by Rev. Greg Wismar
February is the accordion month on the calendar of the Church Year. In some years like A.D. 2011, when Easter is late on the calendar, the entire month of February is part of the season of Epiphany. Since Easter is not coming until April 24 this year, there are eight Sundays after Epiphany on the church calendar, which is as many as there can be.
When Easter comes early, such as when it is in the last week of March, much of the month of February is in the season of Lent. At its very earliest, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, can be Feb. 4; at its very latest, it does not occur until March 10. So each year the month of February becomes a kind of accordion, as Lent expands and Epiphany contracts, or vice versa.
But whichever Church Year season fills its days, February carries out what its given name intends: It offers all of us an opportunity to focus on living the Christian life and exhorts each of us with a call to repentance.
There was not always a month of February in the secular calendar of the Western world. Long ago, the year established by the founding leaders of Rome began with the month we know as March. But around 700 B.C., the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, added two more months at the start of the annual cycle: January and February.
January was established to be the year-opening month. February was to be a time for expiation and purification of one’s life. February comes from the old Latin word februatus, which meant “purification.” It afforded the citizens of ancient Rome a chance to restart their lives in a positive way for the year that was still just beginning.
As God’s people baptized into and made members of Christ, we have a new start, not just once a year but every day. St. Paul reminds us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). In the words of “Gracious God, You Send Great Blessings,” we proclaim in song that the great blessings of God are “new each morning all our days” (LSB 782:1).
In February, we may find special opportunities to see the new things God is doing: to look for the first hints of Spring in our wintry yards; to rejoice in the precious minutes of daylight added each day during the weeks of this second month; to share in the joy of a Baptism in worship as God gives new birth, forgiveness of sins and true purification of life that lasts to and through eternity. In February, the accordion month, we may well hear echoes of the music of heaven!
> For more on the Church Year, see CPH’s Treasury of Daily Prayer.
About the Author: Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar is pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Newtown, Conn.