Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Leave-taking of Christmas

Today on the liturgical calendar (Dec 31/Jan 13)is called what is known as the "leaving-taking" of Christmas. It means that this is the final day on which the feast is celebrated in the liturgy. It concludes the so-called post-festive period of the feast.

All major church holidays have post-festive periods and "leave-takings." They usually last for eight days, but can differ depending on what is approaching next on the calendar.

In Church Slavonic, this "leave-taking" is called, the "otdaniye" of the feast, in Greek, the "apolysis, in contemporary Ukrainian, the "viddannya." All of these words mean literally mean a "dismissal" or a "going forth" They imply that one might now return to normal observance of the liturgical daily cycle, minus the festal texts that are taken in the post-feast.

In our present case with Christmas, this dismissal does not last long, for we immediately celebrate Jan 1/14 as the Circumcision of Christ and St. Basil the Great and then enter straight-away, into the "pre-festive" time of the Baptism of the Lord. As I'm sure I'll discuss, the Baptism (also known as Theophany, Epiphany, Manifestation and simply, Yordan), is one of the most important feasts of the year, full of biblical and theological symbols.

Today, it seemed as if many of the faithful decided to "take-leave" of Christmas a bit early, since the service was not nearly as well attended as on the Feast of the Nativity itself. I suppose this is a bit normal in our society. Nevertheless, there is something lost if one does not participate in the weekly and festal cycle of the church. While celebrations come each and every year, they do come only once. The liturgical year is a type of "seamless garment" that when sewn together, forms a beautiful robe which brings the Gospel alive before our eyes.

Happy Leave-taking of the Nativity everyone. We have two more feasts to go in this Christmas cycle. I pray they are joyous ones for all of us.

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