Epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation”. When applied to Jesus, it refers to the revelation of His identity to the world – most notably in the visit of the Magi, who recognize the universal kingship of Christ. But other revelations of Jesus’ identity are linked to this feast, including His Baptism (where He is revealed as the beloved Son of the Father), and the wedding at Cana, where with the changing of the water in to wine, Jesus “revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).
Epiphany is also known as “Little Christmas”, since it was the conclusion of the “12 Days of Christmas”, which linked the Feast of the Nativity on December 25 in the Roman Catholic Church with the traditional date of January 6 in the Eastern Orthodox churches. So it is perfectly appropriate to continue the celebration of Christmas at least until Epiphany!
The Proclamation of the Date of Easter:
The fullest manifestation of the identity and mission of Christ, of course, comes through His Resurrection. Easter typically falls on the Sunday following the first full moon of Spring, when eternity (represented by the Sun) is perfectly reflected in time (represented by the Moon). Since it is based on a lunar calendar, its date changes from year to year – it is a “moveable” feast. In the days before people had widespread access to calendars, the dates for Easter and other major celebrations were announced during the Mass of the Epiphany. In keeping with this tradition, here is this year’s proclamation:
Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of His return.
Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.
Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord:
His Last Supper, His crucifixion, His burial, and His rising
celebrated between the evening of the Twenty-ninth day of March
and the evening of the Thirty-first day of March
Easter Sunday being on the First day of April.
Each Easter – as on each Sunday – the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the Fourteenth day of February.*
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the Thirteenth day of May.
Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the Twentieth day of May.
And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the Second day of December.
Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ
in the feasts of the holy Mother of God,
in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.
To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
* Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year, so you may want to make your romantic dinner plans for the weekend before – or even on Fat Tuesday!
The Blessing of Homes:
The Christmas and Easter seasons are traditional times for house blessings. While Fr. Matthew, Deacon Doug, Deacon Mike, and I are always delighted to visit and bless families in their homes, there is a special form of the blessing linked to the Feast of the Epiphany which you may wish to do yourself.
With chalk, which may be blessed for the occasion, write the following legend at the top of the door of the house: 20 + C + M + B + 18. The three letters stand for the Three Kings, who were traditionally known as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; they are also an abbreviation of Christus Mansionem Benedicat, meaning “May Christ bless this house.” The numbers, of course, indicate the year in which the blessing was given, and the crosses mark a Christian home.
Then the following prayer may be said:
Lord God of heaven and earth,
you revealed your only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star.
Bless this house and all who inhabit it.
Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
This Sunday at 7:00 pm, we will be continuing our new tradition of Solemn Vespers for the Solemnity of the Epiphany. This is a sung form of Evening Prayer, part of the Liturgy of the Hours (or “Divine Office”), the Church’s official prayer outside of the celebration of Mass. With psalms, canticles, hymns, Scripture readings, and prayers, it is meant to lift our hearts in praise, thanksgiving, and petition to almighty God. The Liturgy of the Hours is unique in the liturgical life of the Church because “it consecrates to God the whole cycle of day and night, as it has done from early Christian times” (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 10). It is designed for celebration in common but is also regularly prayed by individuals, particularly by priests and religious, who are required to say the Office daily for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world. The book used for its celebration is called the “Breviary”. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church fulfills Jesus’ command to “pray always” (Luke 18:1; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through this prayer, the people of God sanctify the day by continual praise of God and prayers of intercession for the needs of the world. Please join us in blessing God for the revelation of His Son at the Epiphany.
A big thank-you to our Men’s Club for preparing and serving the “Feast of the Holy Family” Breakfast last weekend. A wonderful celebration for our patronal feast day!
I am away on my annual retreat/vacation with a group of my brother priests through January 12th. Please pray for us, that this may be a time of refreshment and renewal; be assured, as always, of my prayers for you.