Thanks to television coverage of the Papal Mass on the Epiphany a few years ago, I discovered the Epiphany Proclamation- when the Church announces the dates of Easter and other moveable celebrations. I knew how the Church determined the date of Easter every year (the Sunday after the first full moon of Spring in the northern hemisphere), but I didn't know the history behind it or that the proclamation was so solemn.
So I did some research. The tradition dates back to the early Church when calendars were not readily available. Prior to the Council of Nicaea in 325, different areas were celebrating Easter at different times because of the inconsistencies with the Jewish calendar. The Council established that a method independent of the Jewish calendar be used, and that Easter should be consistently celebrated throughout the universal Church. Interestingly enough, it would take several centuries before the Church achieves any consistency; it still has some differences even today.
Skipping over a lot of history, it became the norm for the Patriarch in Alexandria (the place with the most astronomers) to determine the date of Easter, and then notify the Bishop of Rome and other metropolitan bishops. Over time, it became custom to announce the upcoming date of Easter and the other moveable feasts on the Epiphany (January 6). This is done at the Vatican and many other metropolitan churches at Mass, either after the Gospel reading or after Holy Communion.
Based on the text of previous year's proclamations and an Ordo, here's what the Solemn Proclamation for 2013 should be at St Peter's Basilica:
Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.You may notice some differences between the Proclamation and when certain days are celebrated. In many places within the Latin Rite, both Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi are transferred to the following Sunday. (I talk more about that here.) Also, the Eastern Churches that continue to follow the Julian calendar will have differing dates from the West most years.
Let us recall the year's culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the 28th of March and the evening of the 30th of March.
Each Easter - as on each Sunday - the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy:
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the 13th of February.
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the 8th of May.
Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the 19th of May.
Corpus Christi will be celebrated on the 30th of May.
The First Sunday of Advent will be celebrated on the 1st of December.
Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.
To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever.
If you want to catch the Epiphany Proclamation this year, EWTN will be broadcasting the Mass from St Peter's Basilica. Soon after someone will probably post the proclamation on YouTube. Here's a clip I found from 2009:
So now I'm curious, did you know about the Epiphany Proclamation?