[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It’s been nearly 50 years since Linus stood on that stage in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and proclaimed from Luke’s Gospel about the birth of Jesus. “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” still gives me goose bumps.
Did you know that the Catholic Church has two proclamations that mark the Christmas season?
They are “the Christmas proclamation” and “the Epiphany proclamation.”
Since Christmas Eve is just past, you probably remember hearing the Christmas proclamation: Sung at midnight Mass (or the Mass closest to it), the proclamation places the birth of Jesus Christ “in the flesh” in the context of recorded history. It begins, “Today, the 25th day of December, unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image….” and ends, “Today is the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.”
Twelve days later, on the feast of Epiphany — which means “revelation” — the second proclamation is made. And it involves Easter.
Many of you might now be saying, “Oh good grief, we haven’t even finished Christmas and you’re talking about Easter. Even the stores are only on Valentine’s Day.”
The Epiphany proclamation isn’t trying to rush the year along. Instead, think of it as like opening the calendar for the new year.
Easter is the central feast of the church year. Salvation history revolves around this central event by which all were reconciled to God through the paschal mystery of Christ.
In the early church, the main event was Easter. In the earliest days of Christianity, Easter was celebrated every Sunday. Sunday was “the Lord’s Day” and Jesus’ followers gathered to commemorate his Passion, death and resurrection. In fact, to this day, each Sunday is really and truly an Easter celebration, since the sacrifice of the Mass celebrates the paschal mystery.
However, as time went on, early Christians began to also hold an annual celebration of the Resurrection, first called the “Pascha” from the Jewish word for “Passover.”
However, not everyone could agree on the date for this celebration. Some wanted it on Passover, no matter what day of the week it was, since they were commemorating the feast of the “life-giving Pasch.” Others wanted it on a nearby Sunday, since that was the day of the Lord’s resurrection.
By the second century (190 A.D.), Pope Victor I decreed that Easter was to be celebrated on the Sunday following the 14th day of the full moon of the spring equinox. Pretty soon, people were celebrating Easter on lots of days, so the Council of Nicaea in 325 decreed that all churches around the world should celebrate Easter on the Sunday following the 14th day after the paschal moon. (The Eastern churches are still different because they use the Julian calendar to set the date, while the Western churches use the Gregorian calendar, established in 1582.)
Knowing what day Easter will fall on is even more important because it doesn’t only involve Easter. That date determines the dates of all the “moveable feasts” whose dates are tied to Easter. That includes Ash Wednesday, the Triduum which starts on Holy Thursday evening, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Trinity Sunday and the feasts of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.
You can see how important it is to know when Easter will be this coming year. The Sundays of Advent are also moveable feasts. Back in the days before printing presses — much less computers — few people had calendars. So they relied on the church to plan important dates for the coming year.
Therefore, since ancient times, on Epiphany Sunday (this year observed on Jan. 5) the upcoming dates are proclaimed after the Gospel. And remember, “proclaimed” doesn’t mean “read” like the announcements are read; rather it means announced as in “called out” as an imperial order. More like “Hear ye, hear ye!”
Traditionally, the Epiphany proclamation is sung by a deacon or cantor. It begins: “Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons, let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.”
Then the dates for the next year are announced, beginning with the Triduum, going through Easter and ending in the first Sunday of Advent. The proclamation concludes with words of praise.
As Linus might say, “That’s what the new year is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Sources: Creighton University’s Online Ministries at creighton.edu; usccb.org; ”The Catholic Encyclopedia”; “World Book Encyclopedia”; “Modern Catholic Dictionary”; “The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism”; and the Diocese of Salt Lake City at dioslc.org.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Proclamation dates
Here are the dates of the Epiphany Proclamation for 2014:
- Holy Thursday of the Lord’s Supper: April 17.
- Good Friday: April 18.
- Holy Saturday: April 19.
- Easter: April 20.
- Ascension (which is celebrated on Sunday in the Green Bay Diocese): June 1.
- Pentecost: June 8.
- First Sunday of Advent: Nov. 30.