Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What happened to Epiphanytide?, or The hypocrisy of the Liturgical Renewal

The public Epiphany of Christ

“One of the weaknesses of the postconciliar liturgical reform can doubtless be traced to the armchair strategy of academics, drawing up things on paper which, in fact, would presuppose years of organic growth. The most blatant example of this is the reform of the Calendar: those responsible simply did not realize how much the various annual feasts had influenced Christian people's relation to time […] they ignored a fundamental law of religious life.” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith, 81-82 (published by Ignatius Press).
The Reformed Novus Ordo Calendar is extremely cautious about respecting the principle of the consecration of time – for this reason, there has been great emphasis on celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours at the “canonical hours,” i.e. praying Morning Prayer in the morning and Evening Prayer in the evening. It was this zeal to sanctify the day which lead the Church to explicitly forbid the ancient practice of celebrating Morning Prayer immediately after the Christmas midnight Mass (though it is perfectly acceptable to pray Night Prayer after midnight on any day of the year).
Indeed, this great concern of the now-a-days Church is particularly manifest at Christmas. For example, while Canon Law allows a priest to celebrate three Masses on Christmas day (CIC 951.1), the General Instruction of the Roman Missal clarifies that this permission is given “provided that the Masses are celebrated at their proper times of day” (GIRM 204) – three Masses on Christmas, but they must be at midnight, at dawn, and during the day (we are left to wonder what happens if the papal midnight Mass begins at 10pm).
However, with all this focus on the sanctification of time, the reformed plan of the Novus Ordo calendar simply butchers the season of Christmas – and follows this by the destruction of Epiphanytide.

The twelve days of Christmas
Msgr. Charles Pope has written a good article on the havoc wreaked on the Christmas Octave by the Liturgical Renewal. The feast of the Holy Family (which is a recent invention to begin with) has been transferred to the Sunday which falls in the middle of the Octave of Christmas –from its creation until 1962, Holy Family was celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany, but now that it has been moved into the Christmas Octave we celebrate the hidden life of Christ (the flight to Egypt and the return to Nazareth) before we even celebrate the visitation of the Magi! The history of the events is displaced, and the time is far from sanctified.
Then there is the re-naming of the Octave of Christmas (January 1st) to “Mary, Mother of God.” Here, I have less a problem than does Msgr. Pope – the character of the Mass has been focused on our Lady’s Maternity from ancient times. However, it is quite sad that the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus has been pushed aside – how is it that, in our present day of sensitivity to the Jewish religion, the Liturgical Reform has been so successful in helping us to forget that the Lord himself was a practicing Jew?
Then, of course, there is the horrible custom in so many parts of the world of transferring the Epiphany from January 6th to the nearest Sunday – this destroys the twelve days of Christmas. Even setting aside the fact that there is good reason to believe that the Magi literally came to Bethlehem on the thirteenth day, the transference of Epiphany is yet another example of losing the Judaic roots of our Tradition – the Jewish significance of the number twelve is lost, and so is the sanctification of time.
The Octave of Epiphany
Pius XII bears the burden of the blame for the loss of Epiphanytide – for it was under his pontificate that the Octave was abolished in 1955. However, Epiphanytide was able to hobble on until the Liturgical Renewal, inspired by the spirit of Vatican II, transferred the Baptism of the Lord.
In the traditional calendar the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Octave of the Epiphany, January 13th. The reason for this is not that Christ was baptized on that day, but to connect the Baptism with the Epiphany – falling on the Octave day, it is clear that the Baptism of the Lord is a second Epiphany (as has been held since the earliest days of the Church). In fact, there is good reason to believe that Christ was baptized on January 6th, exactly thirty years after he was adored by the Magi (this is the opinion of Gueranger, following the tradition of the Fathers and Doctors). Nevertheless, the primary significance of celebrating the Baptism of the Lord on the Octave of the Epiphany is the theological connection between these two feasts. [The Feast of the Holy Family which traditionally falls on the Sunday in the Octave of the Epiphany, reminds us that (in a wonderfully ironic way) Epiphanytide commemorates the whole of Christ’s hidden life.]
Thanks to the Liturgical Renewal, however, the Baptism of the Lord has been moved to the first Sunday after Epiphany. This year, the feast fell on January 9th – a date that has absolutely no significance in relation to the feast. We can admit (tongue in cheek) that the USCCB and other conferences of bishops have “saved” Epiphanytide by simply transferring Epiphany to the Sunday, thereby ensuring that the “Octave” is kept between the first and second Sundays after January 1st – while they’re it, perhaps they will consider restoring the Octave of Pentecost … maybe there is some room somewhere in Ordinary Time.
A disappointing start to Ordinary Time
After struggling through Christmastide, and dragging herself past the Baptism, the faithful and devout soul now comes to the season of Ordinary Time (Tempus per Annum). And what text of Holy Scripture has the Church, in her wisdom, given upon which the soul might meditate and find nourishment? The Baptism of the Lord, again!
Indeed, in year A (in which we now are), we have another account of the Baptism of the Lord – the story we heard last Sunday, but this time told by John the Evangelist (or the Johannine Community, as he is now named). In year B, we hear of John the Baptist’s sending the first apostles to Jesus. Finally, in year C, we read the miracle accomplished at the wedding feast at Cana.
What is particularly terrible about this reform of the Lectionary is that the miracle of the changing of water into wine at Cana has always been considered a “third Epiphany.” Yet, in the Novus Ordo, the connection between Cana and the Epiphany is nearly lost (being retained, almost by accident, in year C only).
In the Traditional Mass, the Cana Epiphany is commemorated on the Sunday immediately after the Baptism of the Lord – thus the three Epiphany’s are kept together.
Let’s end with something beautiful
Here are a most beautiful Epiphany antiphon (maintained even in the Novus Ordo) and hymn.
The Benedictus antiphon:
Hodie caelesti Sponso
   iuncta est Ecclesia,
quoniam in Iordane
   lavit Christus eius crimina:
currunt cum muneribus Magi
   ad regales nuptias,
et ex aqua facto vino
   latantur conviviae,
Today the Bridegroom
    claims his bride, the Church,
since Christ has washed her sins away
    in Jordan’s waters;
the magi hasten with their gifts
    to the royal wedding;
and the wedding guests rejoice,
    for Christ has changed water into wine,

The hymn from Vespers:
Hostis Herodes impie,
Christum venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat caelestia.

Ibant Magi, quam viderant,
Stellam sequentes praeviam:
Lumen requirunt lumine,
Deum fatentur munere.

Lavacra puri gurgitis
Caelestis Agnus attigit;
Peccata, quae non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit.

Novum genus potentiae,
Aquae rubescunt hydriae,
Vinumque iussa fundere
Mutsvit unda originem.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui apparuisti hodie,
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.
Why, impious Herod, vainly fear
That Christ the Saviour cometh here? 
He takes not earthly realms away,
Who gives the crown that lasts for aye.

To greet his birth the Magi went,
Led by the star before them sent:
Called on by light, to Light they press’d,
And by their gifts their God confess’d.

In holy Jordan’s purest wave
The heavenly Lamb vouchsafed to lave;
That he, to whom was sin unknown,
Might cleanse his people from their own.

New miracle of power divine!
The water reddens into wine:
He spake the word, and pour’d the wave
In other streams than nature gave.

All glory, Lord, to thee we pay,
For thine Epiphany to-day;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete. Amen.


Anonymous said...

You should write to the Vatican about this. I myself wrote the Pope a letter on prayer.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You will notice that the article begins with a quote from then Cardinal Ratzinger ... I suspect that the Holy Father is doing all in his power to rectify the situation in a pastoral way.
Thanks for the encouragement. Let's keep Benedict in our prayers. Blessings to you.

Ted K said...

Very good post. Msgr Bugnini and his "expert" committees convinced the popes over the many years that discarding 1400 years of Catholic practice was a good thing. Regarding this posting, the last Sundays after the Epiphany were often transferred to the last Sundays after Pentecost depending on the date of Easter, and Ratzinger has also pointed out that the Gospels for these Sundays deal with seeds, and as anyone who knows anything about farming knows that seeding can be done in the Fall as well as the Spring making these Gospels very relevent to the order of nature and its seasons at the proper time. And what happened to the ancient seasonal Ember days? Were they to difficult for modern man to observe? For me, perhaps the most mistaken de-forming of the ecclesiastical year is that now we are meant to go cold turkey on our Lenten sacrifices rather than have the 3 ancient pre-Lenten Sundays (Septuagesima etc) to prepare us for this so as to make a holy Lent..... I think the new calendar should be revisited and corrected according to Church tradition.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Ted K, indeed it is very sad that we have lost the Ember Days...
The other points you mention are also well put!

Anonymous said...

It is sad that the Church moved many a fixed holy day strictly for the convenience of the laity "so they will not sin by missing Mass at an inconvenient time for them". So much for any form of sacrifices for the Lord these days! The article was most appropriate and was a recent topic of discussion in my family.We try as much as possible to follow the 1962 Liturgical Calendar.

Gino R

Cordelia at Catholic Phoenix said...

"Nevertheless, the primary significance of celebrating the Baptism of the Lord on the Octave of the Epiphany is the theological connection between these two feasts. [The Feast of the Holy Family which traditionally falls on the Sunday in the Octave of the Epiphany, reminds us that (in a wonderfully ironic way) Epiphanytide commemorates the whole of Christ’s hidden life.]"

Father, I am familiar with idea that the Epiphany of the Son is the Epiphany of the Father. Is this what you are referring to when stating that there is a theological connection between the traditional feasts of Ephiphanytide? I hope I'm making sense.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are correct about the Epiphany of the Son being that of the Father -- "he who sees me sees the Father" ... however, my main point here is that the Baptism is an Epiphany of Christ just as much as the visitation/adoration of the Magi is an Epiphany of Christ. The Lord was manifested to the Magi by the star and by the inner movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the Magi; likewise at the Jordan, the Lord is made manifest to all (publicly) by the descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father.

The "wonderful irony" I mention is simply the fact that the Octave of Epiphany (the octave of the feast of the "manifestation" of Christ) is focused entirely on the hidden life of Jesus, about which almost nothing at all has been made manifest. It seems to be a most beautiful example of the Lord's mirth. (this is maintained only in the pre-1970 calendar)

btw, I really loved your article about the Nativity set which you posted at CatholicPhoenix.com (December 28) -- I had meant to post a comment, but things just got too busy at my parish. I thought about it several times during Christmastide, it really made me smile!

Msgr. Pope said...

Quite a good and thorough analysis here Reginaldus. Thanks for this post.

Kate Edwards said...

Yes indeed, a little calendar reform to more closely align it to tradition could do much good!

Unfortunately, with the current changes to the Missal about to come in, I suspect we will have to wait a few more years for this, not withstanding the Holy Father's personal views on the subject.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Kate, Thank you for continuing to read NTM. As I am sure you noticed, in my article I linked to your very good article on "Holy Family"; I hope that you do not mind.

Regarding whether these changes will happen soon...I suppose you are correct, we will have to wait a very long time for the changes to happen.
Personally, I don't think that the new "changes" are too big of a deal -- after all, they only make a difference for the english speaking world.
Nevertheless, I still think that the changes will not happen any time soon precisely because of the Holy Father's views -- Benedict seems to want to take change very very slowly, and this means that even the good changes that need to happen will have to happen very slowly and organically. It is something which can be frustrating (because part of me would like to see it all fixed right now), but I do admit that the Holy Father has a good point -- it was rapid change that got us into this mess, but it will be slow and organic change that will get us out.

Blessings to you in the Lord, and happy feast of Christ's Baptism!

NACER said...

Sorry to change the nature of the conversation but I have some issues which require your opinion. A very naive seminarian who is easily led by the winds of opinion, is abandoning reading of the Fathers and disdaining them due to an attack on Peter Lombard and "teaching in a School"by his Sacramental theology lecturer. This lecturer insists we should do an exegesis on obscure Eucharistic prayers to learn the sacraments including Baptism and Confirmation. He also can be rude in exams. How should I guide this poor soul who has been taken in. On another topic have you heard of Yavis ministry and what do you think of this type of ministry? It is popular at my college. Even good men become very caught up in it.

Rex said...


Thank you for your discourse on the liturgical calendar.

When we speak about the reform of the calendar (and though this could spill over to other liturgical areas, we will just stick with the calendar), what do you think of the motivation behind the reforms? As you pointed out, various liturgical reforms were taking place in the years preceding the Council, e.g. Pius XII. Could you be discounting the motivations behind the changes too lightly?

The Council Fathers obviously had liturgical experiences during the course of their lifetimes and, of course, were guided by the Holy Spirit with the desire to reform the liturgical year. That being the case, should we not give some deference to the commission (and the commission given to them by the Magisterium) that reformed the calendar? Could one not also say that the reform itself was an organic result of almost 2000 years of liturgical formation, albeit, the reform took place in a very abrupt and sudden way, during a time when the formation of all Catholics was also in flux.

Your thoughts please.

p.s.—As for NACER, you should relegate your own issues to sitting around in a sharing circle and personal posts on Facebook.

NACER said...


Thank you for your kind reply. I am sorry to have ruined your serious conversation. It will be a great relief to you to know that I will never post again on this website after thanking you. I suspect that it will simply make Reginaldus laugh as he will know it is not a serious question. There is clearly no room for any frivolity here, and any frivoulous posts should clearly be dealt with in a quick fashion. I am glad your postscript was so charitably addressed. I am not on Facebook anymore however as it is a true waste of time. Goodbye and God Bless
The Former Poster Formerly Known as NACER

David Nowaczewski said...

Great post.

I just want to bring up one counter point with respect to the proposition that moving the feast of the Holy Family destroys the timeline of the Christmas narrative. The events recalled on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which remains on the 28th, are also chronologically after the appearance of the Magi.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are correct and you make a good point about the Innocents.

However, I would respond that the feast of the Holy Innocents is closer to the feast of John the Evangelist or of Thomas Becket, than to the Ascension or the Baptism of the Lord or the Holy Family.

Let me explain -- St. Stephen is the day after Christmas although he was many years after the Epiphany.
The point is this: saints' feast days are not meant to present a chronology of the Lord's life. However, the movement from Christmas to the Baptism of the Lord is about the chronology of Christ's life. This is why moving the feast of Holy Family has done much to destroy the Christmas season.

Hence, there is no real comparison between the feast of the Holy Innocents and the feast of Holy Family (regarding the date of the feast).

Does that make sense?

Marko Ivančičević said...

Reform of the calendar didn't happen during the Council but few years after it and it was led by Bugnini and the so called experts who ruined liturgy. Since the reform ITSELF is not done during the Council i have no fear in claiming it lacks Divine Inspiration...

We also can see the fruits of the reform. There are more bad fruits than those that are good...sadly..
If fruits of Holy Spirit are bad then we're in big trouble...

Anonymous said...

As a convert from Protestantism, the NO calender simply reeks of things protestant. It's like having a 100 watt bulb on in a small closet - those of us who have come from "those side of the tracks" see it readily. We know that there were several Protestant ministers on the reform committees during Vatican II's changes to the liturgy and ordination rite. Unfortunately, when the Church starts basing itself on the "protestant way", in time, all will be made redundant. We can see this in the severe falling away of the faithful and the ignorance of so many that still remain - Catholics have, in essence, almost ceased to be Catholic. Her culture is dead, or practically dead... Thank God that we still have the TLM!

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