Hello dear friends, and a very Happy New Year to you all!
Beginning this new year of 2022, we find ourselves in the midst of the Christmas season, which is actually pretty short this year. On Sunday, January 9th, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, and then we return to the season of Ordinary Time. However, we still have a number of very special liturgical days to commemorate before that day.
First of all, on January 1st, not only do we ring in the New Year, but we take the first day of a brand-new year and dedicate it to the most Blessed Virgin Mary. The title of Our Lady that we commemorate on January 1st is the first and most important title of Mary…Mother of God. In theological terms, we honor Mary under her Greek title of Theotokos (which means “God-bearer”) and the Latin equivalent translation, Sancta Dei Genitrix, which means roughly the same thing. This title of Mary was solemnly declared and defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, after great controversy arose in the early church about the two natures of Christ (fully human and fully divine). What the church teaches about the nature of Jesus Christ then also directly impacts what the church teaches about the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On Saturday evening (January 1st) and Sunday (January 2nd), the Feast of the Epiphany is commemorated. This feast day usually falls on January 6th and brings to a close the 12 days of Christmas. However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has often moved the Feast of the Epiphany from a weekday to the nearest Sunday, so that people will celebrate the feast within the context of the weekend Mass.
The feast of the Epiphany of the Lord actually commemorates 3 distinct events in the earthly life of Jesus. First (and for us in the West, we tend to focus on this one the most), the Epiphany heralds the arrival of the magi and their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This day has also become known as “Little Christmas” in some cultures. Second, the Epiphany also focuses on the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan (even though that event is also commemorated later, on the following Sunday). Third and finally, the Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the first miracle of the Lord, namely, the changing of the water into wine during the wedding feast at Cana. In the East (both Catholic and Orthodox) the Epiphany focuses on these 3 events; however, they tend to emphasize the baptism of Jesus much more.
One of the ancient customs of the church was to solemnly announce the dates of the major feast days for the coming liturgical year. This custom was always traditionally carried out on the Feast of the Epiphany, being chanted by a priest or deacon, as part of the Mass. Here are the words of the solemn Epiphany Proclamation.
Know, dear brothers and sisters, that, as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so by leave of God’s mercy, we announce to you also the joy of His Resurrection, who is our Savior. On the 2nd day of March will fall Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the fast of the most sacred Lenten season. On the 17th day of April, you will celebrate with joy Easter Day, the Paschal feast of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the 26th day of May will be the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the 5th day of June, the feast of Pentecost. On the 19th day of June, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. On the 27th day of November, the First Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen!
~Fr. Martin Gallagher