Archive for the ‘Epiphany’ Category

Meet the Holy Child

January 3, 2021

Feast of the Epiphany

In today’s Gospel, the Magi find the Holy Family now dwelling inside of a house in Bethlehem. This is not the same as Christmas night or Christmas day, but maybe weeks, or months, or even up to three years after. “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” Eastern cultures, especially Persians, would do homage by falling to their knees and touching their foreheads to the ground. Though this poor, tiny king’s only throne is his holy mother’s lap, these Magi love and honor him. He does not appear to them as a frightful overlord but as a little infant because his wish is not to be feared but loved. God the Father will have baby Jesus flee and hide from the wicked King Herod, but the Holy Child is happily revealed to these first foreigners from afar who seek him out as friends. The Magi were blessed to encounter Jesus as a little child, but they would not be the last to do so.

One day in the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila was preparing to climb a stairway to the upper rooms of her Spanish convent when she was met at the stairs by a beautiful boy. He asked her “Who are you?” She replied, “I am Teresa of Jesus. And who are you?” The child responded, “I am Jesus of Teresa,” and vanished.

In the 13th century, while St. Anthony of Padua was traveling through France to preach against heresy, he was granted a quiet room for lodging. His host passed by the room one night and noticed an unusual light shining around the door. Peering inside, he saw Anthony kneeling and full of wonder, admiring a glorious child who hugged him. Seeing the boy’s supernatural beauty and hearing their conversation, the onlooker knew that this was Jesus visiting his saint. This encounter is why St. Anthony of Padua is depicted (as in our own stained-glass window of him) holding the Christ Child.

In the 1930’s, the Polish mystic St. Faustina Kowalska recorded in her diary, “I often see the Child Jesus during Holy Mass. He is extremely beautiful. He appears to be about one year old. Once, when I saw the same Child during Mass in our chapel, I was seized with a violent desire and an irresistible longing to approach the altar and take the Child Jesus. At that moment, the Child Jesus was standing by me on the side of my kneeler, and he leaned with his two little hands against my shoulder, gracious and joyful, his look deep and penetrating. But when the priest broke the Host, Jesus was once again on the altar, and was broken and consumed by the priest.

Even without miraculously beholding him, the great devotion of other saints toward the Christ Child is well-known. St. Francis of Assisi, having received permission from the pope, created the very first nativity scene in the year 1223; with hay and a manger along with a live ox and donkey in a cave. He then invited the Italian villagers to come and gaze upon it while he preached about “the Babe of Bethlehem” — Francis was too overcome by heartfelt emotion to say the name “Jesus.”

In the 12th century, Doctor of the Church St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote this in a touching prayer:

“You have come to us as a small child…
Caress us with your tiny hands,
embrace us with your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts
with your soft, sweet cries.”

In the late 1800’s, the beloved St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, would pray this amidst her joys and trials:

“O Jesus, dear Holy Child, my only Treasure, I abandon myself to your every whim. I seek no other joy than that of calling forth your sweet smile. Grant me the graces and the virtues of your Holy Childhood, so that on the day of my birth into Heaven, the angels and saints may recognize your spouse, Therese of the Child Jesus.”

And for centuries, the Infant Child of Prague, a 19-inch statute of the Infant Jesus dressed in royal regalia, has been a beloved Czech devotion.

Despite all of these examples of mystical encounters and pious devotions with the Child Jesus, one might still wonder whether it is fitting to pray to a baby. Jesus does not even talk at that immature age, and he has since grown up beyond that phase of life. Yet even though he is a child, the Infant Jesus is still Almighty God who hears all of our prayers. If it would be wrong to pray across time to Our Savior in his manger, it would be wrong to now pray to Our Savior on his Cross as well. You and I were not born too late to adore the newborn King.

What benefits are there in praying to the Holy Infant? Jesus Christ is the same person yesterday, today, and forever, but some will find approaching the Baby Jesus less intimidating. His little form communicates his innocence, purity, gentleness, and tender affection; inviting us to share these virtues. In fact, Jesus tells us we must become as little children, like himself: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

During one Holy Hour, St. Faustina Kowalska was trying to meditate on Our Lord’s Passion, but her soul was filled with joy and she suddenly saw the Child Jesus. She writes, “His majesty penetrated me to such an extent that I said, ‘Jesus, you are so little, and yet I know that you are my Creator and Lord.’” And Jesus answered, “I am, and I keep company with you as a child to teach you humility and simplicity.

On another occasion, St. Faustina saw the Infant Jesus near her kneeler, once again appearing to be about one year old. She writes that, “He asked me to take him in my arms. When I did take him in my arms, he cuddled up close to my bosom and said, “It is good for me to be close to your heart… because I want to teach you spiritual childhood. I want you to be very little, because when you are little I carry you close to my Heart, just as you are holding me close to your heart right now.

So in conclusion, I encourage you to approach the Infant Jesus in your prayers; at this Mass, in this Christmas season, and throughout this year ahead. Picture and imagine him, speak and listen to him, and hold him close to your heart. The Holy Babe of Bethlehem has gifts of grace and consolation to offer you, and he awaits you with open arms.

The Magi Sought Jesus — Epiphany of the Lord

January 7, 2020

The Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Why was King Herod greatly troubled? Because he saw this rumored, newborn king as a threat to his power and rule. No one ever mistook King Herod himself for being the Messiah or the Christ. Herod was not descended from David (as it was prophesied the great king of the Jews would be) and King Herod was not a godly ruler. The Roman Senate had installed him as king of Jerusalem and Judea, and he ruled as a brutal tyrant. Herod imposed harsh taxes, killed large numbers of his political opponents, and executed members of his family as well, including several of his wives and sons. The Magi, these wise astronomers from the east, had rightly interpreted the signs of heaven, but they badly misjudged Herod’s intentions. They had come, naturally enough, to Jerusalem to find the newborn King, but King Herod had no such son, so Herod hatched a wicked plan to murder any innocent child reputed to be the Christ.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet  [Micah]: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

When King Herod was greatly troubled, all of Jerusalem was troubled with him because, knowing Herod, they knew the Magis’ message would likely lead to death and violence. Why did the Jewish religious leaders plainly-reveal to Herod where the Messiah might be born? They had reason to fear Herod, yet they could have demurred in Herod’s presence at responding to his inquiry. We must never tell lies, but we need not tell everything we know to everyone who asks us; for example, you don’t tell a killer where to find his next victim. The religious leaders could have replied to Herod, “Well, there are various disagreeing opinions about where the Christ will be born,” and that would have been true. The Jewish rabbis enjoyed theological debates about every question – and there was no need to let Herod know their best and most-accepted answer. Or, they could have replied, “Moses does not clearly tell us where the Christ will be born,” and that also could have been true – the prophet Micah provides that particular answer. Instead, the religious leaders tell Herod exactly where to look: “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said to him. Without even realizing it, this was the Jewish religious leaders’ first betrayal, first denial, first rejection of Jesus Christ on earth.

Then King Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out [and found the fulfillment of their hearts’ hopes.]

If the Magi were “overjoyed at seeing the star,” imagine how they felt upon entering the house and finding Jesus with his mother. The Magi had traveled hundreds of miles to seek out the newborn king, to give him their precious gifts, and to show him their homage. But did any of Jerusalem’s priests or scribes travel the five miles to Bethlehem to do the same? Did any of them seek out the Magi or the Holy Family to privately warm them that they were in grave danger? Apparently not, for it required dreams from Heaven to warn the Holy Family and the Magi to flee from Herod. It is as if the religious leaders didn’t believe the Messiah, their Christ, would or could be born for them; like they did not believe that God was alive and active in their present day. Despite their vast religious knowledge, these men lacked faith. You and I profess to be Catholic Christians, and that is important. We have come to Mass today, and that is very well. But the Jewish leaders show us the danger of our faith being just a theory, an idea we hold without it prompting our full response to God.

The Magi sought out Jesus. Are we seeking a daily encounter with Christ? The Magi gave Jesus their precious gifts. Are we offering our Lord our time, talents, and treasures generously? The Magi prostrated themselves before Jesus and showed him their homage. Are we loving Jesus as merely an idea, or as the most important person in our lives? The beginning of this new year is a good time to take stock of ourselves and make resolutions to follow Christ better. Do not be afraid, for it will be the fulfillment of your heart’s hopes. If you are willing, he will lead and guide you on your journey.

Lord of wonder, Lord of light,
Lord with royal beauty bright,
Heaven leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

Great Gifts — Epiphany of the Lord

March 3, 2013

Today we celebrate the Epiphany. Today the magi from the East arrive in Bethlehem. They do not come on Christmas day, but much later, months or perhaps a year later. The Holy Family has moved from the stable into a house. The magi enter the house and find the child with his mother, Mary. (This is still true today, for we will find Jesus wherever Mary is.) The magi bow down before the little one and give him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are strange gifts for an ordinary child, but they are poetically appropriate for Jesus.

Still today, gold symbolizes wealth and power. They give Jesus gold because he is a king, the newborn king of the Jews. Since ancient times, incense has been used in temples and chapels for the worship of God. Jesus should be offered incense because he is not only our great high priest but he is also God. Myrrh is a fragrant spice which people formerly used to prepare dead bodies for burial. Jesus shall be the divine and human sacrifice who will die for us.

The gospel tells us that the magi went back home by another way. Our ways should change after encountering the Christ child. He is our king. He comes not to dominate, but to liberate, yet he demands our obedience. We need to read the gospels and adopt the habits he teaches. Imagine how the world would be different if everyone did this. At first, we can be converted ourselves, but this by itself is enough to make our lives, our families, and our community noticeably better.

The baby Jesus comes to us in the least intimidating way conceivable. Do not fear the infant Jesus, like King Herod did. Do not fear his kingship over you. Let Jesus be the Lord of your life.

Hoy celebramos la Epifanía. Hoy los magos de Oriente llegan a Belén. Los magos no vienen en el día de Navidad, pero más tarde, tal vez meses o un año más tarde. La Sagrada Familia se ha movido desde el establo en una casa. Los magos entran en la casa y encontrar al niño con su madre, María. (Esto es aún cierto hoy, vamos a encontrar a Jesús donde María está.) Los magos se postran ante del pequeño y le dan regalos de oro, incienso y mirra. Estos son regalos extraños para un niño ordinario, sino les son apropiados para Jesús.

Aún hoy, el oro simboliza la riqueza y el poder. Los magos dan a Jesús oro, porque él es un rey, el rey recién nacido.  Desde tiempos antiguos, el incienso se ha utilizado en los templos y capillas para la adoración de Dios. Jesús se debe ofrecer incienso, porque no es sólo nuestro gran sumo sacerdote, sino que también es Dios. Mirra es una especia aromática que la gente antiguamente utiliza para preparar los cadáveres para el entierro. Jesús será el sacrificio divino y humano que va a morir por nosotros.

El Evangelio nos dice que los magos regresaron a a su tierra por otro camino. Nuestros caminos se debe cambiar después de encontrarse con el niño Jesús. Él es nuestro rey. Él no viene a dominar sino para liberar, sin embargo, demanda nuestra obediencia. Debemos leer los evangelios y adoptar los hábitos de que enseña. Imagínese cómo el mundo sería diferente si todo el mundo lo hizo. Al principio, puede ser convertido a nosotros mismos, pero esto, por sí misma, es suficiente para hacer que nuestras vidas, nuestras familias y nuestra comunidad notablemente mejores.

El niño Jesús viene a nosotros en la forma menos intimidante concebible.  No temas al niño Jesús, como el rey Herodes hizo.  No tengas miedo de su reinado sobre ti.  Permita que Jesús sea el Señor de tu vida.

Novo Anno Domini — Januray 1 — Mary, Mother of God / Epiphany

January 16, 2011

This new year begins us an interesting conjunction of dates. Today, a day typically thought of as a secular holiday comes right alongside an acknowledged Christian holy day. I speak of New Year’s and the Feast of the Epiphany.

People tend to celebrate New Year’s in a rather worldly way. They drink, usually more than they should, and frequently gather to watch something drop at midnight: in New York it’s a ball; in Miami it’s an Orange; in Bangor, Maine it’s a sardine. There are many such examples. When the new year arrives people traditionally look for someone to kiss, while others propose marriage.  The new year is felt to offer new hope and people make resolutions to change their lives. We tend to think of New Year’s as a secular holiday, but it actually marks a Christian milestone.

On the eighth day from His birth, Mary and Joseph had Jesus circumcised according to the law God had given His people through Moses. On this day, Jesus entered into the covenant of the Jews. One could argue that this eighth day from December 25th, January 1st, is the day that Jesus became the king of the Jews.

In the ancient world, events were often dated according to the reigns of the kings in power. For instance, the Romans would have once referred to 20 B.C. as “the eighth year of the reign of Emperor Augustus.” [One Gospel records that John the Baptist’s preaching began “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” – Luke 3:1] Today, we date our years according to the reign of our king, Jesus Christ, the King of kings.

The abbreviation “B.C.” means Before Christ.  “A.D.” doesn’t mean After Death, as some people suppose. (If it did, where would be the other 30 years of Jesus’ life?) “A.D.” is a Latin phrase, Anno Domini, which means In the Year of Our Lord. We call this new year of ours 2011 A.D., or the 2011th year of our Lord’s reign.

Whether they know it or not, when the world celebrates New Year’s they are really anticipating and celebrating the reign of a King who has already come. They raise their eyes up to see something descend — they look for the One who descended from Heaven. They long for an passionate love and an unending intoxication — the Bridegroom has come with the Holy Spirit of joy. They resolve to change into better people — the Christ who calls us to change and empowers us to do it has already come.

Two thousand years ago, the world did not realize that the Christ had been born, but the Magi, the “Great Ones,” knew. With devotion like the Magi, let us journey and draw near to Jesus. In your prayer, let the infant Jesus grab your finger and watch Him smile at you. In finding Jesus’ parents, the Magi found the Lord. Draw closer to Mary and Joseph, for they are already your friends and they lead whoever comes closer to them to their Son. In this 2011th year of his reign, let us rejoice in our King, Jesus Christ, and resolve to love Him more deeply.

Traveling to God — Epiphany of the Lord

January 3, 2010

Today the nations come to Christ, to bring Him their gifts and to worship Him. We see it in the gospel, where great, wise ones called Magi travel afar to Bethlehem of Judea. And we see it in our world today, wherever those honored to be called Christians gather in Christ’s Church throughout the world. Every Sunday is a little Epiphany where, like the Magi, all the nations come to worship the One whom all the world ought not to be able to contain.

Our responsorial psalm prayed, “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” In another psalm, Psalm 87, the Lord foretells that every nation on earth would adore Him. The Lord says,

“Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me; Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia, these will be her children and Zion shall be called ‘Mother’ for all shall be her children.”

Today there are Christians in all of these places: in Egypt and Iraq, in the Holy Land and Africa.  In fact Christians span entire continents about which the ancients never knew. There are Christians all nations who have entered the Lord’s house and found Jesus with Mary, who is the symbol of Mother Church. She is rightly called mother, for all nations are her children.

In many lands Christians suffer harsh persecution, as in China, where a red dragon like that of Revelation still seeks to destroy the Christ Child and the God-bearing mother. How fortunate we are to be able to safely gather here, to be free to practice our faith without fear, to come to Christ’s house easily and often, not in hiding or in secret, and without having to travel for months across desert expanses like the Magi.

Yet, in our ease, we can take our religion for granted. In our routine, we can be blind to how we are blessed. And in our closeness to Christ, we can overlook Him. So, from time to time, it is important for our faith to be renewed. One way we can do this is to imitate what the Magi did. At least once every year we should make a pilgrimage to Christ and stay to retreat some days with Him.

After spending precious time with Jesus in the heart of their pilgrimage the gospel says the Magi “departed for their country by another way.” Their physical journey changed (for they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,) but their spiritual way changed as well. The Magi were believers even before they came, but after adoring Jesus and giving their gifts, they went away spiritually richer. We too would be spiritually richer if we were to give Christ some gift of our time and treasure to pilgrimage and retreat with Him.

As busy as priests are, the Church requires all of them to go on several days of retreat each year, for she knows how important this is for spiritual renewal and intimacy with Christ. Imagine what difference a pilgrimage to a shrine and a quiet, prayerful weekend on retreat center would have for you.

You must love and care for your children, so show them by your own example the importance of seeking after Christ. Give your spouse the opportunity to spend two days alone with the Lord, or take the whole family along for a trip to a holy shrine. For instance, there is a new, magnificent shire to Our Lady of Guadalupe which everyone should make it a priority to see. If you are looking for destinations or ideas, I’m more than happy to help.

In this year of our Lord, 2010, 51 weekends remain. Let us act now to prepare even just one of those many weekends for a gift-bearing journey. Pilgrimages and retreats are a gift to Christ and a gift to ourselves. Let us follow the Magi and come, let us adore Him this year, with days of pilgrimage and retreat.