big of a deal.:shrug:

Where does Luke set the date of Christmas?:confused:

whether you call the feast the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, or the Feast of the Circumcision, they are the same thing, insituted to enunciate and celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine, two natures fully bound in one Person.

January 1 is ALWAYS a Holy Day, the solemnity is always observed, whether there is an obligation to assist at Mass on that day is up to the bishop, but to say it is not a Holy Day simply because he has dispensed the obligation is in error. for someone who does need to know specifics in your diocese, get the Ordo that is published each year, pricey, but the parish should have one, and if you do need to know exactly (you are liturgist, sacristan, choir director etc), get the Ordo so you know what is what in your diocese.

(I’m finding it a bit hard to express exactly what I mean so forgive me for being a little loquacious. )

I disagree that the Holy Name was meant to reference both the Circumcision and the Holy Name. The Holy Name at times in its history was wrapped up the Circumcision. It was sometimes so in mediaevel times, and some Anglicans and Lutherans do the same today.

But vice versa is not true, for the celebration of the Holy Name as a separate feast is not so much an ‘event’ as an ‘idea’. The feast does not so much celebrate the conferral of the Name (though it acknowledges it) as it does the veneration of the Name. If you look at the Mass (which has not been translated into English) it focuses on the honor due to the Name of Jesus.

Again, the best time was to either join it with the event (the conferral) or put it within the ambit of the event. That was the logic of St. Pius X moving it from after Epiphany to after the Circumcision. That is also the logic of having it on January 3, after the 8th day (since they didn’t want to bump Ss. Basil and Gregory to another day).

To draw the analogy further, I feel it’s a bit like Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi object is the veneration of the Body and Blood of Christ in the holy Eucharist. Now though the event (the Institution of the Holy Eucharist) is not unimportant and plays a part in the feast, nonetheless Corpus Christi does not make it the principal part of the commemoration- that event, properly speaking, is commemorated on Maundy Thursday. Corpus Christi celebrates the ‘idea’ - the holy Eucharist.

Of course, this feast could originally be said to be joined with the Circumcision because from 1969-2002 it did not exist in the calendar. There was a tendency in 1969- as earlier in 1961- to reduce most of the ‘idea’ feasts, which were looked as devotional accretions to the calendar (of course, the really popular idea feasts like Corpus Christi or the Sacred Heart could not be removed). As the General Norms read, the feast of the Mother of God was also meant to celebrate the conferral of the Name- one of the reasons why the first reading is about how to invoke the name of the Lord.

For us it was a HDoO and, in a parish of 450 families, there were ~60 people at Mass.

There was no choir & I had to remind the priest that it was a Marian Feast so Marian hymn or 2 were in order. He chose 3 and ignored the Christmas season altogether.

We did sing “Immaculate Mary”, the old version.

His homily: Let’s say goodbye to 2007, I for one am glad to see it go, it’s been horrible. All the best for 2008."

I disagree as to the idea that it was to put the feast as the beginning of the year. It was not to put it at the beginning of the year, but rather to (1) establish its connection with Christmas (2) to revive the name for a feast that was practically Marian anyway- and Rome’s only ‘native’ feast (Annunciation, Assumption, etc. were borrowed from the East; others like the Immaculate Heart or particular titles sprung up due to devotion in more recent times)

The Mass for the day in the 1970 missal mentions as much of the Circumcision (direct reference) as does the Mass for the same day in the 1962 missal. Nothing more, nothing less. Likewise, the 1970 Mass Propers are only slightly more Marian than those of 1962 missal. The Marian dimension was always there.

As to why the January 1, please forgive this pedantic explanation.

Octaves are extensions of the feasts- the celebration of a feast for 8 days. But the whole idea of the Octave is also bound up with the mystical idea of eternity and the new creation. Sunday is not only the 1st day of the week but can also be seen as the 8th day of the week. If you remember what Pope John Paul wrote in Dies Domini:

Sunday is not only the first day, it is also “the eighth day”, set within the sevenfold succession of days in a unique and transcendent position which evokes not only the beginning of time but also its end in “the age to come”. Saint Basil explains that Sunday symbolizes that truly singular day which will follow the present time, the day without end which will know neither evening nor morning, the imperishable age which will never grow old; Sunday is the ceaseless foretelling of life without end which renews the hope of Christians and encourages them on their way.

So you see why the eighth day holds such significance.

Before 1955, when the church had many octaves, it was the feast day itself and the Octave Day (8th day) which possessed the highest liturgical ‘ranks’ of all the 8 days that made up an octave.

Whenever the Church wanted to emphasize something there were two positions for it- (1)the Octave Day (the 8th day) or (2)the Sunday within the Octave.

For example, for (2) there were many exmaples in the pre-1911 calendar, for example the holy name of Mary was set on the Sunday within the Octave of her Nativity. The pre-69 calendar had one in the form of the Holy Family- the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany. Again, in the modern calendar, the Holy Family occurs within the Octave of Christmas

For (1) in the pre-69 calendar the Visitation was linked to St. John the Baptist by its position on his Octave Day *

Even in the post-69 calendar, though all the octaves have disappeared except for Easter and Christmas, this connection is often seen. The Queenship of the BVM, for example, is on the 8th day after the Assumption. The Holy Family occurs on the Sunday within the octave of Christmas.

Thus you can see the connection between Christmas and January 1. On Christmas itself, the Church does not presume to let the Mother ‘intrude’ on the Son. And yet she had a significant role in the Incarnation. So the Church venerates her on the day most closely connected- the Octave day. That is it’s spiritual significance- Mother of God ties in with the Nativity

The Circumcision was not celebrated liturgically for 2000 years. It arose in the 6th century and did not make its way into Rome until much later. So it’s actually been inscribed on the Roman calendar for less than a thousand years.

*and here I’ll display further pedantry by just saying that his octave itself was removed in 1955

Rome had its own feast in its calendar to honour the Mother of God. The Opening Prayer of the Mass for January 1 in the 1969 missal, as in all the previous missals, goes back to one of the earliest complete sacramentaries - the Gregorian Sacramentary (8th century)

And liturgically, when the Circumcision did make it’s influence felt in Rome due to Gallician influence, the Roman liturgy almost grudgingly accepted it. In the Mass the only direct reference is the Gospel- the Collect mentions the virgin Mary. In the Divine Office, at Lauds and Vespers, all the psalms were of the BVM, the antiphons also remember her role. (In fact, these psalms and antiphons in the Middle Ages were used as part of the Little Office of the BVM)

Even in places where the Circumcision was observed, it was often customary for priests to sing a second votive Mass in honour of the BVM on the octave day.

Thanks to everyone for all the wonderful information!

I’ve thought about all of this and have a few conclusions to make.

First, it seems that the Church has always revised the liturgical calendar. I hadn’t been aware of that as much as I should have. I came at this from a position of someone who had been away from the Church for thirty years and found that thing had changed. I found myself criticizing the things I didn’t personally agree with or understand, such as how January 1 is styled, but I also found myself liking a lot some of the new changes in the calendar, particularly Mercy Sunday. I can’t recall what it was, but I know that Mercy Sunday replaced an earlier celebration. So, I can’t have it both ways; I can’t claim tradition when it suits my feelings and then readily accept a relatively new idea like Divine Mercy just because I like it. And as someone who’s trying to be a good Catholic, I spent today at Mass appreciating the Church’s care for us.

At my parish this morning the church was almost filled with people!

I did notice that the reading did mention the circumcision so there is continuity.

I think what made the most sense is that what we’re really celebrating here is the octave of Christmas, and that how we celebrate it can vary, but that the essential feature should be that it looks to the future, as the idea of an octave implies. Given that the circumcision more or less looks backwards to the Old Testament, and only looks forward in the shedding of blood, I can see that perhaps it wasn’t the best use of the octave.

Thanks so much for everyone for putting up with a young-ish fogey who has a lot to learn about the faith!

To be pedantic (yet again) the feast in the 1961 missal is listed as :Octave of the Nativity of the Lord". Nothing about the Circumcision. But same propers.

The Maternity of the B. Virgin Mary on Oct. 11 (placed on the general calendar in 1931) has only the name in common. Those propers are different and date to the 17th century or so.

The propers that are analogous to the NO Jan 1 feast are found on Jan 1 in the TLM as well but, as I said before, under the different title.

Actually instea dof me being verbose, it would be better to read the Mass traditionally observed on Jan 1 here. This is Lauds and Vespers.

In 1960 Blessed John XXIII changed the name of the feast from the Circumcision to simply the Octave Day of the Nativity, which is what it was called until 1970, when it became the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Naturally, the first of January had always been the Octave Day of the Nativity, and consequently the propers were not changed between 1960 and 1970. As has been pointed out, there had always been a Marian element to the propers of the day.

Pope John’s motivation to change the name of this feast related to his ecumenical conversations with Jewish leaders. (I do not have any references handy to confirm this, but I read it in multiple sources many years back.) He dropped the name *Circumcision *at the same time he dropped the infamous word *perfidious *from the Good Friday prayers. Apparently Jewish leaders objected to a Catholic feast that appeared to commemorate a Jewish ritual (and emphasized Our Lord’s shedding of blood as part of said ritual, to boot), so Blessed John shifted the emphasis somewhat by retitling the name of the feast day; in Catholic missals the subtitle of the feast had always been the Octave Day of the Nativity, so it was not much of a stretch to do so. In so doing, Blessed John appeared to be sensitive to the concerns of Jewish leaders.

After VII the reforms restored the most ancient use for the day, which was a celebration of Our Lady’s motherhood and role in the Incarnation. This replaced the feast of the Motherhood (or Maternity) of the BVM, formerly celebrated on 11 October.

Now that the fireworks has ceased fire, at least during daylight, and the dachshunds are calm, I can now return to posting the information regarding the date of Christmas.

This piece of information comes from the book, “The Blessings of Christmas” written while he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The Holy Father writes:

In the Jewish Calendar, December 25th was (and remains) the feast of Hannukah, the feast of lights which recalls how on this day in 165, BC, Judas Maccabeus removed the altar of Zeus–which tradition called the “abomination of desolation in the holy place”-from the Temple in Jerusalem. It was on the same date that the Syrian King Antiochus, who was worshipped as “Zeus” had set up the pagon idol in the Temple, designating Decemer 25 as his own feast day. Now it became the date of the cleansing of the Temple, the day on which the glory of God, which had been trampled underfoot, was reestablished and God began to be honored anew in thei proper manner.

…As early as around 100 BC, the birth of the messainic child was expected on this day. People hoped that the Messiah would teach them how to honor God aright and that he would thereby indicate the new time of freedom.

…In his infancy narrative, Luke unfolds a chronology with a profound symbolic meaning, dating it in such a way that the birth of Jesus occurs during the feast of Hannukah, on the night of lights, which thus became the Christian feast of Christmas…The birth of Chris tis the true reform of worship, and all our attempts at liturgical reform must ultimately aim to correspond to this reform, this true new beginning.

One other interesting note to ponder: In his homily today, the Holy Father explained the origins of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. He noted that this is the oldest of the Marian feasts. It was moved from October 11th to January 1st by Pope Paul VI, as it was more fitting to celebrate the Divine Maternity during Christmas. He said that although this is a Marian feast, the readings point to the deeper, Christological essence. The circumcision is tied to the naming of the Holy Child because both happened eight days after the birth. Jesus receives his humanity from Mary, from her maternity. The two do not compete. The maternity of the Mother leads to the humanity of the Son.

If you wish to read the entire homily, you can go to and you will find it there. It should be posted either late this evening or late tomorrow evening.

Did he provide any footnotes or references? Rereading Luke, I seem to be missing the Hannukah reference - but then I’m not well-versed in Jewish tradition, and may simply be overlooking the hints.

He does. It’s from Bo Riecke’s book, “Jahresfeir und Zeittenwende im Judentum and Christenum der Antike”. :confused: Non parlo tedesco, so I can’t help you there. If it were in Italian, you might have had some hope.:frowning:

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