“It was fifty years ago today,
US bishops moved a holy day.”
I remember in my early days as a Catholic that Epiphany appeared on January second. It first happened in 1972 and it happened again yesterday. A not-too-deep look at the Catholic internet will find fussing about not celebrating yesterday on the proper day.
I told a social media friend I feel inclined to sympathy for his view. But I think that the moving of holy days to Sundays is neither the first nor the more grievous institutional error.
By both perception and reality, the attitude toward holy days is one of legal obligation. Epiphany would be far more fruitful if parishes celebrated it like any parish festival. A few ideas to start:
- If a parish school is in session, suspend all classes and plan a day of activities–religious and social.
- Invite family members and other believers in the community to join in for three meals, Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and the like.
- Revisit pre-25th Christmas programming for an encore, maybe with a few extras.
- Maybe I’d rethink the suspension of all classes: certainly music and art should continue.
If an obligation is really needed, I’d press parish pastors: if they want people to come to church, they should be obliged to make the festivities a day-long affair. The first obligation should be on the clergy, all the bishops especially.
All the commentary I’ve seen about restoring Epiphany to the 6th of January is well worth considering. The notion of reimposing an obligation is wrong-headed. Christian festivals were once a time for communities, not canon lawyers. They were a day for the 99% to be relieved from the burdens imposed by the 1%.
Let’s restore Epiphany to glory on Earth. But let’s do it right.
Image: French painter James Tissot’s depiction of the Magi on their journey.