In the Post-Holiday emotional letdown, the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany – January 6 – often fell by the wayside. This created a dilemma for those wanting to enhance the observance of the riches of the liturgical year. Is it better to keep it on January 6, no matter which day of the week it occurred on, and encourage people to make a special effort to celebrate it in some way, if possible by coming to Mass even if not of obligation? (Many traditional Catholic cultures have maintained the Epiphany as a day of obligation, and January 6 is a public holiday in some countries, in spite of increasing secularization.) Or is it better to transfer it to Sunday so that its celebration can be more a part of the lives of ordinary Catholics?
January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas and in some countries called “Little Christmas,” is actually and older feast than Christmas, December 25. Epiphany, commemorating the gifts of the magi, as well as December 6, St. Nicholas’ feast, were also the more traditional days for gift-giving.
Rome has left it up to regional bishops’ conferences, and in some instances, local bishops, to decide the observance of some elements of the Church’s calendar in accord with the character and needs of their own people. In the United States, January 6 has never been celebrated as a day of obligation, and so the US Bishops more than forty years ago decided to transfer it to Sunday.
In Rome, however, the Epiphany is still celebrated on January 6, so today is simply the Second Sunday after Christmas. At his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square today, he gave a wonderful talk on the readings of the day, an appeal, really, for us to take seriously the overwhelming love God has for us.
The featured image is the “Adoration of the Magi” from a 5th-century reliquary in Ravenna, Italy.