ROME, 15 DEC. 2009 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ
Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina
Q: Is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord part of the Christmas
season? It seems that it is, according to Sections 32 to 38 of
the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar.
Also, when does Ordinary Time start? Section 44 seems to say
that it starts on the Monday after Baptism of the Lord. —
A: Here are the relevant texts from the introduction to the
"33. The Christmas season runs from evening prayer I of
Christmas until the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January,
"38. The Sunday falling after 6 January is the feast of the
Baptism of the Lord.
"43. Apart from those seasons having their own distinctive
character, thirty-three or thirty-four weeks remain in the
yearly cycle that do not celebrate a specific aspect of the
mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on the Sundays, they are
devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects. This period
is known as Ordinary Time.
"44. Ordinary Time begins on Monday after the Sunday following 6
January and continues until Tuesday before Ash Wednesday
inclusive. It begins again on Monday after Pentecost and ends
before evening prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent."
From this, I think it is clear that the feast of the Baptism of
the Lord is part of Christmastide and brings it to a close.
The Monday which follows it initiates the first week of Ordinary
Time and, like the week following Pentecost, is a "week" of six
days, Monday through Saturday.
The following Sunday is the second Sunday of Ordinary Time, or
perhaps more precisely, Sunday of the second week of Ordinary
Time. This latter formulation allows us to see more clearly why
there is no first Sunday of Ordinary Time in the missal, a fact
which might have induced some, including a widely diffused
missal for the faithful, to state that the Baptism of the Lord
was in fact the first Sunday.
That this is not the case is also shown from the fact that the
feast is sometimes celebrated on a Monday that is Jan. 9. This
happens only in those countries that transfer the Epiphany to
the Sunday between Jan. 2 and 8. When Christmas Day falls on a
Sunday, Epiphany falls on Jan. 8, and so the Christmas season
ends the following day.
It is further confirmed by the rubrics of the Liturgy of the
Hours. After the concluding prayer of this feast's vespers, a
rubric laconically proclaims: "The end of Christmastide."
We outlined a brief history of this feast on Jan. 29, 2008.
* * *
Follow-up: Baptism of the Lord and Ordinary Time
Pursuant to our piece regarding the feast of the
Baptism of the Lord as part of Christmastide (see Dec. 15), an
English reader added further information which might help
explain why some have mistakenly considered it as the first
Sunday in Ordinary Time. To wit:
"I recall seeing in a Roman lectionary, perhaps the first
edition using the RSV and which is rarely used in churches
(England, Ireland, etc., have had the second edition with the
Jerusalem Bible since the early 1980s), this feast described as
a feast of the Lord in Ordinary Time and it was placed with the
other feasts of the Lord. I was surprised by this. Perhaps it
was a publisher's error, but it would help create confusion,
especially in priests' minds, and particularly since Volume 1 of
the breviary for the same region includes the weeks of Ordinary
Time between Christmas and Lent."
Effectively, this publisher’s error might have contributed to
the confusion regarding this feast which, as I mentioned before,
is also found in some other popular missals. Let's hope that the
eventual publication of the new translation will clear up these