Solemnity of the Epiphany
January 5, 2014
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
MERRY CHRISTMASTIDE. By longstanding sacred tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas day.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas celebrations with friends and family, decorations, and all of the other means of rejoicing, should continue throughout the season. We can never rejoice in the Lord’s birth too much. As Christians, we will very often find ourselves living in contradiction to the styles and preferences of the present age. We should get very much used to the fact that we will face conflict among friends, and even at times within families, as we seek, more generously and more regularly, to live out and celebrate the mysteries of our redemption in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: ‘The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.’ (1 Cor 15:45, 47) From his conception, Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God ‘gives him the Spirit without measure.’ (Jn 3:34) From ‘his fullness’ as the head of redeemed humanity ‘we have all received, grace upon grace.’ (Jn 1:16) (CCC 504)
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”(Is 60:1) Isaiah the prophet describes the glory of Jesus Christ, who is “full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father”(Jn 1:14), our Messiah. The prophet also foretells the reality of those first three wise men, who represent the kings and the peoples of the whole earth, all of whom are called to realize their full dignity as sons and daughters of God in worship and praise of him for his glory and goodness. “Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.” (Is 60:2-3)
The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is ‘Christ,’ that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples. Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest ‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.’ (Acts 10:38) (CCC 486)
You and I, and all of mankind must, like the shepherds, the magi, St. John and the disciples, come before the Lord in his humble birth at Christmas, and worship him with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength.
You and I will be seen as acceptable and pleasing to God to the extent that, in Christ, we grow in our praise and worship of him, generously, with our whole being. How do we praise and worship God? Christ is our model and our means. Christ has set down through example and precept the ways in which we live the Christian life.
The ancient “way” of Christian life is repentance and belief in the Gospel, practically and profoundly realized in the sacramental life. The sacraments are the “Epiphany” or manifestation of the Lord for every human being. In the sacraments the whole “glory” of Christ “shines out” so that all nations may fall down in praise before the Lord. Christians, from the first foundation of the Church, have met and known Christ through the words of forgiveness in Confession: “Go, your sins are forgiven you.” And from the beginning, as we do today, Christians have met Christ in the gift of His body and blood in the Eucharist, and have fallen down in worship of Him, our God. “This is my body…this is my blood.” This is the greatest of all the sacraments, the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Let us be ever more generous in our expressions of reverential worship of the Lord. Do we approach Christ at communion with all the reverence, love and worship due to God? Do we observe appropriate silence in Church so that a spirit of prayer may be fostered? Are we distracted, or a source of distraction for others, during Mass? Do we observe the proper postures and practices of the liturgy? Do we chew gum in Church? Do we observe the hour-long fast prior to receiving Communion?
We prepare for the joy of heaven, where will live as the praise of God’s glory forever and ever, by the way we approach the Lord as he manifests himself in the “Epiphany” which is every Mass.
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we “meet Christ in the liturgy”, Father Cusick.
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 5, 2014
The Epiphany of the Lord
The arrival of wise men from the East at Herod’s court with questions about the reported birth of a royal pretender could very easily have caused some consternation. Herod was very well aware of messianic pretenders and may have considered them a real threat to his power. However, in this gospel story, the symbolic message has completely eclipsed whatever historical kernel may have existed.
The Solemnity of the Epiphany: Celebrating the One Body of Christ
The great British educator, Sir Ken Robinson, tells the story of three little boys, five and six year olds, who played the role of the three King’s at their Kindergarten Nativity Play. They came marching in before the manger with paper hats and each carrying on box. The first boy laid his box before the baby Jesus and announced, “I have brought you gold.” The second laid his box down and announced, “I have brought you myrrh.” Now the third boy came down with sudden stage fright, but he plowed through it, remembered he had to put his box down but forgot his line. So he announced, “Frank sent this.”
Feast of the Epiphany
The Feast of the Epiphany is the oldest in the Liturgical Calendar after Easter and Pentecost and Epiphany was celebrated long before even Christmas itself came to be regarded as a feast.
The word Epiphany literally means manifestation and refers to the appearance or making known of Christ. Of course, in the beginning the feast was about the several manifestations of Christ: his first coming into the world, his being made known to the Shepherds, his manifestation to the Wise Men from the East, and it included even the Father announcing who he was at his Baptism by John, as well as the demonstration of his power in his First Miracle at the Marriage Feast of Cana.
Christmas: No Longer Afraid
Pondering the Gospel narratives from the Annunciation to the Presentation, it is striking how all of the principals in the story were confused, troubled and even gripped by fear. All of them. And from Heaven came the constant, soothing admonishment:
“Do not be afraid.”
The Lessons of Bethlehem
Amid this selfie society, so immersed in our preoccupation, nay, our obsession with our personal agendas, it might be refreshing to consider the lessons found in Bethlehem so long ago.
To begin with, we should ask ourselves if we ever look “up” toward Heaven with enough frequency to even catch a glimpse of the star which beckons us toward Christ.
One of the Most Powerful Christmas Lessons
The entire country pauses on Dec. 25, as Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, known to Christians as God’s Christ and Savior, and known to many as The Prince of Peace. The impact of this one special life has reverberated through the centuries.
Kingdoms and governments rise and fall; the celebrities of one generation are largely forgotten by the next; powerful institutions and organizations—from central banks to giant business enterprises to mighty armies—come and go, but the influence of Jesus of Nazareth endures.
For Mercy’s Sake!
Jesus has asked His disciples who the people believe Him to be. And after they give Him the poll results, no more meaningful than those of our day, He turns the question to them. Who do they believe Him to be? It is a challenge and an invitation, to leave behind the comfortable ways of men and travel upon the mysterious way of God. Peter replies with a sharp affirmation: “You are the Christ, Son of the living God!”
The Incarnation: God’s Covert Strike Against Satan
Satan, in his haughtiness, could never have imagined that God would humble Himself to the point of becoming fully man. When God had appeared in ancient Israel it was in forms fearsome and fantastic—the pillar of alternating fire and clouds, the whirlwind that accosted Job, the lightning-flecked, amber-yellow storm cloud that astonished Ezekiel.
But a baby born of a virgin, delivered in a manger? Satan never saw it coming.
Be Clothed in the Beauty of Holiness! A Meditation on the Virtues in Colossians 3
In yesterday’s blog post, (which was actually a written version of my Sunday sermon), I mentioned that it might make sense for us to look more deeply at some of the virtues In the Letter to the Colossians which ought to be cultivated by a Christian, especially in the family setting.
10 Most Shared Bible Verses Online
The uber-popular YouVersion Bible app just released its year-end analysis revealing how its millions of users engaged the Bible this past year. In 2013, users shared more than 65 million Bible verses via the app.
What was the most popular verse this year? Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Interestingly, the most-read biblical chapter was Romans 8, which YouVersion notes was “read four times per second in 2013.” Other top chapters include Romans 12, Matthew 5, 1 John 4, and Hebrews 12.
To Know the Lord
The simplicity and peacefulness of the hidden life of Jesus will soon end, and our liturgical readings will begin to focus on His intense apostolic activity. The Lord’s travels through Samaria and Galilee will soon replace the tranquility and solitude of Nazareth.
Are We Ready?
The Day I Met Jesus in Las Vegas
Several days before my 13th birthday, in late October of 1973, I had a dream that was so vivid that when I woke up the next morning I was convinced that it was no mere dream. As I note in my 2009 memoir, Return to Rome, in the dream Jesus and I “were sitting, facing each other, with the landscape of heaven in the background. He spoke to me. Over thirty years later, I cannot honestly recall the words he uttered. But I do remember waking up the next morning with the sense that I had experienced a reality that was unlike any dream I had ever had.”
A New Year – A Saint Companion 2014
As we approach another new year, people naturally start looking at what they can do to better themselves. Here are the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions people have planned for this year:
10. More Family Time
9. Fall in Love
8. Help Others
7. Quit Smoking
A Struggle Between Two Loves
Earlier this month, a storm of violent and gaudy protesters attempted to desecrate the Cathedral of St. Juan Bautista in San Juan de Cuyo, Argentina. Yet remarkably, a chain of 1,000 young men stood arm in arm, praying the Rosary silently, absorbing the obscene protests and self-degrading attacks. What can we learn from this compelling witness? Word on Fire contributor Ray Bradley explains.
“When we have defined and isolated the evil thing, the colours come back into everything else. When evil things have become evil, good things really become good. There are some men who are dreary because they do not believe in God; but there are many others who are dreary because they do not believe in the Devil.”
– G.K. Chesterton
To See or Not to See
Christmas flows into 2014, and the busy-ness of the worldly life pulls us away from our true center. These times when we are to be most spiritually on fire and aware, our nerves tingling with the intense love of Christ and the miracle of our very existence, we can be at our laziest, our deafest and blindest. What a trick of the Foe, eh? He presents us with shiny distractions that have every appearance of existing as part and parcel of our Holy Day, but he turns them inside out and turns our eyes away from the lover of our souls. Oh, to be shrewd to his tricks in the new year! Let this be our prayer.
Falling Into theScapegoat Trap
In the Old Testament, the Azazel goat, translated as scapegoat, was one of two goats chosen for a ceremony on The Day of Atonement. The first goat was sacrificed, but a priest would lay hands on the second goat and symbolically transfer all the sin and guilt of the community on to this animal. The scapegoat was then driven into the desert, to die, thus cleansing the community of its sin.
Nothin’ Like the “Patron Saint Generator” to Instill a Little Humility
OK, I finally did it. Everyone’s been using Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Generator to choose his/her patron saint for the year 2014, so I finally clicked on the button to find out what the hullabaloo is about.
And I got my patron saint. It’s St. Guntramnus.
WAIT: WHO? My patron saint is St. Guntramnus? Patron of divorced people, guardians, and reformed murderers?
Why does God Allow Temptation?
Q. Father Fortea, why does God allow temptation?
A. If God does not want us to sin, why does He allow temptation at all? We have the answer in the verse that says, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Jas 1:2)
What I Teach My Kids About Evolution
People ask me what I teach my kids about evolution. The answer is, “I teach the science, but not the ideology.” The Evolutionists say, “You are failing your kids as an educator!” No, I’m teaching my children to keep a view of reality firmly in place, the very first thing a scientist ought to do. The Creationists say, “You are not instructing them in the faith!” Yes I am, but just like we don’t practice our faith only on Sundays, neither do we teach it only in religion class. Our first Kindergarten science lesson is titled, “God Made Everything.”
5 Ways to Bring Millennials Back to the Church
When I left my evangelical seminary to become Catholic in 2012, I hardly knew any Catholics, let alone young Catholics. Now, a year-and-a-half later, I’ve met dozens of passionate millennials online who are helping lead the way in the New Evangelization. Whether it’s the “30 Impressive Catholics under 30” recently profiled by FOCUS, Brandon Vogt’s delightfully successful dialogue with atheists, Theology on Tap conversations across the country, or the millions energized by Pope Francis’ humility and compassion, this is a good time to be Catholic. Here’s how to keep the momentum going in your parish this holiday season.
Tolerance and Evil Part I
When the son of man comes will he find faith in our hearts? One wonders? Faith is our response to divine revelation. Do we hold firm to our faith in even in the faith of temptation and trial? Do you pray? Is mental prayer a part of your daily regimen? Why do I begin with these questions? Because tolerance suggests that there is no truth, there is nothing to defend. There is no appropriate time to stand boldly for what you believe because truth in and of itself does not exist.