Epiphany: Ain’t dere no more or doubled in number?

And on the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me some Schwegmann bags and a little time machine.

The eve of Twelfth Night reminds us that Schwegmann Brothers Giant Supermarkets – memorialized by Benny Grunch in his penultimate yatty present – filed for bankruptcy in 1995. The loss was ours.

Aside from training locals in the fine art of German surname spellings, Schwegmanns taught something of the art of the sale. Its Sav-A-Center successor might have prepared us for the prevalence of phonetic, if incorrect spellings (a supermarket built for social media, tho?), but it certainly never provided a drink for our trouble, like the Schwegmann bar.

More disruptive to the rhythm of the season, tho? (Dang it, Sav-A-Center!) Flip back four more years.

In December 1991, the United States Bishops Conference voted to amend the list of holy days.

Since then, Epiphany ain’t dere no more.

At least not (usually) on January 6.

If you, like me, intend to embrace the Catholic roots of the Carnival season tomorrow by darkening a church door (and then driving to Dong Phuong to find baby Jesus in plastic form), you’ll hear John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus from the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. Broadly defined, this passage qualifies as an “epiphany”—the sky above the Jordan River opens, a dove descends, a voice bellows: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” It’s a revelation—or an epiphany—of Jesus’ identity.

We just have to wait until Sunday for the wisemen to show up.

The Code of Canon Law spells out the list of Catholic feast days in Canon 1246. First up? Sundays, people! That’s the center of it all, with a constellation of celebrations sprinkled around the weekly eighth day.

The canon then flips through the calendar for the other days of obligation. And almost immediately Epiphany pops up! But we don’t have to show up Friday for the baptism reading, so what gives? Keep reading. It’s wise to first give the rule and then the clarification.

The second paragraph reads: “With the prior approval of the Apostolic See, however, the conference of bishops can suppress some of the holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.”

And that’s what happened in December of 1991.

Attempting to make attendance more practical, the United States Catholic bishops moved certain feasts to the nearest Sunday, whittling down the list of nine day-of celebrations to six (can you name the half-dozen?).

The closest call was the Feast of the Ascension, when Jesus ascends to heaven 40 days after Easter or, if you prefer this math, 10 days before Pentecost (which is where the nine-day novena originates). Ten days from a Sunday, of course, is a Thursday, giving the Ascension a day of the week if not a specific date. Thus, colloquially, we had “Ascension Thursday.”

Or “Ascension Thursday, now brought to you by its nearest Sunday.”

The Ascension was on the original 1991 list, but in 1999, the bishops decided to allow local dioceses to set the dating. Depending on where you go in the United States, you may celebrate the Ascension on Thursday or three days later on Sunday (we’re a Sunday locale).

Not making the 1991 list, however, was our dear Epiphany. The Jan. 6 feast now falls on the Sunday between Jan. 2 and 8 – the Sunday after Jan. 1 (which is still a holy day, except when it falls on a Saturday or a Monday . . . Save the 11 Schwegmann’s bags; I need a dry-erase board!). And being off the list, it’s not as if Archbishop Aymond could just decide on his own to implement the local practice.

All that said, the archbishop would certainly support our showing up tomorrow! Feast days mirror the movement of the year and the needs of our lives. And we could use a couple good Epiphanies.

And maybe if we pray extra hard the magi will bring Thoth its route back.

Epiphany, in some sense, ain’t dere no more. But a little calendar change can’t stop our celebrating—or even doubling the Epiphany days.

From Jan. 6 to Mardi Gras to Ash Wednesday to Easter. The krewe captain is blowing his whistle.

We’re going to need a bigger Schwegmann’s bag to contain it all.

-30-

The funeral for retired Pope Benedict XVI will be celebrated today. He was the only pope I knew during my four years in Rome—and just hearing his voice brings me back to St. Peter’s Square. One practice he continued from Pope John Paul II (but not picked up by Pope Francis) is offering the Christmas and Easter Urbi et Orbi blessings in a litany of the world’s languages. As we think about our Epiphany connection with others, it might be good to hear it.

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