The combination of a well entrenched secularism and the intensification of consumer culture has led many to forget that the 12 days of Christmas, made famous by the old carol, originally denoted the period in the Christian liturgical calendar between Christmas and the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi. Many might even forget about the festive cheer of Christmas altogether with the arrival of the New Year and the subsequent collective moan as party-goers return to their workstations.
Yet, the Christian liturgical calendar reminds us that the feasting continues well into January with two important feast days – Mary the Mother of God (1st Jan) and the Epiphany (6th Jan). Why the insistence of feasting? Because in contrast to the wider culture who would have us think that everything returns the same routine after tinsel and mistletoe are down, the Christian liturgical calendar reminds us that things are not the same anymore.
The Incarnation of God, around which these two feasts revolve, draws our attention to the fact that the God who keeps doing “a new thing” as the Scriptures constantly attest, now becomes part of the material structure of the world. Under these conditions, things cannot remain the same. The repetition of old patterns that secular culture institutionalises under a thin veneer of novelty cannot be allowed to persist.
To help better understand the history and significance of these two feasts, the University of Nottingham’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies has provided short interview-format explanations by Dr. Mary Cunningham. These videos are highly enlightening resources and provide some insight not only into how these two feasts link Eastern and Western Christianity, or highlight a growing convergence between Churches with a traditionally strong Marian devotion and those that previously did not. These videos are useful for they also articulate certain differences in emphases that has led to seeming divisions within the Church in relation to some of these feasts, betwen East and West, Catholic and Protestant and also traditional and contemporary.
The first video focuses on the Feast of Mary the Mother of God.
The second focuses on the feast of the Epiphany and the link with the Eastern Feast of the Baptism of Jesus.