Is The Recognition Of The Church Year By All Christians Desirable? -- By: R. De Witt Mallary

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 054:214 (Apr 1897)
Article: Is The Recognition Of The Church Year By All Christians Desirable?
Author: R. De Witt Mallary


Is The Recognition Of The Church Year By All Christians Desirable?

Rev. R. De Witt Mallary

The annual recurrence of the season of Lent reminds us that a considerable part of Christendom is not accustomed to observe the church year, and it is the purpose of this article to plead for the judicious reinstatement of what has not inaptly been called “the chronological creed of the church.”

In the history of the Christian church a very early and a very important place is assigned to the church year, which grew very naturally with the growth of the church, just as national holidays grow with the progress of the nation’s life and stability. It is natural to keep anniversaries: nations thus honor the memory of their remarkable men and events; families thus observe the various occasions of interest which have taken place in the home circle. Precisely in the same way grew up the church year in the history and practice of the Christian church. The inception of the idea of celebrating by annually-recurring festivals the various events in the life of Christ was born of affection, and very early, doubtless in the apostolic age, it became the custom to observe the anniversaries of the passion, death, and resurrection in an Easter festival, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost fifty days afterwards in a Pentecost, or Whitsunday festival, the two corresponding to the Jewish feasts of Passover and Pentecost. Thus dimly was the church year foreshadowed. In the three ensuing

centuries, embracing the period of the long and bitter persecutions of Christianity and the early history of its adoption as the state religion of the Roman Empire,—the period of the Fathers and antedating by a long interval the later corruptions,—this church year had grown out of outline into a well-defined and settled practice, out of shadow into reality. It is true that there was not during this period entire unanimity as to the times of observing certain feasts, as is seen in the original keeping of Easter, concerning which the Roman and Greek churches have always more or less differed, though the Council of Nicsea (325 a.d.) ordered that Easter should be observed on the same day by all the churches. It is true also that in different sections there was the recognition of certain feasts which were not included in the calendar of other sections; as Epiphany, which came from the East, and Christmas, which was of Western origin. It is true, also, that there was a wide difference of opinion as to the length of the observance of certain anniversary seasons; as, for example, in the case of the fast before Easter, variously observed as one day in certain places, forty hours in others, and forty days (Quadragesima) in still others...

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