Happy New Semester!
And Happy New Liturgical Season! Beginning last Monday, January 7th, we started a new season in our Church’s calendar, and it’s one that I think gets far too little attention.
Just in case you need a brief recap, there are two major cycles in the Church Year: The Nativity Cycle and the Resurrection Cycle. Of the two, the Resurrection Cycle is the older, the Resurrection of Jesus being the first festival that separated late Second Temple Jews from their nascent Christian kindred. The Resurrection Cycle consists of the season of Lent, forty days of penitence and fasting excepting Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday, and the Easter Season, fifty days of joy and celebration between the Sunday of the Resurrection and Pentecost Sunday, including the Feast of the Ascension on the Thursday ten days before Pentecost. The Nativity Cycle as a whole began to be celebrated a few centuries after the church got established. Advent, in which we prepare for Christ’s coming as the Child of Bethlehem and at the End of the Age, is followed by the Twelve Days of Christmas and the Epiphany.
Then there is the rest of the year. At the most, the Resurrection and Nativity Cycles take 124 days of the year leaving 241 or 242 other days of our Christian life. In the past, these seasons have been called either “Ordinary Time,” from the fact that the Sundays are numbered or “ordered,” or the “Seasons after the Epiphany and Pentecost,” or “the Green Seasons,” named after their liturgical color. These seasons “breathe,” getting longer and shorter to accommodate the moving date of Easter, and this year we have a Season after the Epiphany that is almost as long as it can be stretching all the way from 7 January to 5 March.
The Season after the Epiphany is a time where we especially focus on Christ’s manifestation to us, how we come to recognize the particular presence of God in the person of Jesus. There are four celebrations that sum up the season: The Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus, the Wedding at Cana when Jesus changed water into wine, and the Transfiguration. Each of these celebrations give us a brief view into Jesus’ divinity and a chance to explore his humanity.
But this season of Christ’s manifestation to the world also provides us a challenge. It challenges us to look around and see the Spirit of the Living and Loving God still active in this world, to see God’s hand healing and reconciling, to open our eyes and follow on the way. So this year, when we have such a gloriously long Season of Christ’s Manifestation, spend some time looking around for where God is active in your life and the life of your communities. Where is Christ in the midst of your world making himself manifest?