QUAERITUR: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

From a reader:

According to the Liturgy of the Hours note for the Baptism of the Lord this feast is to be omitted when Epiphany falls on a Sunday with a date of January 7 or 8. In the Ordo for the Archdiocese of Chicago and the dioceses of Joliet and Rockford it is listed for January 9. Which is correct?

The calendar gets complicated at this time of year.

It is a good practice to follow the official Ordo of the place where you are.

My understanding is that the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in the newer Ordinary Form calendar, falls today, 9 January. Thus, Christmastide would end in the Novus Ordo and tomorrow will be Tuesday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time.

In the traditional Extraordinary Form calendar, the Commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord falls on 13 January, which would have been be the Octave of Epiphany. For the Extraordinary Form we are in the Season of or rather Time after Epiphany until Septuagesima on 5 February.

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  1. Blaise says:

    Thank you.
    I have been struggling with the same issue. I suspect there may have been some change to the approach to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord since my copy of the divine office was published. Or maybe here in England and Wales (and likewise in the US) there was some scope for this available to the conference of bishops when they moved Epiphany.
    I have heard rumours that they may be moving Epiphany back where it belongs in England and Wales to the sixth. In which case I will no longer be confused.
    I was at least as confused as to what to do for the office on 2nd January and whether I should be saying the office for 2nd January in the 2nd week of Christmas or the office of the memoria for St Basil and St Gregory Nazianzen.
    Fortunately places produce ordos (ordines?) for the instruction of the confused such as myself.

  2. Peggy R says:

    I did consult a church calendar (one of those that gets handed out each year at church). It does show today as the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. The mass celebrated today at our parish was for the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. We recited the Gloria, as well. I understand Ordinary Time to commence tomorrow as well.

  3. ReginaMarie says:

    The Feast of Theophany (Baptism of Our Lord), celebrated on January 6 in the Eastern Catholic tradition, is a Solemn Feast Day (Holy Day of obligation) . The 4 most solemn Holy Days in the East being Pascha (Easter), Christmas, Theophany & the Annunciation.

  4. worm says:

    I had a similar confusion. I decided to check out the calendar in the new Roman Missal. Instead of the language you quote from the LotH, it specifically says the feast is moved to Jan. 9.

  5. leonugent2005 says:

    My dad always told me when someone tells you something so ridiculous that it’s beyond belief, that you shouldn’t even “act” like you might believe it. Therefore whoever has slandered the traditional calendar and claimed that the Baptism of the Lord would be omitted should be ashamed of himself!

  6. nanetteclaret says:

    This confusion would be completely unnecessary if the USCCB would just move Epiphany back to January 6th so that we could celebrate it with the rest of the world! The fact that this, one of the oldest feasts in Christendom, is not celebrated on its proper day as it was throughout previous centuries is very distressing. It also proves the insincerity of the bishops’ argument that certain actions (like kneeling or not kneeling) have to be done “so that we can all be unified.” When they return Epiphany to January 6th and Ascension Thursday to Thursday, then they can talk about “being unified.” As it is, we are not even in union with the Holy Father, who celebrated Epiphany on the 6th and the Baptism of the Lord yesterday, much less with Christians throughout time who celebrated the feasts on their proper days. So all their talk about “unity” rings completely hollow.

  7. Peggy R says:

    Relatedly, I was surprised by your (Fr Z) post on the Feast of the Holy Family yesterday b/c the NO/OF calendar had that feast on Friday Dec 30 when Christmas and Mary, Mother of God feasts are on Sunday. [Life is full of surprises.]

  8. Kurt Barragan says:

    Where the Solemnity of the Epiphany is a holy day of obligation celebrated on 6 January, the following Sunday is the Baptism of the Lord and the time “per annum” begins on the Monday.

    The rubric in the breviary (which says that the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is omitted when the Epiphany is celebrated on Sunday 7th or 8th January) reflects the situation before 1978. The rules changed with the decree Celebratio Baptismatis Domini of 7 October 1977 which provided that in these cases the Feast should be kept on the Monday after Epiphany:

    Attentis insuper petitionibus pluribus hac de re factis, Sacra haec Congregatio pro Sacramentis et Cultu Divino, approbante Summo Pontifice Paulo VI , statuit: In locis ubi sollemnitas Epiphaniae in dominicam est transferenda et haec die 7 vel 8 ianuarii incidit, ita ut festum Baptismatis Domini, eadem die occurrens, esset omittendum, idem festum Baptismatis Domini ad feriam II immediate sequentem transferatur. (AAS 69 [1977] 682)

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. Geoffrey says:

    As a layman who prays the Liturgy of the Hours daily, I typically observe everything the way the Most Holy Father does, namely: Epiphany on 6 January, Ascension on Thursday, etc. If this doesn’t mesh with Sunday and daily Mass, it’s no big deal for me… I don’t get too discombobulated!

  10. irishgirl says:

    Sometimes I get confused at this time of year, particularly with the number of Sundays after Epiphany in the traditional calendar. Luckily I have a guide for my St. Andrew Missal, so I can mark everything quickly for the following week’s Mass. I think it depends on how early or late Easter is.
    I wish, too, that we here in the USA could celebrate Epiphany on January 6th like nearly everyone else.

  11. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    What’s odd is, originally Epiphany, like any great feast, had an octave, so 13 January was simply its octave. Epiphany is a feast of 3 mysteries, all of which get coverage in the liturgy of the octave (which was traditionally more solemn that that of Christmas). In the 1960 changes, the 13th–since the octave was abolished–was renamed the “Commemoration” of the Baptism, since the texts of that particular day had always emphasized the Baptism. But it wasn’t called the “Feast” of the Baptism, because Epiphany is itself the feast of the Baptism. The compilers of the Novus Ordo calendar–who usually ranted about so-called doublets–apparently didn’t realize that in calling the Sunday/Monday after Epiphany the “feast” of the Baptism, they were creating a doublet of something that already existed, since the Baptism feast = 6 January.

  12. Margaret says:

    This one caught me completely off-guard at Mass this morning… I just managed to pull off a nicer-than-normal dinner last night for Epiphany, with pie and everything. Now IT’S THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD today!!! Well, Monday is normally breakfast-for-dinner night here, so I guess it’s chocolate chip pancakes to try and make it a little special… :)

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks, although I knew it was coming here, as one of my friends reminded me yesterday. I use the Monastic Diurnal, so my calendar is even more strange. http://www.farnboroughabbey.org/press/dirunal.php
    But, I would like to note that I wish this feast were set on a Sunday, as it is so important. When we were in the Byzantine Church, this was a major feast of the Epiphany. I would like to see it upgraded in the West.

  14. uptoncp says:

    Supertradmum – it is, in its original conception, fixed on the Sunday after the Epiphany (i.e. between the 7th and 13th Jan inclusive). The problem comes with the transference of the Epiphany onto Sunday; when that moves it forwards (2nd to 5th Jan) there’s no problem, but when it’s delayed to the 7th or 8th, that ought to be the Baptism, which therefore gets bumped onto the Monday (or, apparently, in the original version of the OF Calendar, omitted).

  15. wolfeken says:

    Dr. Lee Fratantuono wrote: “Epiphany is a feast of 3 mysteries, all of which get coverage in the liturgy of the octave”

    It is such a nice thing to have this reliable logic in the 1962 calendar. January 6th as the Epiphany, January 13th as the commemoration of the baptism and the 2nd Sunday After Epiphany (Jan. 15, 2012) as the wedding feast at Cana.

    In the novus ordo in the U.S., the Epiphany was rounded off to Sunday (wiser than the three wise men?), the transferred commemoration of the baptism is apparently a surprise to people today, and the wedding feast at Cana didn’t survive the ordinary time cycle with a two-day Epiphanytide. A pity. But, hey, the novus ordo gets to use 72% of the New Testament in its readings, so that’s something!

  16. Geoffrey says:

    In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11) is assigned to be read on the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year C (next year). Years A and B also use passages from St John’s Gospel. Since there would be no conflict with the Matthew (Year A), Mark (Year B), and Luke (Year C) cycles, I wonder if the rubrics would allow the option to read John 2:1-11 every year on this Sunday? I am sure the CDW would not object. Problem solved!

  17. KFT says:

    And in Louisiana, we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor..the patroness of our state.

  18. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    The latest and greatest edition of the Liturgia Horarum specifies that today is the Baptism of the Lord in those regions where the Epiphany is transfered to Sunday. Too bad the English translation of the LH is 38 years out of date.

    Not that I celebrated the Baptism today. I celebrated it yesterday, and the Epiphany on the 6th, because I am an unregenerate old cuss.

  19. leonugent2005 says:

    If you study the roman breviary and the lectionary you’ll notice that whenever Christmass falls on Sunday January 6th falls on friday and the readings at mass are baptism of the Lord readings and the office of the day is about the baptism, This is very eccumenical because the eastern church is celebrating the baptism on january 6th. One of the great fruits of Vatican 2. I just love ecumenism as I’m sure the pope of Christian unity does even more than me!

  20. leonugent2005 says:

    I just understood this myself. As Kurt Barragan pointed out, the Baptism was dropped before October 7, 1977. So It looks like what the church did was sort of under the table transfer it to January 6th without officially declaring it so

  21. leonugent2005 says:

    From the wiki…….In fact, the Tridentine Calendar has no feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It was almost four centuries later that the feast was instituted, under the denomination “Commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord”, for celebration on 13 January as a major double, using for the Office and the Mass those previously said on the Octave of the Epiphany, which Pius XII abolished; but if the Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord occurred on Sunday, the Office and Mass were to be those of the Feast of the Holy Family without any commemoration.

    This was an enormous obstacle to reuniting the eastern and western church’s

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