Saturday, September 2, 2017

Three Cheers for England and Wales!

     From the Catholic Church in England and Wales' website:

 "With effect from the 1st Sunday of Advent 2017, two holydays of obligation are being reinstated. This decision was made by the Bishops of England and Wales, and has been confirmed by the Holy See. The days are:

  • The Epiphany of the Lord — 6 January (transferred to the adjacent Sunday when it falls on Saturday or Monday)
  • The Ascension of the Lord — Thursday after 6th Sunday of Easter."
       Since September 16, 2011, the Church in England and Wales has restored the venerable Catholic tradition of Friday abstinence. Having already courageously led the way there, it is now leading the way again in restoring two of the Church's most important annual holydays to their meaningful, historical dates. Still in force is the practice (adopted in 1984) of transferring all holydays (except Christmas) to Sunday when they fall on a Saturday or a Monday. (Maybe that will go next!)

        So, apart from that holdover practice from 1984, starting next year the traditional holydays of Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Saints Peter and Paul, Assumption, and All Saints will all be kept on their historic dates. Only Corpus Christi will continue to be permanently transferred to Sunday. Of course, a case could be made for returning Corpus Christi to its traditional Thursday date as well But, while Thursday has obvious symbolic significance for Corpus Christi, it is not quite the same as the strong New Testament significance of the 40th day after Easter for the Ascension or the historical and cultural resonance of "the 12 Days of Christmas" beginning on Christmas and ending on the eve of the Epiphany. It is hard to imagine what possible religious benefit it was once thought would derive from abandoning the date of the New Testament Ascension account or the  still popular, not yet forgotten tradition of "the 12 Days of Christmas." 

        Reforms like these are small things. Obviously, they will not address - much less solve - the pressing problems of the Church in the modern world. But they do help to anchor our liturgical life, reconnecting us with the religious practices of centuries and generations of the Communion of Saints that have gone before us in faith. That is no small thing.

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