Saturday, 2 February 2013

As It Ends For Another Year, The Problem With Epiphanytide

I remember 2 February 2001. My gran had died a few days earlier and my dad had driven up to Scotland to take me home for the funeral. One of the radio programmes we listened to in the car down had a clergyman talking about it being Candlemas and traditionally the end of Christmastide.

And today is, again, Candlemas. I doubt many people left their Christmas decorations up till today though.

And we only have a few days of "Ordinary Time" before the next liturgical season - Lent - kicks off on 13 February, this year's Ash Wednesday.

And all this liturgical calendar used to confuse me when I was at primary school, as in our Religious Education lessons we learned the life of Jesus. There He goes, up a mountain and into a desert for 40 days and then, well, it's time for us to remember His crucifixion and resurrection.

The message I picked up was that Jesus left the desert, had a donkey ride into Jerusalem and then got nailed to a Cross, with no time gap.

I think one thing that has upset the liturgical calendar is the way that we now have a Sunday called the Baptism of Christ just after Epiphany. It's as if the life of Jesus gets horribly confused - why celebrate His baptism near Epiphany (which marks the Magi's visit about 30 years earlier) and then go back in time to when He was a baby again until Candlemas? [Although I can see why, if one were a paedobaptist one would like to have His baptism marked at a season when we think of Him as a little baby...]

What message does the liturgical calender in the first quarter or third of the year imply? Surely the Baptism of Christ should be marked on, say, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday to hammer home the link between His baptism and His temptation, and more of a gap between the end of Lent and Easter.

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