10 November 2007

Creating a New Christian Calendar

Is it time to develop a new Christian Liturgical Calendar?
The Bible itself is repleat with reasons to believe that our commemoration of the Nativity on 25 December is wrong. That's not to say it is sinful to commemorate the Birth of the Lord on that day - as I doubt we'll ever know for certain in this world when Christ was actually born... but I feel pretty comfortable with some answers I have recently discovered; answers that could compel us to revise our Liturgical Calendars... and for the better.

Inspired by the Hebraic roots of Syriac Christianity and the Jewish learning of a bishop I respect, I have been delving deeper into the question of how we celebrate the Liturgical Year. I have a strong desire to see the Liturgical Year as a time of learning. We know the early Church read the Scriptures as they had them in course and exposited them in the midst of the assembly.

If we were to look at some alternate dates for our Feasts, we might well have an excellent Liturgical Calendar that would allow us to reclaim this ancient practice.

Such a calendar would be based on two poles that fall about six months apart. These are the Birth of Christ and his Resurrection.

When was Christ born? It is my belief that the best avaliable evidence tells us that it was 29 September 2 BC (15 Tishrei 3760), which was the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles that year. What a magnificent day for our Savior to Tabernacle among us (as John 1 teaches)! An alternate date, especially if adopting an earlier Crucifixion date, would be 29 September 5 BC (15 Tishrei 3763).

What about his death? Two options present themselves, but I tend to favor 3 April 33 AD (14 Nisan 3793). The other option would be 7 April 30 AD (14 Nisan 3790). In both of these years, 14 Nisan fell on a Friday, permitting Christ to eat the Passover on the day of his death (remember, Hebrew days were strictly from sunset to sunset). The Synoptic vs. Johannine issue rears its ugly head here, but an adequate explanation is that there were several varying calendars in use among the varying sects of Jews in Jesus' time.

Now, how does this help us with celebrating the life of Christ?

If we are able to teach the life of Christ chronologically during the first portion of the year (about six months), and about the growth of the Church (chronologically) in the remaining half of the year, we would be well on our way to developing a deeper understanding of how the life of Christ unfolded and how the Church grew and explained her teaching in an ever-increasing sphere of influence.

Perhaps for some this is too radical, but my proposal for consideration would be:

29 September - The Nativity of our Lord
Sunday on or after 7 April - The Resurrection of our Lord (7 April is the Median Day between the two possible Resurrection Sundays in 30 and 33 AD, 5 and 9 April.)

This has the virtue of remaining relatively simple in relation to the complex Lunar calculations and extra months that would require a significant alteration to Lectionary Cycles.

Readers thoughts are, as always, welcome.

UPDATE: I have worked out the following Cycle of Feast Days surrounding the Incarnation, Pascha, and Pentecost for a calendar in keeping with my above-noted suggestions. In this I also include the 29th of February leap day as a day outside the calendar, kept as a day of special praise for the Trinity. All other days are considered Ordinary Time.

15 Days

September 22 The Holy Trinity
September 23 The Annunciation of the Forerunner
September 24 The Annunciation of our Lord
September 25 The Visitation of the God-bearer
September 26 The Nativity of the Forerunner
September 27 The Ancestors of Jesus Christ
September 28 The Annunciation to Saint Joseph
September 29 The Nativity of our Lord
September 30 The Presentation of our Lord
October 1 The Visitation of the Magi
October 2 The Holy Innocents
October 3 The Return to Nazareth
October 4 The Finding of our Lord in the Temple
October 5 The Ministry of Saint John the Forerunner
October 6 The Theophany of our Lord

February 29 Praises of the Holy Trinity

14 Days
Begins on the Sunday between March 31 and April 6
Ends on the Saturday between April 13 and April 19

Palm Sunday
Holy Monday
Holy Tuesday
Holy Wednesday
Holy Thursday
Holy Friday
Holy Saturday
Bright Monday
Bright Tuesday
Bright Wednesday
Bright Thursday
Bright Friday
Bright Saturday

11 Days
Begins on the Thursday between May 16 and May 22
Ends on the Sunday between May 26 and June 1

Ascension Thursday
Pentecost Sunday


JohnP November 15, 2007 at 9:18 AM  

Very interesting Rob! I hope you develop this further

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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