The wise men have traveled home from Bethlehem. With the passing of their feast day on Jan. 6, the holiday season is behind us. Catholic and some Protestant liturgies count these weeks between Epiphany and Lent as “Ordinary Time.” Though the phrase refers to ordinal numbers (second week, third week, etc.), I am drawn to its secular connotation of a post-holiday return to everyday life. Most years, anyway.
January so far has been anything but ordinary. Must I abandon my sense of ordinary time for 2021, or shall I base it on a different calendar? Coptic and many other Orthodox churches use the old Julian calendar, which runs 13 days later, ending the Christmas season on Jan. 19—tomorrow. The event they celebrate that day is not the arrival of the wise men at the stable but Theophany, the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.
Living in Eritrea long ago, I went to a Timket or Theophany festival. The huge crowd was exuberant; Jan. 19 was clearly a major holiday. Perhaps for this year, I can welcome “ordinary time” as beginning the following day, Jan. 20. May it bring a fresh season of calm and relief.
Image: Coptic icon of the baptism of Jesus, or Theophany.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.