Sunday, January 04, 2015

Christ-Mass: Day 11 (Not Epiphany)

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping ...”

Today, as mentioned earlier, the traditional Roman calendar observes the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus*, while the reformed Roman calendar observes either (universally) the Second Sunday After Christmas, or (in the Dioceses of the USA and elsewhere) the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Why the latter, you ask?

This is a judgment by a competent territorial body of bishops. In this instance, the term "competent" is used guardedly. You see, they think you are entirely too lazy to celebrate anything on a weekday. So they make it convenient for you. They would probably provide drive-thru confessions, and probably had to ignore the advice of an army of lawyers and "risk assessment specialists" to pass on the idea. Perhaps once we succeed in converting the culture for Christ, they'll move Christmas to a Sunday as well, to coordinate our schedules with the department stores. Almost seems worth it, right?

We can say all we want about "the reason for the season" and "keeping Christ in Christmas" and all that. But such festivity presumes a priority attached to, and a meaning for, the value of sacred time. We can assure ourselves that "our bishops know what they're doing." But how can something be sacred if we can bend it and twist it to suit our convenience?

And that's when we beg the question, as to whether they really know what they're doing.

When I was growing up back in Ohio, the village of Milford had a unique way of disposing of old Christmas trees. They would be collected and taken to some field at the edge of town, stacked in a big pile, and "Twelfth Night" would be celebrated with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log." Of course, my parents didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it happen, but I would always read about it later that week in The Milford Advertiser. These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. In fact, since leaving the Buckeye State to seek my fortune elsewhere, I have learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, courtesy of the county's Office of Environmental Quality: "Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch."

Now that kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the glory of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading it on your lawn or walking all over it?

Meanwhile, here at Chez Alexandre, we have celebrated Epiphany on the traditional day all along. Still, there is a great temptation to take down the lights already, to put the decorations back in storage until the season returns, and to send the dying tree to its final resting place.

But before that happens, we go back to work on Monday, and life continues to slowly return to normal.

Meanwhile, the fourth of January is when the Church remembers Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), a wealthy New York socialite, who some years after the death of her husband, sacrificed her place in respectable circles upon her conversion to the Catholic Faith, and went on to found the first congregation of women religious in the United States, the Sisters of Charity. Originally based in Emmitsburg, Maryland, four of the sisters established a branch of the order in Cincinnati in 1829, as the Sisters of Charity of Mount Saint Joseph (later the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati), where they founded Good Samaritan Hospital, and were essential in building the parochial school system in that part of the Buckeye State.

"Mother Seton," as she was affectionately known, was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

* At one time combined with the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1, before the 1913 calendar reforms of Pope Pius X, thus the revisionist conspiracy is even worse than many are led to believe. And for those who think they know it all, the controversial liturgist Annabale Bugnini was only born the previous year, calling his own part in said conspiracy into question.

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