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The Grinch of the liturgical calendar

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 06, 2009

 By ordinary reckoning today, January 6, is the feast of the Epiphany. In the US the celebration has been transferred to the closest Sunday-- for this year, last Sunday, January 4. The feast is the same, of course, but the celebration is just a bit different. 

There are-- remember? I insist!-- 12 days of Christmas, concluding with the "twelfth night" revels on the eve of the Epiphany. If the Epiphany is on January 4, then "twelfth night" falls on the 10th day of Christmas. Two days have been shaved off the celebration. The Grinch of the liturgical calendar has stolen a little slice of Christmas cheer.

When the celebration of a weekday feast is moved to Sunday, we lose a bit in the transfer. We may hear the same Scripture readings and sing the same hymns, but we don't have that special, salutary feeling that comes with a break from the ordinary work-week. We lose of day of feasting (since Sunday is always a feast), and don't we all enjoy feasting? We lose a little bit of our Catholic heritage.

Yes, of course it's simpler to celebrate the feast on Sunday. A lackadaisical Catholic-- someone who is oblivious to the liturgical calendar, and finds it burdensome to get to church even once a week-- might miss the Epiphany altogether if the celebration came in mid-week. That problem becomes more acute when the feast is a holy day of obligation, and the inattentive Catholic might not realize until too late that he should have attended Mass. By streamlining the calendar, our bishops have eased the burden on many churchgoers. Fine. But the change takes something away from those of us who are attuned to the rhythms of  liturgical calendar, and want to live out each feast, each season of celebration, to the full. 

To put it in a nutshell, moving a weekday feast to Sunday makes it a little bit easier to conform oneself to the workaday calendar of the secular, corporate world-- and a little bit harder to conform oneself to the liturgical calendar of the Church. 

Happy Little Christmas!

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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