Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She, and writes on her own blog Living With Lady Philosophy. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Second Sunday after Epiphany has my favorite readings in the whole liturgical calendar. You might be asking, what is the Second Sunday after Epiphany? In the old, pre-Vatican II liturgical calendar, the one that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (aka the Traditional Latin Mass) uses the some of the liturgical seasons have different names. In the old calendar the readings for each Sunday are the same every year. The readings and the names of the seasons are rooted in tradition and doctrine and followed the life of Our Lord. They were chosen to give a specific meaning and give doctrinal depth to the liturgical year.
The Time after Epiphany is the third part of the cycle of Christmas in the Extraordinary Form liturgical calendar. The Christmas cycle begins with Advent, with Christmastide going from Dec. 24 until the octave day of the Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (Jan. 13). The Time after Epiphany goes from Jan. 14 up to Septuagesima Sunday, the Sunday in the EF Calendar which marks seventy days until Easter and two and a half weeks before Lent begins.
The Dom Gaspar Lefebvre, O.S.B. in The St. Andrew Daily Missal (1945) explains that the “time after Epiphany is an extension of Christmastide, in which the Lord’s divinity continues to be affirmed […] [N]ow it is Christ himself who acts and speaks as God” (p. 16). Christ must be revealed as God to us before we are willing to follow his teachings and enter into the Septuagesima and Lent, both penitential seasons preparing for Good Friday and Easter.
But back to the Second Sunday after Epiphany, which this year falls on the new calendar’s Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, is the second Sunday which falls after Epiphany and occurs the Sunday after the Baptism of Our Lord (Jan. 13 in the old calendar). It celebrates the manifestation of Christ by the miracle of him turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
Dom Proper Guéranger, O.S.B. in The Liturgical Year wrote about the three mysteries of the Epiphany. The word Epiphany means, manifestation, so the three mysteries are when the divinity of Christ was made manifest.
“The Sixth of January… unite[s] three manifestations of Jesus’ glory: the mystery of the Magi coming from the East, under the guidance of a star, and adoring the Infant of Bethlehem as the divine King; the mystery of the Baptism of Christ, who, whilst standing in the waters of the Jordan, was proclaimed by the Eternal Father as Son of God; and thirdly, the mystery of the divine power of the same Jesus, when he changed the water into wine at the marriage-feast of Cana.” (Liturgical Year, Vol. III, p. 108)
Tradition holds that all three of these events took place on Jan. 6, and whether or not they actually historically did all take place on Jan. 6, it is interesting to see how they are all tied together as epiphanies or manifestations of God’s power. The old calendar spread the celebration of them out over two weeks.
The antiphon for Canticle of Zechariah in Laudes for Epiphany and the octave day, the Baptism of Our Lord, in the traditional Breviary ties all of these feasts together beautifully:
“This day is the Church joined unto the Heavenly Bridegroom, since Christ hath washed away her sins in Jordan; the wise men hasten with gifts to the marriage supper of the King; and they that sit at meat together make merry with water turned into wine. Alleluia.”
I did not know when I chose my wedding readings, Romans 12:6-16 and John 11:1-11 (the Wedding at Cana), that these were the readings the Church had traditionally chosen to mark the Wedding at Cana which celebrates the Church being united to the Bridegroom. In these readings we see the beauty of what the Church is called to be in living together in Christian harmony (Romans), and the beginning of Jesus’s manifestation of his glory to the world at the bidding of his mother (John).
These mysteries of the Epiphany further tell the story of the beginning of our life of faith. As Dom Guéranger explains, “The star has led the soul to faith; the sanctified Waters of the Jordan have conferred purity upon her; the Marriage-Feast unites her to her God” (p. 241). This Time after Epiphany is a beautiful time to meditate on how the Lord has manifested himself in each of our own lives and renew our devotion to him. He is a faithful Bridegroom to his Church.