Dear Friends in Christ:
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord...The very word Epiphany, comes from the Greek word epiphainein, which means “manifestation,” or, “to reveal.” This refers to Christ’s manifestation as God to the world. It is a celebration of the revelation of God in human flesh. It could also be said that an Epiphany is: “an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple and striking.” Something as simple as a child. Something as striking as a star, the star of Bethlehem.
The Liturgical calendar in the United States places it on the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th, but in many countries and cultures it is still celebrated on its traditional date of January 6th, the twelfth day of Christmas, known as “Little Christmas” or “Three Kings Day.” Celebrations abound in the streets with processions of costumed kings riding camels, with gift giving happening more so on this day in some cultures than on Christmas in commemoration of the gifts presented to the infant Jesus. There is the traditional Kings Bread or King Cake which is also very popular. When I was in Seminary I had two classmates from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and this was a big moment when they returned to Seminary from Christmas break with the King Cake in hand. They taught us about the history and tradition of the King Cake. It is a sweet bread in the shape of a crown in which a plastic figurine of the infant Jesus is baked. Whoever gets the slice with the baby Jesus is said to gain favor, and they are tasked with bringing the King Cake the next year! Although King Cake is often associated with Mardi Gras, its original place was in the celebration of Three Kings Day, so we got to enjoy it twice a year while they were with us! On this Feast we also think of the very popular song, “We Three Kings,” but were they kings and were there three? First, according to the biblical account of the visit of these men to the infant Jesus, the text simply says “behold, magi from the east arrived.” It is understood in the context of the biblical reading that these magi were likely possessors of the knowledge of astrology implied by their study of the stars. So they are not really kings at all, but men learned in astrology. Scholars believe that the “east” from which they came was likely Babylonia. The Scripture passage also never mentions how many there were. The tradition of “three” likely arises from the three gifts Scripture mentions: "Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Three gifts are mentioned in Scripture. If there are three gifts, it was assumed there must be three gift givers, therefore we have “three kings.” It’s a meaningful number. Three is the number of the Blessed Trinity. It is the number of days Christ spent in the tomb. But it also signifies something more meaningful and – for us, much more important. They are not solitary. They are a group. They are a community. That is part of the great message of Christianity. We are meant to receive the good news together...to live it together...to celebrate it and share it with one another, and isn’t that what we are doing together as a parish family! The story of the Visit of the Magi makes an important point about the role of the Messiah. Jesus is called “the newborn king of the Jews” by the magi who traveled from the east. These men were not Jewish, yet they paid homage to the King of the Jews. Matthew, who wrote to a Jewish audience, hoped to express the universal role of Christ in this story. These men were foreigners but they honored Jesus as their king. Jesus is shown now to the whole world. This Feast is about God making known salvation outside of what had been a chosen few. God cares about all creation no matter race, creed, or ethnicity. As we contemplate the gifts of the Magi to our Lord, let us think of the gifts we ourselves can offer Him. Certainly we are called to offer Him all that we are, but we are also called to reflect His presence in our words and actions. What better time to consider how we may better do this in our lives than as we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany and begin this special year of God’s grace. One tradition on the Feast of the Epiphany is to bless the doors to your homes! The Gospel tells us that the Magi found Christ “on entering the house.” The door to your home is a holy threshold. You can bless those who come in and go out by inscribing above the door in chalk the first two numbers of the year+C+M+B+the last two numbers of the year. Tradition tells us that the letters stand for the names of the magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. So this year it would read above the door to your home: 20+C+M+B+21. In the 19th century it was also pointed out by a French composer and music critic, Adolph Adam, that it may also mean “Christus mansionem benedicat” or “May Christ bless this dwelling.”
It’s appropriate to bless your door in January, as janua means “door,” and the first month is the door to the new year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we will not be able to provide chalk to those wishing to do this tradition but encourage you to purchase some at the local store or use chalk that was left over from previous year. After inscribing the doorway, say this prayer: God of Bethlehem and Cana, God of Jordan’s leaping waters, in baptism you bring us into your family. You wed us and embrace us as your beloved. May we fill this place with kindness to one another, with hospitality to guests, and with abundant care for every stranger. By the gentle light of a star, guide home all who seek you on paths of faith, hope and love. Then we will join the angels in proclaiming your praise: Glory in heaven and peace on earth, now and for ever. Amen.
Thank you and best wishes to VICTORIA CLARIZIO...as we announced a few weeks ago this will be Victoria’s last weekend with our parish family. This is bittersweet as we are excited for her to answer God’s call but sad to see her leave our family of faith. She came to our parish in September of 2019 to take over the position of Administrative Assistant for Communications upon the departure of Teallia Sullivan-Gorman who left to move to Ireland with her husband Sean to do missionary work. Victoria had to learn quickly from Teallia the inner workings of the parish office and all of the various social media outlets we use in the day-to-day ministry of our parish family. She did indeed learn quickly. Another beautiful quality of Victoria’s time with us has been her deep faith and her ability to share the message of the Gospel in weekly videos with Father Federico. Victoria’s knowledge of the faith, and more so her love for the faith, came across very clearly week after week during their videos. Then came the pandemic, the shut-down, and the stay-at-home orders. Immediately Victoria, together with our Team Holy Spirit, launched us into the daily use of social media to meet the spiritual needs of our people. Though working behind the scenes much of the time, Victoria did make a few appearances in various programs and became a “parishioner favorite” during the shutdown! We were so blessed with her ministry and presence in such trying times. As Teallia left us to answer a call from God to do missionary work, so now Victoria leaves us to answer a call from God to enter the Monastery with the Passionist Nuns Pittsburgh. This is the first community of Passionist Nuns in the United States founded on July 10, 1910 by five Passionist Nuns from Italy. They are a contemplative cloistered community of religious women called to stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary near the Heart of Christ, ready to receive His love so that they might become love in the Heart of the Church. We say goodbye to Victoria as we promise her our prayers and best wishes as she answers the call of the Lord in her life! In addition to his duties as our Youth Minister, Regis O’Neill has been training with Victoria and is prepared to take over as the Administrative Assistant for Communications upon her departure. We are thankful to Regis for agreeing to take on this additional role. As we enter into the New Year PLEASE BE SURE to stay connected to the parish. Be sure you have visited our user-friendly website at www.stbridgetchesire.org. Through the website, you will find out what is happening in our parish family. You can also “like” us on Facebook @stbridgetofswedenparish, and don’t forget to sign-up for our parish app by texting APP to 88202 and searching for our parish through the application. We are really hoping to continue to increase our use of these means of communication as a way to get information out to you in a timely manner. Of course, for more information on the life of our parish family and the many spiritual and social activities and events throughout the year, including a parish calendar, simply visit the parish web-site. As always, please remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world. As we near the end of the 12 days of Christmas I wish to, once again, say Merry Christmas! Stay safe!!!