5 January 2020

Tribus miraculis ...

The Ancient tradition of the Latin Church discerns a triple miracle on Epiphany Day: the Coming of the Magi; the Lord's Baptism; and the Wedding at Cana. The ancient Roman Calendar separated this triad out onto January 6 (the Coming of the Magi); the Octave Day (the Lord's Baptism); and the Second Sunday after Epiphany (the Wedding at Cana). And you will still find this elegant arrangement in the Missal authorised by S Pius V and (partially) in the Book of Common Prayer. (Another happy feature of this time in the ecclesiastical year was the celebration, on the First Sunday after Epiphany, of the Finding in the Temple.)

Simple, classical, elegance is so often a temptation to those idle hands for whom, as Nanny used so often to remind us, the Devil always finds Work. The rot began in 1721, when the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus was extended to the Universal (Latin) Church and deposited on Epiphany 2, thus evicting the Wedding at Cana on to some lucky weekday. The Feast of the Name stayed there until Pius X removed it to the Second Sunday after Christmas. This is indeed a much more sensible day; but in my opinion treating festivals as moveable at whimsy is a dangerous habit. The spirit of cheerful frivolity with sacred things was riding even higher in the 1960s ... and so the Holy Name promptly disappeared altogether. Nowadays, the Second Sunday after Christmas is, in any case, in most countries of the Modern Roman Rite, Epiphany Day Transferred.

The temptation to keep the Name of Jesus somewhere near the Circumcision - when He received that Saving Name - was an inevitable one (so the Editio typica tertia of the New Missal provided an optional and very low-key commemoration on January 3 and Common Worship gave this title and theme to January 1). But there is a better solution.

Consider the cult of the Blessed Sacrament and of the Sacred Heart. The 'chronological' days to celebrate each of these are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. But this would interrupt the organic movement of the Triduum. So, happily, they acquired additional celebrations well outside Holy Week. That instinct was a good one, and should have been applied also to the Christmas cycle. Few places had a more intense cult of the Holy Name than early Tudor England - thanks to the Lady Mother of the first Tudor and to her ecclesiastical household*. And few features of the old English Calendar, reproduced in the Prayer Book, are more ben trovato than the placing of the Holy Name after the Transfiguration, in August.

Getting back to sanity is never easy. Leo XIII made Epiphany I the Feast of the Holy Family - influenced, perhaps, by the Gospel, traditional on that Sunday, of the Finding in the Temple. The 'reformers' of the 1960s, never short of a good idea for improving everything, shifted the feast backwards to the Sunday after Christmas, where some Anglican lectionaries now visit the same themes. And, needless to say, something else ... the Lord's Baptism (a theme homeless and hungry after the abolition of the Epiphany Octave Day upon which his Baptism was the subject of the Gospel) ... has now found a resting-place on that first Sunday after Epiphany.

And the Three Year Lectionary (in which the Wedding at Cana gets a look-in only once every three years: Year C) now complicates any attempt to return to the simple old Roman yearly structure of celebrating in quiet succession the tria miracula of the Epiphany.

*A few years ago I spent a happy couple of days in the Manuscript Room of the British Library going through a perfectly exquisite Holy Name Prayer Book from the Lady Margaret's Chapel.


Fr PJM said...

Here is something from the prophetic light that confirms the English arrangement: the Lord asked for reparation to and by means of His Holy Face, most honoured on the Transfiguration, reparation for the abuse of His Holy Name. This devotion was well known to St Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face and to her family.

Chris said...

I like to see these feasts as pairs - Circumcision/Holy Name, Maundy Thursday/Corpus Christi, Good Friday/Holy Cross Day and/or Sacred Heart, Ascension/Christ the King - where one commemorates a historical event, and the other celebrates the eternal truth behind it. More arguably, add to the list Christmas/Epiphany (nativity/incarnation), Assumption/BVM Queen, and even Pentecost/Trinity.

Anonymous said...

A splendid idea! Holy Name shifted to the Octave Day of Transfiguration (and celebrated with the Christmas preface, like it used to be on Transfigurations, and is so magnificently set into music in the Transfiguration of Messian)

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Christ's baptism and the wedding at Cana would be more than 40 days apart.

So, if the feast more reflects the wedding than the baptism, in its date, this is another argument for Christmas being the true date of Christ's birth.

frjustin said...

The Maronite Church offers liturgical support for the separation of Christ's baptism and the wedding at Cana.

As in the other Eastern Churches, the celebration of Epiphany originally centred on both the birth of our Lord and his baptism. When the later Western feast of Christmas was introduced into the East, Christmas became the feast of the birth of the Lord, and Epiphany, that of his baptism.

In a separate development, the Maronite Church begins the "Entrance into Great Lent" with what it calls Cana Sunday, with the focus not so much on the wedding as on the transformation of water into wine. That change is a preparation for the evening when wine is changed into Christ's blood and bread into his body.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Hans. Us Catholics are often told to scour sources other than Catholic ones to defend the December 25th Date for the Birth of Christ.

Well, one can cite the work of a Jewish Christian convert who wrote in his book:

...The Lamb of God, who was to die for our sins as an act of propitiation (not expiation).And yet Jewish tradition may here prove both illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so, was the belief , that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, 'the tower of the flock.'

This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah [951] leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices [952], and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible. The same Mishnaic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover -- that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest.

Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched the Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak.

It was, then, on that ‘wintry night’ of the 25th of December, that shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrificial services, in the very place consecrated by tradition as that where the Messiah was to be first revealed.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

oops, forgot to provide a link to Edelsheim's book:


frjustin said...

It seems that historically the Church celebrated the birth of Christ on January 6th until the 4th century. In order to counter pagan traditions,the Roman Church started celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ on December 25. Later, the day of the birth of Christ in nearly the entire East became December 25, and January 6 remained as the Baptism Day.

To this day the Armenian Church - including the part in communion with Rome - combines the Feast of the Nativity with the Theophany of Christ on January 6, not December 25.

Some Armenian calendars list January 19 as Christmas, but that is according to the Julian calendar, in which January 19 corresponds to January 6 in our calendars.

There's more information at https://www.iarmenia.org/armenian-christmas/

Todd said...

Yes ABS - I learned about that this year as well. And note these lambs were destined for the temple sacrifices - thus they had to be "without blemish." How fitting.
this pure victim,
this holy victim,
this spotless victim...

Grant Milburn said...

ABS, that quote makes a lot of sense.After all, the Lord is the God of Moses before he is the God of Wordsworth. God is not revealing the Messiah first to 'humble honest shepherds as a sentimental gesture,but making a hugely significant connection between the Messaiah and the Priesthood and the Passover sacrifice.

frjustin said...

Wikipedia has an excellent article on the date of Christmas in the Coptic Church:

"Coptic Christmas is observed on what the Julian Calendar labels 25 December, a date that currently corresponds with 7 January on the more widely used Gregorian Calendar (which is also when Christmas is observed in Eastern Orthodox countries such as Russia).

The 25 December Nativity of Christ was alleged very early by Hippolytus of Rome (170–236) in his Commentary on Daniel 4:23: "The first coming of our Lord, that in the flesh, in which he was born at Bethlehem, took place eight days before the calends of January, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, 5500 years from Adam." Another early source is Theophilus Bishop of Caesarea (115–181): "We ought to celebrate the birth-day of our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen." (Magdeburgenses, Cent. 2. c. 6. Hospinian, de origine Festorum Christianorum).

However, it was not until 367 that 25 December was begun to be universally accepted. Before that, the Eastern Church had kept 6 January as the Nativity under the name "Epiphany." John Chrysostom, in a sermon preached in Antioch in 387, relates how the correct date of the Nativity was brought to the East ten years earlier. Dionysius of Alexandria emphatically quoted mystical justifications for this very choice. 25 March was considered to be the anniversary of Creation itself. It was the first day of the year in the medieval Julian calendar and the nominal vernal equinox (it had been the actual equinox at the time when the Julian calendar was originally designed). Considering that Jesus was thought to have been conceived on that date, 25 March was recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation which had to be followed, nine months later, by the celebration of the birth of Christ, Christmas, on 25 December.

There may have been more practical considerations for choosing 25 December. The choice would help substitute a major Christian holiday for the popular Pagan celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice (Roman Sol Sticia, the three-day stasis when the sun would rise consecutively in its southernmost point before heading north, 21, 22 and 23 December. In AD 274, Emperor Aurelian had declared a civil holiday on 25 December (the "Festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun") to celebrate the deity Sol Invictus. Finally, joyous festivals are needed at that time of year, to fight the natural gloom of the season (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Until the 16th century, 25 December coincided with 29 Koiak of the Coptic calendar. However, upon the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, 25 December shifted 10 days earlier in comparison with the Julian and Coptic calendars. Furthermore, the Gregorian calendar drops 3 leap days every 400 years to closely approximate the length of a solar year. As a result, the Coptic Christmas advances a day each time the Gregorian calendar drops a leap day (years AD 1700, 1800, and 1900). This is the reason why Old-Calendrists (using the Julian and Coptic calendars) presently celebrate Christmas on 7 January, 13 days after the New-Calendrists (using the Gregorian calendar), who celebrate Christmas on 25 December. From AD 2100, the Coptic Christmas will be on the Gregorian date of 8 January."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_calendar

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

For those numerologists there is Saint Matthew's Gospel to consider.

ABS has this in his files but he has lost the source:

It is interesting to note that the Julian Calendar, which was put into effect throughout the Roman Empire by Julius Caesar on January first, 45 BC, sets ups a "perpetual calendar" of fourteen months in a cycle of twenty-eight years. This means that The Julian Calendar is made up of 14 different-day-of-the-week and date-of-the-month relationships. Hence, the characteristic numbers in this calendar are 14 and 28. Has Matthew possibly given us a subtle mathematical clue to the exact date of the birth of Our Lord?

The first chapter of Matthew begins with the "generation of Jesus Christ" (verse i) and with the naming of Jesus (verse 25). Is Matthew leaving a hint that Jesus was named in the forty-second year of the inauguration of The Julian Calendar, or, more precisely, at the very beginning of the forty-second year, which would have been on the first of January 4 B.C.? Then, since the naming ofJeswsh boys always took place on the eighth day after birth, this would mean that the nativity of Our Lord took place on the twenty-fifth of December of the year 5 BC

The heart of ABS would, in his imagination, leap up to Heaven with Joy were he to learn that The Holy Ghost had arranged the sequence of the verses to leave a subtle hint to those who would reject the authority of the Pillar and Ground of Truth but would be open to other sources of information.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. On last item

ABS has a lengthy download from the movement begun by the enigmatic priest, The Abbe de Nantes, The Catholic Counter Revolution in the XXTH century.

It consists of 20 pages (Sadly, the original posting has been deleted) but it teems with interesting information:

In 1995, the Israeli scholar Shemaryahu Talmon published a study in the liturgical calendar discovered in cave 4 at Qumran (4 Q321). In this calendar he unquestionably discovered the dates of the Temple service, which priests used to take it in turns to provide, as they continued to do at there time of the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus. According to this document, copied on parchment between the years of 50 and 27 BC and therefore contemporaneous with Elizabeth and Zechariah, the Abijah family, to which they belonged (Lk 1:5 cf 1 Ch 24:10) saw their turn come around twice a year, from the 8th to the 14th of the third month of the Essenian calendar and from the 24th to the 30th of the eighth month. This second period falls towards the end of September, confirming the solid foundation for the Byzantine feast of "The Conception of John" on 23 September.

Now, Saint Luke writes, it was in the sixth month after the conception of John that the archangel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David and the virgin's name was Mary (Lk 1:26-27)

Counting from the 23 September (the sixth month) falls exactly on 25 March, the feast of The Annunciation. In that case, Jesus was indeed born on 25 December, nine months later. Christmas is not the religious and cultural consecration of a cosmic event. No. The 25th December is quite simply the anniversary of the birth of Christ...

The worthy work of Brother Bruno de Jesus is entitled

In year 1 of His era Jesus was born at Bethlehem.

ABS has the 20 page printout from the Dec 99 (No. 325) online edition of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the XXTh Century but he can not find an existing link to the smashing piece.

frjustin said...

My purpose here is liturgical and pastoral. It is to show that my fellow Catholics of the Armenian, Coptic and Russian rites, who celebrate Christmas on January 6 or 7, are not wrong to do so. They are in full communion with us Roman Catholics who celebrate December 25. The purpose of their Christmas liturgies, as of ours, is to extend the mystery of the Incarnation to all times and places. Christmas is, after all, Christ-mass.

Todd said...

FrJustin- the quote from Hippolytus speaks of the "forty-second year of the reign of Augustus" but Augustus only reigned 40 years from January 27 BC to August 14 AD. Is there an explanation for this discrepancy?

Todd Voss

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. ABS has created a blog to post the Download from The Catholic Counter Reformation in the XXTH Century mentioned above:


frjustin said...

On this January 7, Pope Francis tweets:

Pope Francis
‏Verified account @Pontifex

I address a special thought to the brothers of the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, who today celebrate the Lord's Christmas. To all I wish the light and peace of Christ the Saviour.

frjustin said...

Modern historians date the reign of Augustus from the time he was given sole power by the Senate in January 27 BC, but ancient historians date it as beginning immediately after the assassination of Julius Caesar. The ancient reckoning followed by Hippolytus is continued to this day in the Roman Martyrology for Christmas, translated in Appendix I of the Roman Missal. This dates the birth of Christ to the beginning of the reign of Augustus Caesar:

"in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace"

Augustus began reigning shortly after Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C. Flash forward to the forty-second year of his reign and you find yourself around 2 B.C.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Fr. Justin. More than a few facts have been posted here, all but one, from reliable Catholic sources attesting to the true birth date of Jesus Christ - December 25th - and not one of those Catholic sources make any mention of The Catholic Church trying to co-opt pagan celebrations. Instead, the free E-book by Dr Marshall shows why the wiki claims you posted are bogus

Your source is Wikipedia which claims ...There may have been more practical considerations for choosing 25 December. The choice would help substitute a major Christian holiday for the popular Pagan celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice (Roman Sol Sticia, the three-day stasis when the sun would rise consecutively in its southernmost point before heading north, 21, 22 and 23 December. In AD 274, Emperor Aurelian had declared a civil holiday on 25 December (the "Festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun") to celebrate the deity Sol Invictus. Finally, joyous festivals are needed at that time of year, to fight the natural gloom of the season (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Yet, you say, you are just here for pastoral and liturgical reasons but, in the recent past, more and more factual information decisively proves that Jesus Christ was born on Dec 25th. O, and when did Wiki become a source for pastoral and liturgical information?

Why the repetitious posts in support of other traditions and their support for other dates for The Incarnation? Are you in opposition to Dec 25th for pastoral or liturgical reasons?

Are you in favor of another date for The Incarnation? If so, what date?

Are you informing your friends in the East of the correct date of The Birth of Jesus?

As for your friends not being wrong, it appears that they are wrong as to the date. That may not matter to you but it matters to those of us in this thread striving to produce factual information.

If you are here for pastoral and liturgical reasons, why are you repeatedly opposing these facts? Is it pastoral and liturgical to argue against The Latin Rite and its Christ Mass of Dec 25th?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Fr. Justin. Your link is to an anti-western polemic. It is not pastoral. But, one can see where you get your putative pagan-orgins for The Incarnation claims.

How pastoral of you :)

frjustin said...

As noted above, Pope Francis saw no problem in greeting "the brothers of the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, who today celebrate the Lord's Christmas" on January 7, even though he himself celebrated it on December 25.

The official translation of the Roman Martyrology for Christmas, found in Appendix I of the current Roman Missal and authorized by Catholic bishops conferences, sets the date of the Nativity as "in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace".

As for Hippolytus, he is a saint of the Catholic Church, celebrated on August 13.

These are reliably Catholic sources.

Todd said...

Thanks Fr. Justin for clarifying the calculation of the reign of Augustus by the ancients.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"from the 8th to the 14th of the third month of the Essenian calendar and from the 24th to the 30th of the eighth month. This second period falls towards the end of September, confirming the solid foundation for the Byzantine feast of "The Conception of John" on 23 September."

Does this mean St. Zachary can have served as Essenian rather than standard temple priest?

Would this also be possible for St. John, if Fr. Jean Colson was/is right he was a Cohen and less important disciple of Christ (though beloved by him) rather than one of the twelve? (His book came in 1968).