A Liturgical Calendar Pop Quiz

What are the three main Christian feast days?

(hint: a feast day is a high point of religious observance and celebration in the life of the church)

Did you even know there are three? You can name two, anyway, even if you haven’t been to church in a while, or didn’t pay too much attention even when you were there.

There’s Christmas.

And Easter.

Those are the two everyone knows. But the third major feast day, the only one not completely co-opted by popular culture, and therefore known only to die-hard liturgical calendar fans (yes, we do exist) is: Pentecost. Now you know.

Pentecost was celebrated this past Sunday. It is observed 50 days (7 weeks) after Easter and commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ apostles. As my three-year-old learned in her Sunday school class, “It’s the Church’s birthday!”

That got me to thinking. ALL THREE of the main Christian feast days are about birth. No really. Christmas is obviously about birth. The actual, physical birth of Jesus, to be precise. The other two are metaphorically about birth. Easter commemorates Jesus’ return to life, or re-birth, you might say.  Plenty of people have already made connections between the tomb and the womb.(Though I think that is the stuff of another post entirely.) And now Pentecost is another metaphorical birth, this time of the church, as it begins to move from being a loose group of Jesus-followers to an organized religion.

So–if the three high points of Christian life are about birth, then it follows that birtheology is not just for mommies and babies (in case anyone out there was thinking that). Christmas, the actual birth of Jesus; Easter, the metaphorical rebirth of Jesus; and Pentecost, the metaphorical birth of the church: these three events are central to the Christian faith.

Birth is central to the Christian faith. 

And if birth is central to the faith, then we’ve got some work to do in uncovering a theology of birth. This means examining what birth is, how it affects those who participate in it (both women and men, both those actually giving birth and those who support them), what it teaches us about the life of the body, soul and spirit. This is true even if we are “only” regarding birth as a metaphor, since to understand a metaphor one must first thoroughly examine what it refers to.

For whatever reason, we as Christians have largely neglected to give serious thought to this central element of our own faith. But that’s all about to change, y’all. Keep reading, and keep commenting–there will be more birtheology to come!