It is well known that one of the major issues in seeking full, visible Christian unity is the date of the celebration of Easter. It has ever been thus – Nicea, Whitby, etc. – and made more difficult by the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. But it occurs to me, that we (that is, some Catholic Bishops Conferences) have created an extra problem by the transferance of major feasts of our Lord to the nearest Sunday, most notably Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi.
So today, I celebrate Epiphany with my Lutheran family, while in my calendar it is plain old “Christmas time (after January 2) Friday”. I would not even like to try to explain to my family the tortuous means by which Sunday becomes Epiphany, so that the Baptism of our Lord becomes Monday.
I know why we do this, of course. These transferred Solemnities are all holy days of obligation. When they fall on weekdays, many Catholics would find themselves faced with a degree of difficulty in getting to mass. But the Solemnity of the Assumption is a holy day of obligation too, and we don’t translate that, even though, unlike Christmas, it is a normal working day in Australia. Other holy days included in the Canons – “Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles, and All Saints” – have simply been dropped from the list of holy days of obligation in Australia. I guess the alternative – a rather shocking one – would be to remove Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi from the list in the same way – but these are feasts of the Lord himself, and it would be a rather shameful thing to do.
So we find ourselves pastorally between a rock and a hard place. But maybe – like the Church in England in reference to the much lesser issue of meatless Fridays – we should just bite the bullet and restore the Calendar to its rightful place. We should say: this is our Calendar. It is a part of our Catholic identity. We will keep it as it is and celebrate it accordingly. What Jew, what Greek, what (for that matter) Anglican would do what we have done to their calendar? And would it not be a first step in unity with our separated brethren to celebrate these days on the same day that they (and many other Catholics throughout the world) do?
PS. Can anyone tell me if – for those parishes situated in regions where the dates of the feasts are translated – the Extraordinary Form and Anglican Ordinate parishes follow suit?
PPS. And admittedly, the Lutherans often do celebrate major weekday feasts on “nearest Sundays”, but it is “ad hoc” according to particular need, and it is rather more a matter of transferring the propers of the Mass for that feast to Sunday, rather than altering the calendar itself.)