If we were celebrating it on its designated feast day it would be this coming Wednesday January 6th which is the 12th day of Christmas. Today, count yourself as lucky because you just have 2 clergy up here, not 9 Ladies dancing.
Though the Octave of Christmas ended on January 1st, the intense celebration of Christmastide still continues until next Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In fact, even though the season is officially over then, we still wind down from it until February 2nd the Feast of the Presentation. You may have noticed in recent years the infant Jesus is still in the sanctuary until then, we just move him to in front of this Ambo. This is why the term ‘Christmastide’ is more accurate than the term ‘Christmas Season’. Seasons have arbitrary start and end dates; one turns off while the next turns on. But that is only for us; as far as our climate seasons are concerned, I do not really think the earth notices a change from December 20th to December 21st. Last day of fall was much like the first day of Winter. Tides, on the other hand ebb and flow, slowly. That is how Holy Mother Church’s Liturgical seasons really work. We still have Advent aspects in our Christmas-tide, and we will slowly ebb from it towards Lent (ignoring the ordinary time in between).
Today, within Christmastide, Holy Mother Church celebrates one of its most ancient celebrations, it even predates the celebration of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the World. The most recognizable aspect of Epiphany is the Wise Men, the Magi. But in times past, and even now in the Liturgy of the Hours, this celebration highlights three epiphanies: The Magi, The Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast of Cana. This evening, for those praying Vespers (Evening Prayer) we will pray this antiphon:
“Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.”
These three epiphanies are celebrated in an elevated way; they are that important. They mark, as I mentioned earlier manifestations of Christ to the World. These ‘ah-hah’ moments when God’s creatures realized in a most profound way that God is among us. They are beacons of hope that, if we allow them, will change our lives and history.
But Epiphanies are constantly in front of us, not just the ones celebrated in special feast days; Christ manifests himself in many ways, such as: The Holy Bible, the word of God; Holy Mother Church, the bride of Christ. To name a few important examples.
There is one way that we can embrace the panoply of these events, at least those of special universal import.
The Proclamation of Easter and the Movable feasts that was just chanted, is more than a cute interlude in the Mass (or painful depending on how I did); it announces to us great days in the liturgical year that don’t fall on a set date. And it directly points us to the Church’s year, a year filled with great seasonal tides and many feast days of varying degrees. A year, that if we allow it in our hearts, creates within us a constant epiphany, and thus a growing change in our hearts, strengthens the direction of our journey.
This liturgical calendar isn’t just a schedule of color and readings, it is a life altering plan. By embracing the year and its celebrations we come to:
- Know many of the graces that God rains upon us.
- Come to understand what Jesus Christ did for and means to us.
- Learn about how others before us, Saints, succeeded in their journey and maybe help us with ours.
- Bring a light filled and hopeful atmosphere to each of us and our families.
- Strengthen family bonds.
- Strengthen us for our obligations and responsibilities.
- Brighten our light in the world, so that we may help lead others.
And celebrate them all!
In short, build us into being the heralds of the great epiphany – Love; the love God has given us unconditionally.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you to think about diving into the liturgical calendar with your families. Bring the revelation of God into the daily activities for your life and by doing so bring heaven to those around you. It is the best way I can think of to put into action that what we profess at Mass. ‘We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.’