Thought for the Day – 6 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971) The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
It was love which inspired the Magi. Love sustained them on their journey and made them fall prostrate in adoration before the Infant Jesus. Even before they offered Him material gifts, they offered Him, their hearts! As a reward for their faith and charity, God showered his graces upon them and an immense supernatural joy pervaded their souls. In that moment of adoration, they received the highest possible reward for their hardships and perseverance. With deep interior joy, they gave Jesus their hearts and never withdrew them. A pious tradition maintains, that they apostles and Saints and, in fact, the Church venerates them as such, today.
We should follow the example of the Magi and promise, before the cradle of the Infant Saviour, that we shall face any sacrifices, even death, rather than offend Him and shall work, in every way possible, for His glory and our sanctification.”
“… They fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” … Matthew 2:11
REFLECTION – “But if with careful thought we wish to see how their threefold kind of gift is also offered by all who come to Christ with the foot of faith, is not the same offering repeated in the hearts of true believers? For he that acknowledges Christ the King of the universe brings gold from the treasure of his heart, he that believes the Only-begotten of God to have united man’s true nature to Himself, offers myrrh and he that confesses Him, in no wise, inferior to the Father’s majesty, worships Him in a manner with incense.” … St Pope Leo the Great (400-461) Father and Doctor of the Church
PRAYER – “Give me, therefore, I pray Thee, this gold, this incense and this myrrh. Give me the gold of Thy holy love, give me the spirit of holy prayer, give me the desire and strength to mortify myself in everything that displeases Thee. I am resolved to obey Thee and to love Thee but Thou knowest my weakness, oh, give me the grace to be faithful to Thee!” … St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) Doctor of the Church
The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Epiphany celebrates the visit of the three kings or wise men to the Christ Child, signifying the extension of salvation to the Gentiles. The date of Epiphany, one of the oldest Christian feasts, is 6 January the 12th day after Christmas. However, in most countries, the celebration of Epiphany is transferred to the Sunday that falls between 2 January and 8 January (inclusive). Greece, Ireland, Italy and Poland continue to observe Epiphany on 6 January as do some dioceses in Germany. Because Epiphany is one of the most important Christian feasts, it is a Holy Day of Obligation in most countries.
St Demetrius of Philadelphia St Diman Dubh of Connor St Edeyrn St Eigrad St Erminold of Prüfening St Felix of Nantes Bl Frederick of Saint-Vanne Bl Gertrud of Traunkirchen Bl Gertrude van Oosten St Guarinus of Sion St Guy of Auxerre St Honorius St Hywyn of Aberdaron St Juan de Ribera (1532-1611) Bishop St Julian of Antinoë St Julius Bl Luc of Roucy Bl Macarius the Scot St Macra of Rheims St Merinus St Nilammon of Geris St St Petran of Landévennec St Peter of Canterbury St Pia of Quedlinburg St Pompejanus St Rafaela Porras y Ayllón Bl Raymond de Blanes Bl Rita Amada de Jesus St Schotin St Wiltrudis of Bergen — Martyrs in Africa: Unknown number of Christian men and women who were martyred in the persecutions of Septimus Severus. They were burned to death c 210.
Martyrs of Sirmium – 8 saints: A group of Christians martyred together for their faith. The only surviving details are the names of eight of them – Anastasius VIII, Florianus, Florus, Jucundus, Peter, Ratites, Tatia and Tilis. They were martyred in the 4th century at Syrmium, Pannonia (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Vojvodina, Serbia).
Twelve Apostles – Saints of Ireland: Twelve 6th century Irish monks who studied under Saint Finian at Clonard Abbey and then spread the faith throughout Ireland. Each has his own commemoration but on this day they and their good work are considered and celebrated together. Though Saint Finian is sometimes included, most ancient writers list them as – • Brendan of Birr • Brendan the Navigator • Columba of Iona • Columba of Terryglass • Keiran of Saighir • Kieran of Clonmacnois • Canice of Aghaboe • Lasserian of Leighlin • Mobhí of Glasnevin • Ninnidh the Saintly of Loch Erne • Ruadh´n of Lorrha • Senan of Iniscathay
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. “The Lord and ruler is coming; kingship is his, and government and power.” With these words the Church proclaims that today’s feast brings to a perfect fulfillment all the purposes of Advent. Epiphany, therefore, marks the liturgical zenith of the Advent-Christmas season. — Pius Parsch
The Solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrated either on January 6 or, according to the decision of the episcopal conference, on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8. The young Messiah is revealed as the light of the nations. Yet, as the antiphon for the Magnificat at Second Vespers reminds us, three mysteries are encompassed in this solemnity: the adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the wedding feast at Cana. Extra candles and/or lamps may be placed around the sanctuary and in other parts of the church to honor Christ revealed as the Light of the Gentiles (Ceremonial of Bishops). It is customary to replace the images of the shepherds at the crib with the three Magi and their gifts. — Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Msgr. Peter J. Elliott, Ignatius Press.
The feast of the Epiphany, which was kept in the East and in certain Western Churches before being observed in Rome, seems to have been originally a feast of the nativity; January 6, for those churches where it was kept, was the equivalent of Christmas (December 25) in the Roman Church. The feast was introduced at Rome in the second half of the sixth century and became the complement and, so to say, the crown of the Christmas festival.
Epiphany means manifestation. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world; after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem He is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him. Christian tradition has ever seen in the Magi the first fruits of the Gentiles; they lead in their wake all the peoples of the earth and thus the Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation. St. Leo brings out this point admirably in a sermon, read at Matins, in which he shows in the adoration of the Magi the beginnings of Christian faith, the time when the great mass of the heathen sets off to follow the star which summons it to seek its Saviour.
Traditions for the Solemnity of the Lord’s Epiphany
Many traditions and genuine manifestations of popular piety have been developed in relation to the Solemnity of the Lord’s Epiphany, which is of ancient origin and rich in spiritual content. Among such forms of popular piety, mention may be made of:
the solemn proclamation of Easter and the principal dominical feasts; its revival in many places would be opportune since it served to make the connection between the Epiphany and Easter, and orientate all feasts towards the greatest Christian solemnity;
the exchange of “Epiphany gifts”, which derives from the gifts offered to Jesus by the three kings (cf. Mt 2,11) and more radically from the gift made to mankind by God in the birth of Emmanuel amongst us (cf. Is 7, 14; 9, 16; Mt 1, 23). It is important, however, to ensure that the exchange of gifts on the solemnity of the Epiphany retain a Christian character, indicating that its meaning is evangelical: hence the gifts offered should be a genuine expression of popular piety and free from extravagance, luxury, and waste, all of which are extraneous to the Christian origins of this practice;
the blessing of homes, on whose lintels are inscribed the Cross of salvation, together with the indication of the year and the initials of the three wise men (C+M+B), which can also be interpreted to mean Christus Mansionem Benedicat, written in blessed chalk; this custom, often accompanied by processions of children accompanied by their parents, expresses the blessing of Christ through the intercession of the three wise men and is an occasion for gathering offerings for charitable and missionary purposes;
initiatives in solidarity with those who come from afar; whether Christian or not, popular piety has encouraged a sense of solidarity and openness;
assistance to the work of evangelisation; the strong missionary character of the Epiphany has been well understood by popular piety and many initiatives in support of the missions flourish on 6 January, especially the “Missionary work of the Holy Child”, promoted by the Apostolic See;
the assignation of Patrons; in many religious communities and confraternities, patron saints are assigned to the members for the coming year.
— Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy