The Liturgical Calendar Jesus Founded

Maureen Mullarkey confirms Puritans’ objections (via Rorate Caeli):

It is easy to forget that Christmas as we know it is something of a latecomer. It was not celebrated in the early Church. Christians in the first two or three centuries understood themselves to be an Easter people, persecuted inheritors of the promise of the Resurrection. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the heartsblood of the faith. Within a community marked for martyrdom, it was the death date that earned commemoration. Death marked the day of initiation into eternal life, into the stunning mystery of Christ’s victory over death.

Absent the Resurrection, there was no counter to the words of Jeremiah: “Cursed be the day on which I was born.” Origen was emphatic on the matter:

Not one from all the saints is found to have celebrated a festive day or a great feast on the day of his birth. No one is found to have had joy on the day of the birth of his son or daughter. Only sinners rejoice over this kind of birthday.

Prior to the fourth century, there is scarce, if any, written evidence of an annual celebration of the Nativity on December 25th. Not until the fourth century—as newly unshackled Christianity spread northward from Jerusalem, north Africa, and the Mediterranean, into central and northern Europe—did popular custom ingest facets of those pre-Christian winter festivals that greeted its arrival.

6 thoughts on “The Liturgical Calendar Jesus Founded

  1. The Time Being is the most trying time of all.

    The children who whispered so excitedly
    Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
    Grew up when it opened.

    Craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
    We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
    Our self-reflection

    Once we have met the Son,
    We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
    “Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”

    Temptations will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a way
    That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
    More dreadful than we can imagine.

    In the meantime There are bills to be paid… the Time Being to redeem
    From insignificance. The happy morning is over

    W H Auden


  2. Those pesky birth narratives in Matthew and Luke… Seems JGM wrote a whole book about it.

    Christmas in July, perhaps?

    @oldlife doesn’t celebrate Easter either, right? (Except every Sunday.)


  3. The Church did not receive the benefits of a pickup truck until the 20th century. It did not destroy us and it made us stronger.


  4. Wesley Hill–“We who live under the sway of tyrannous powers, whether they’re immediately violent (like certain dictators and terrorist regimes) or whether they’re more subtly coercive (like Wall Street machinations), we who live under the thumb of modern-day Herods—we need assurance that Jesus’ reign can break in even under these unpropitious conditions.


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