Category Archives: Advent & Christmastide

Presentation of the Lord

The liturgical life of the Church is a prism which diffuses the blinding light of revelation into the variegated hues that we can perceive and whose colors gladden the hearts of the faithful. The metrical homily of Mar Jacob of Sarug on the Encounter of the Lord sheds light on why the righteous elder Simeon and the aged Anna the prophetess were chosen to greet the new-born Savior. “It was right too that one ancient in days should bear witness to the Elder Who became a Child at the end of the times.” The aged ones are a sign to us the Pre-eternal God-made-man has come at the end of time. In this context we recall the words of another Syriac father, Mar Isaac of Nineveh, “Life is given to us for repentance: let us not squander it in idle pursuits.”

h/t SMRC

The Importance of Epiphany

theophanyAsked why is Epiphany/Theophany important is answered only by looking at the sacred Liturgy? This feast is one of the oldest of the Christians even predating the December 25th observance of the Lord’s Nativity. This is a good exercise in doing liturgical theology: reflecting on the texts of the Liturgy as a way of understanding why do and believe what we do. This is theologia prima.

First things first. The title of this feast speaks volumes; this feast manifests, or you can say, reveals God to us. The Liturgical hymns inviting us to rejoice at God’s appearance in human history. Here are 20 reasons taken from the Prologue chanted by the celebrant as he prepares to chant the ancient prayer, “Great are You”:

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for he has regarded and redeemed his people: for behold, the time of the feast has drawn near to us: angels with men celebrate and a choir of saints draws near to us.

1) Today the grace of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying the waters, appears to these.
2) Today the heavens delight in raining dew upon the earth.
3) Today the never-setting sun appears and the world is illuminated.
4) Today the moon shines on the world with the brightness of its rays.
5) Today the luminous stars beautify the world.
6) Today the clouds give the dew of righteousness to mankind from the heavens.
7) Today all of the waters spread their back to the feet of the master.
8) Today the invisible one becomes visible in order to manifest himself to us.
9) Today the uncreated one by his own will receives the laying on of hands from his own creation.
10) Today he who does not bow down bows his neck before his servant so that he might release us from slavery.
11) Today we have been delivered from darkness and we are being illuminated with the light of the knowledge of God.
12) Today the master reforms the archetype through the regeneration of the image.
13) Today the whole creation is watered by breathing streams.
14) Today the errors of men are wiped away by the waters of Jordan.
15) Today the bitter waters of the sea are transformed into sweet by the manifestation of their own master.
16) Today paradise has been opened for men, and righteous people congregate with us.
17) Today we have been released from our ancient lamentation, and as the new Israel we have found salvation.
18) Today we have cast off the old garments of sin and have been clothed in the vesture of incorruption.
19) Today is the holy and luminous celebration of the right-worshipping Christian.
20) Today we have received the kingdom of heaven from the heights, and of the Lord’s kingdom there is no end.

Epiphany

Baptism of LordThe Catholic liturgical calendar may be confusing for some people since it is not well articulated by churchmen. Today is the 12th day of Christmas, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (or the Theophany in the Eastern Churches). The word “epiphany” means manifestation, or revelation of God. Divine Revelation reveals that God the Father claims Jesus as his own son and commands that we listen to him. The voice from the heavens sets the drama. Epiphany, therefore, is the day on which we celebrate three things: the adoration of the Magi, the baptism of the Lord in River Jordan and the Wedding Feast at Cana.

On the point about the Lord’s baptism by his cousin John, Saint John of Damascus explains that Christ was not baptized because He had need of purification, “but to identify Himself with our purification.” Saint Hilary of Poiters follows upon the teaching of the Damascene but saying gate Lord did not need the baptism of repentance, but we do, and therefore Jesus sanctified the waters of baptism by his own. Thus the Lord’s own baptism became a model for our own baptism.

Let us look in awe at the revelation of God.

Epiphany

Night Travelers, 2013. OSB, gesso, egg tempera. 29 x 49 inIn the Ordinary Form of the Mass today is the Epiphany –the Manifestation of the Lord by the visitors from afar, the Three Kings. The point of this feast is not the Three Kings bring gifts per se but the recognition of unbelievers in a monotheistic God coming into human history. The gifts brought to Jesus indicate the reality of the receivers life and mission: Jesus is king, he is divine and he will face a cruel death. The very interesting fact of these wise men is that read the signs in the cosmos and with their reason concluded that Jesus was divine and human, God incarnate. The cosmos –the stars– were all in alignment pointing to the revelation to the nations.

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass maintains the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th; the Eastern Christianity calls this feast Theophany and celebrate this year, today.

Saint Leo the Great reflects:

The loving providence of God determined that in the last days he would aid the world, set on its course to destruction. He decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ. A promise had been made to the holy patriarch Abraham in regard to these nations. He was to have countless progeny, born not from his body but from his seed of faith. His descendants are therefore compared with the array of the stars. The father of all nations was to hope not in an earthly progeny but in a progeny from above…Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles…This is the day that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, when he knew that the children born of his faith would be blessed in his seed, that is, in Christ.

On Epiphany 2015 Pope Francis said this:

Coming to Bethlehem, the [Magi] found “the child with Mary his mother”… This was their second great temptation: to reject this smallness. But instead, “they fell down and worshiped him”, offering him their precious symbolic gifts…. Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love. The wise men are thus models of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendour of power.

What do see in Jesus? Is he our Savior, the Lord of Life, the Messiah?

Holy Innocents

Holy InnocentsThe Christmas Octave has an unique way to keep the memory of Christ and His Way alive with the saints honored in these days: today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. As it is revealed in Scripture, King Herod felt threatened by the birth of the Infant King. He ordered the death of every male child of Bethlehem to preserve his own reign (cf. Matthew 2:16). Mother Church honors the multitude of child-martyrs because of the Presence of Jesus. Our theology teaches us that the infant voices eternally sing triumphant praises to the King of Kings, Lord of Lords: the Light of the World.

Here is a poem, “The Holy Innocents” by Laurence Housman

When Christ was born in Bethlehem,
Fair peace on earth to bring,
In lowly state of love He came
To be the children’s King.

And round Him, then, a holy band
Of children blest was born,
Fair guardians of His throne to stand
Attendant night and morn.

And unto them this grace was giv’n
A Saviour’s name to own,
And die for Him Who out of Heav’n
Had found on earth a throne.

O blessèd babes of Bethlehem,
Who died to save our King,
Ye share the martyrs’ diadem,
And in their anthem sing!

Your lips, on earth that never spake,
Now sound th’eternal word;
And in the courts of love ye make
Your children’s voices heard.

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal Child,
Make Thou our childhood Thine;
That we with Thee the meek and mild
May share the love divine.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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