Wednesday, January 6, 2021

To change or not. . . or both. . .

On a variety of forums there has been much debate over the wisdom of shifting the observance of the Epiphany of our Lord to the Sunday prior when it does not fall on a Sunday.  Some have gone so far as to institutionalize the change (Evangelical Lutheran Worship) while others simply ignore the liturgical rules.  Some decry the shift as if it were a terrible miscarriage of pastoral stewardship of the mysteries and others shrug their shoulders.  Of course, there are those who have painstakingly and over many years taught the congregation of the value of Epiphany on January 6 and whose attendance is not so bad but there is the rest of the world in which Epiphany, a feast of great significance, is observed by a faithful few.  So what are you to do?

Honestly, I find it hard to get upset about it all -- as long as Epiphany is observed.  Obviously, I would prefer for the churches to be full on Epiphany -- whenever the day falls during the week.  But realistically I know that is not going to happen most places.  So for me it comes down to which pastoral choice are you going to make.  Yes, it is sad that Christmas, also a principal feast, is down to a Christmas Eve services in most places (fewer in attendance on Christmas Day).  But it also sad that Epiphany has become an also ran among the principal feasts of the Church Year.  Twelve days of Christmas is not long enough and Epiphany on January 6 is not visible enough for me.

So we try to do both.  We have an observance on the actual day but we also have moved Epiphany to the Sunday prior -- thus preserving the normal sequence on Sundays (Baptism of Our Lord) and giving Epiphany more of its due.  I am not fond of the compromise and some will insist that it is inconsistent (which it is) but it is what we do.  It makes it harder when Epiphany falls on a Saturday but those are the breaks.  The reality is that nobody's calendar is governed by the Church Year except the Church's.  That fight is a losing one -- at least for a congregation in Baptist country where even Christmas may not be observed unless it falls on a Sunday!  I have preached the importance of Epiphany here for 28 years and the crowds have spoken.  So this is one accommodation I feel resigned to make.  So there you have it.  I am a liturgical sinner.

It is not unlike what we do for the last Sunday in October and the First Sunday in November -- no matter than Reformation is October 31 and All Saints November 1.  So why not Ascension?  Well, there are two reasons.  We have two services on Ascension Thursday (our regular Thursday morning Divine Service and one in the evening).  Plus the waiting between Ascension and Pentecost I think needs to be there with at least one Sunday emphasizing it.  So there are my quirks.  Mea culpa.

1 comment:

Samual said...

Why would anything justify changing that which has not change in prior ages? Epiphany has always been 6 Jan, so why would we think it appropriate to move it to a Sunday? If we do that, what about Christmass? Should it also be moved to a Sunday? This is all just nuts!