Unfortunately, there is no contemporary evidence for the celebration in the fourth century of Christ's conception on 25 March. Till the tenth century Christmas counted, in papal reckoning, as the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, as it still does in Bulls; Boniface VIII (1294-1303) restored temporarily this usage, to which Germany held longest. XV, 5,5) forbids, in 425, circus games on 25 December; though not till Codex Just., III, 12, 6 (529) is cessation of work imposed. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; that of Agde (506), in canons 63-64, orders a universal communion, and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Mary Major a church probably immediately assimilated to the Bethlehem basilica and the third, at St.
during the consulship of (Augustus) Cæsar and Paulus Our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the eighth before the calends of January (25 December), a Friday, the fourteenth day of the moon. The epact, here XIII, is normally XI; the year is A. Were the day of Christ's birth in the flesh alone there found, it might stand as heading the year of martyrs' spiritual , popular feasts were later inserted for convenience' sake. Liturgical colours varied: black, white, red, or (e.g. The Gloria was at first sung only in the first Mass of this day. The ); the latter Church celebrated a second "prophetical" mystery after Tierce, in which Virgil and the Sibyl join with Old Testament prophets in honouring Christ.
754, a date first suggested two centuries later; in no year between 751 and 754 could 25 December fall on a Friday; tradition is constant in placing Christ's birth on Wednesday. But are not the two entries in the "Depositio Martyrum" also such? Thomas, Summa Theologica III:83:2) to the triple "birth" of Christ: in Eternity, in Time, and in the Soul. The three stations are thus accounted for, for by 1143 (cf. iv)], but the practice of giving dramatic, or at least spectacular, expression to the incidents of the Nativity early gave rise to more or less liturgical mysteries.
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Were the Chalki manuscript of Hippolytus genuine, evidence for the December feast would exist as early as c. The relevant passage [which exists in the Chigi manuscript Without the bracketed words and is always so quoted before George Syncellus (c. Prudentius, in the fourth century, is the first (and in that century alone) to hymn the Nativity, for the "Vox clara" (hymn for Lauds in Advent) and "Christe Redemptor" (Vespers and Matins of Christmas) cannot be assigned to Ambrose.
354, unless indeed pre-existing popular celebration must be assumed to render possible this official recognition. The degeneration of these plays in part occasioned the diffusion of noels, pastorali, and carols, to which was accorded, at times, a quasi-liturgical position.
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L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ's birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created. Dindorf, 1860, II, 483) quotes an extraordinary semi-Gnostic ceremony at Alexandria in which, on the night of 5-6 January, a cross-stamped Korê was carried in procession round a crypt, to the chant, "Today at this hour Korê gave birth to the Eternal"; John Cassian records in his "Collations" (X, 2 in P. 101) she mentions as high festivals Easter and Epiphany alone. In the West, he says, the feast was thus kept, ; its introduction into Antioch he had always sought, conservatives always resisted. Though the sermon abounds in references appropriate to the Epiphany (the marriage at Cana, the multiplication of loaves, etc.), these seem due (Kellner, op. 109) to sequence of thought, and do not fix the sermon to 6 January, a feast unknown in Rome till much later. 272) that Liberius preached it on that day in 353, instituting the Nativity feast in the December of the same year; but Philocalus warrants our supposing that if preceded his pontificate by some time, though Duchesne's relegation of it to 243 (Bull. L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals. 106, 107) shows how hopeless is the calculation of Zachary's week from any point before or after it. 1588), says: "Sed et dominus noster nascitur mense decembris . Pagan customs centering round the January calends gravitated to Christmas.
L., XLIX, 820), written 418-427, that the Egyptian monasteries still observe the "ancient custom"; but on 29 Choiak (25 December) and 1 January, 433, Paul of Emesa preached before Cyril of Alexandria, and his sermons (see Mansi, IV, 293; appendix to Act. Eph.) show that the December celebration was then firmly established there, and calendars prove its permanence. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there, unless, following Usener's too ingenious arguments (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Bonn, 1889, 247-250), one were to place those sermons in 383. In 385, therefore, 25 December was not observed at Jerusalem. Cyril declares that his clergy cannot, on the single feast of Birth and Baptism, make a double procession to Bethlehem and Jordan. 1724) makes Julius write thus to Juvenal of Jerusalem (c. But between February, 386, when Flavian ordained Chrysostom priest, and December is ample time for the preaching of all the sermons under discussion. This time he was successful; in a crowded church he defended the new custom. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. 748, whence Christ's conception falls in March, and birth presumably in December. It seems impossible, on analogy of the relation of Passover and Pentecost to Easter and Whitsuntide, to connect the Nativity with the feast of Tabernacles, as did, e.g., Lightfoot (Horæ Hebr, et Talm., II, 32), arguing from Old Testament prophecy, e.g. The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. 338) has collected the evidence for the feast, which reached its climax of popularity under Aurelian in 274. Christ should be born." In the fourth century, Chrysostom, "del Solst. Tiele (Yule and Christmas, London, 1899) has collected many interesting examples. L., LVII, 492, etc.) survive as Christmas presents, cards, boxes.