Today is the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. For many of us, today is seen as the end of the “12 days of Christmas,” bringing to a close the outward celebration of Christmas. In fact, many, including my current Pastor, advise families to keep their Christmas decorations up until the Feast of the Epiphany. This is good, but there is so much more to the feast than just the end of Christmas.
In fact, the Feast of the Epiphany, or Theophany as it is celebrated in the East, predates the celebration of Christmas on December 25th. In the early church, specifically the East, the Baptism of our Lord, Nativity, Visitation of the Magi, and the Wedding at Cana as one feast, the Theophany. In the year 567 at the Council of Tours, the Eastern Church defined the Nativity and Theophany as two seperate feasts, December 25th and January 6th as they are today. The Council also stated the 12 days between the feasts as the Christmas Season. The Western Church later also defined these two seperate feasts on the same days, but the traditions of the East and West vary greatly.
Many Catholics today have no idea what Ember Days are, while some older Catholics may still even remember them from their childhood. Many of us in traditional communities still observe and celebrate the Ember Days throughout the year. These are weeks where Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are days of fasting and abstinence required by Holy Mother Church. In 1969, the USCCB decided the United States didn’t need fasting and prayer, and not only removed the obligation to fast, but fully removed Ember Days from the church calendar.
The Ember Days are placed in very specific times throughout the year, four weeks to be exact. They fall in the weeks following the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13), Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Whether seeing groups of seminarians home on academic breaks or greeting newly ordained priests, you are almost guaranteed to see one thing. Many of the young men will be wearing cassocks, and some may even have birettas on. The reasons behind this can be grouped into 3 categories: Practicality, Symbolism, and Tradition.
Firstly, the practicality of the cassock, is a huge reason that even many older priests are beginning to wear the cassock again.
There's one thing that can be confusing or even off-putting to newcomers to the traditional rites and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. Why is everything in Latin? It's a reasonable question,why would you make all your prayers in a language that very few people understand?
One of the first and foremost reasons we should still be using Latin in our liturgies is that it is the language of our fathers and our father’s fathers. As a language, Latin has not changed or developed in meaning at all since the time of the early church and the Roman Empire, where Latin was the common language of the people. Since this time, when St. Pope Damasus commissioned the Bible to be translated from Greek to Latin by St. Jerome, Latin has been the official language of the church. Since it has not changed, every word spoken means exactly what it did at the time of St. Jerome. If this original translation of the Bible were to be done in English, the texts of the scripture would read as something completely different today then in those days. We can even see this on a much smaller level when many people have a hard time understanding the Douay-Rheims translation, which is only written in English of the year 1610 while the Latin of the Vulgate is from the year 382 and still holds the exact same meaning.