It’s not only September 4, it’s the 3-13th of September 1752! Those dates do not exist. The British Empire was slow to synchronize their calendar with large parts of the western culture into one unified Gregorian Calendar. Certain countries resisted this needed change into the 20th Century. Why did this correction need to happen? Our first estimates of the orbit of the earth around the sun was accurate but not precise. A year is not actually 365 days per year, it’s 365 ¼ days, that is why every 4 years we have a leap year, in order to add that extra day. Actually 365 ¼ is not correct either! Did you know leap year does not occur every 4 years? In order to correct for the precise measurement of the earth’s orbit around the sun, all century dates do not include a leap year, except those century dates that are divisible by 400. 1600CE was a leap year. 1700 no leap year, it’s not divisible by 400. 1800, no leap year. 2000 yes, I remember that leap year, it is divisible by 400.
Adopting a new calendar is not easy. The world resisted. On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII instituted the change from Julian to Gregorian, sometimes known as the Christian calendar. This was after the Reformation. Britain due to its infancy in its own new Christian Tradition, the Anglican Tradition, was not excited to listen to the Pope, and did not relent until 1707. Russia finally gave way in the 1920’s.
As we start celebrating Epiphany and the star over Bethlehem, I think of the magi, wise men, or the kings. Best guess, they were probably Babylonian Astrologers, educated in reading the stars, moon, and sun. I am amazed by ancient people and their ability to read the stars and sun, and then figuring out that the Earth’s orbit is approximately 365 ¼ days. The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar, added leap year around 40BCE. The Egyptian Astronomer, Sosigenes who influenced Caesar, miscalculate the orbit of the earth by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. Still EXCELLENT for BCE!
Over the Centuries, our calendars multiplied this 11 minutes and 14 seconds, each year, year after year, and soon the solar calendar did not match the Julian calendar and things needed to change. Not everyone accepted this. Change was slow.
I can only imagine those innovators who discover something…the length of the orbit of the earth, that the earth is not the center of the universe, the spiral helix of DNA, the colors of the spectrum, incandescent light bulbs to LED’s, from transistors to computer chips …so many discoveries. How excited these innovators must have been with their discovery. Discoveries can be concepts too, not provable by science but a step in the evolutionary cycle of life. Moving from a Kingdom to a Democracy, ingenious, from eye for an eye to turning the other cheek, from a God of fire and brimstone to a God of love, from smoking aiding one’s health to smoking being a cancer risk. Changes are always occurring in science and faith. Some people jump at new ideas, new theology, others resist. It’s true with nations, communities and individuals.
In this New Year do you need to embrace a healthy new theology that supports life, encourages questions and struggle? Do you need to embrace Jesus’ teachings rather than what the church teaches through creeds and dogmas….It may not come quickly! I find the Bible’s written documents, poems, letters, confessions, songs….all types of literature, reflecting someone’s EPIPHANY. Someone understood a new mystery that illuminated their walk of faith, and wanted to share that with others, so they wrote it down. I am so grateful for the Christian Bible. It is a witness of people who took the tradition they received, and build upon it. Our traditional interpretations of scripture are not GOD! Let us not idolize “our interpretation”, or our “tradition of interpretation”, but instead use them as a spring board to move forward in our journey. The living word of God revealed to us through a variety of means, for me, especially scripture, but also reason, experience, revelation, and tradition, challenges me to continue to evolve into the likeness of Jesus.
Change can come slowly for some; others see the light and jump! Jumping didn’t happen on September 4, 1752 in England for sure.