Baptism of the Lord

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I have a question. I’m aware that if the Sunday after January 1 (i.e., the Sunday that we celebrate the Epiphany on) is either January 7 or January 8, then the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is instead celebrated on the following day (Monday), as opposed to celebrating it on the Sunday after the Epiphany, which is typically the case. I’m not challenging the Church’s stance on this matter, but I would like to know this: In the situation described above, why can’t the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord be celebrated on the following Sunday? Please respond at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your time.

A: To move the Baptism of the Lord to the following Sunday would either mean extending the weekdays of Christmas Time or removing one of the Ordinary Time Sundays in order to insert a Christmas Time feast after Ordinary Time had already begun.

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year C has the all-important gospel of the wedding at Cana. The revisers would not have liked even a single instance in the 3-year cycle when people might not hear that gospel in connection with epiphany. (The original drafts of the Sunday lectionary had that gospel on all three years of the cycle.)

Furthermore, the traditional day for Baptism of the Lord was January 13, which usually fell on a weekday. When the revised calendar promoted it to a Sunday, it drew more attention to this feast than ever before. The revisers wanted the Christmas cycle to end with the Baptism, but putting it on a Sunday in these instances would have pushed it later into January (the 14th or 15th) than it ever had been in the tradition.

It probably seemed more prudent to let the Church follow the former practice—observe it on a weekday in these rare instances.