Thursday, January 04, 2007

The 10th Day of Christmas

I write these words on the tenth day of Christmas: January 4, 2007. The "12 Days of Christmas," of course, refer to the period between Christmas and Epiphany. As an example of how far we are removed from a traditional Christian culture, in a Western Rite nation:
  • The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which the world deems "the Christmas season," would revert to Advent. A Western Rite culture would treat this as a time of preparation, fasting, and heightened spiritual exertion focused on the coming Nativity of the Second Person of the Trinity in the flesh, as well as the eschatalogical consummation of human history at His second coming.
  • Christmas celebrations would not commence until Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and continue apace until Epiphany. Today, the stores fill with plastic reindeer and the radio plays Bing Crosby seasonal standards before Thanksgiving. Both are trashed by December 26 like a decayed Christmas tree. As we again leaven the culture, pre-celebration of Christmas and other holidays would end. Christmas carols would not flood the airwaves until Christmas Day and, in recognition of the "12 Days of Christmas," continue unbroken until Epiphany. (Perhaps the radio could instead play the Great O antiphons and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" during this period.)
  • Originally one holiday with Christmas, Epiphany and Christmas developed into separate observances in the West marking the birth of Christ and the visit of the Magi. (In the Byzantine East, the Christmas Gospel lesson is the visit of the Magi, whereas "Theophany" recalls Christ's baptism in the Jordan River.) In time, the Holy Spirit caused the Western Church to conclude that such observances in the sacred Life of our Redeemer were too hallowed to be contained by one day. Thus, were Christmas and Epiphany sundered. However, they are two sides of the same Incarnational coin, different refractions of the Mystery of Jesus' corporeality. Epiphany became the "book end" of the Nativity season. As the other half of Christmas, Epiphany would be a federal holiday.
These are but a few measures of how things might be different in a Western Rite Orthodox America. Needless to say, there are many others noted by Christians of all backgrounds — and there are far more pressing areas in need of regeneration — but the fact that these details are not even on the radar demonstrates how far American culture has plummeted.

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