I had a note about the obligation to do Friday penance (usually through abstinence) on the Friday in the Octave of Christmas. HERE. Yes, we were obliged to do penance… except where we weren’t. The reason is that the days of the Christmas Octave are Feasts and not Solemnities (as they are during the Easter Octave). In an twist of irony one must still do Friday penance on Feasts.
In any event, a priest friend in England sent me this:
I love that. The bishops moved the obligation to participate at Mass on Epiphany to Sunday… in itself a day of obligation.
So, in the Novus Ordo calendar, Epiphany, one of the most ancient feasts Holy Mother Church has celebrated in both East and West since her earliest centuries, one of the most significant and liturgically supercharged we have, one of the most beautiful and theologically rich, which has always fallen on the twelfth day after the Nativity of the Lord (which was a lesser feast in days of yore), so fixed in the calendar that it was known as Twelfth Night, is cavalierly shifted to the Sunday… thus eliminating it from the minds and hearts of most Catholics, denying them the opportunity and the need to take stock of how they live their Faith on days other than Sunday, and weakening by that much more our Catholic identity.
And to think that bishops do this. Bishops.
Is it any wonder that….
His dictis, start thinking about how you might observe Epiphany… including going to Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form, which honors the mysteries of the Lord’s divine manifestation on 6 January.
Eastern Catholics have some lovely customs.
In the Latin West, on the Vigil of Epiphany, Epiphany Water may be blessed. We can blessed frankincense (I bought 10 bags against the day), gold (I didn’t buy so much of that, but I hope you will send me a lot), and chalk, for the use in the special blessing of houses and dwellings. Also, on Epiphany there is the Noveritis (“Let y’all know”), the liturgical proclamation of the movable feasts, especially Easter, for the year.
Let’s have a look at an seasonally appropriate image by the mighty Giotto.
What do you see?
This hails from about 1320. It’s a panel from a series on the life of Christ. Note the three defined levels. Angels hover, and one of the shepherds – and his dog – are listening to the message. (I wonder if the angel is telling the shepherd to “Shut up with the bagpipe, already!) Another angel hangs out on the roof to adore the Word made flesh. The panel must have been cut at the top, because angels are doing something with something above. The stable is articulated, with good perspective. And there’s the star. It has a little tail, like a comet, so we can tell that it’s been moving around and guiding the Magi. The moment is not static. It is an action shot. The foremost king, has handed off his gift to Joseph. And, crown off – BAM- he kneels, starting the ram. He is in the enraptured act of of picking up the Child. His eyes are rivited. Mary looks to Joseph with clear concern on her face. Joseph, gift in his far, left hand, extends his right hand as if to say, “Hey, wait a second!” The second king, who has gifts in each hand, has cocked is head at the act of his colleague: “Whoa!”
On second thought, perhaps Mary’s furrowed brow and body tension is due to that damn bagpipe, which is pointed right at her.
No, she’s worried about the Child and that bizarre guy whose grabbing Him out of the manger.