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From the Pastor 01/07/18

This weekend we celebrate The Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ. After the Sunday 6:00pm Mass this weekend we will invite our parishioners to take home a poinsettia plant. On Monday we will begin to take down all the Christmas decorations. Anyone who wants to help please come after the 8:00am Mass on Monday. Maintenance will be happy to have you help them.

This Solemnity of the Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian feasts, though, throughout the centuries, it has celebrated a variety of things. Epiphany comes from a Greek verb meaning “to reveal,” and all of the various events celebrated by the Feast of the Epiphany are revelations of Christ to man. Like many of the most ancient Christian feasts, Epiphany was first celebrated in the East. Today, among both Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the feast is known as Theophany — the revelation of God to man.

Epiphany originally celebrated four different events, in the following order of importance: the Baptism of the Lord; Christ’s first miracle of the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana; the Nativity of Christ; and the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi. Each of these is a revelation of God to man: At Christ’s Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God the Father is heard, declaring that Jesus is His Son; at the wedding in Cana, the miracle reveals Christ’s divinity; at the Nativity, the angels bear witness to Christ, and the shepherds, representing the people of Israel, bow down before Him; and at the visitation of the Magi, Christ’s divinity is revealed to the Gentiles — the other nations of the earth.

Eventually, the celebration of the Nativity was separated out, in the West, into Christmas; and shortly thereafter, Epiphany, still later celebrating the Baptism of the Lord which marks the end of the Christmas Season.

This Monday we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Lord’s baptism indicates the beginning of his public ministry of preaching and healing. The Church returns to Ordinary Time for a short time before we begin the season of Lent.

The Church recalls Our Lord’s second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons and daughters of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Eastern Church this feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan God appeared in three persons. The baptism of John was a sort of sacramental preparatory for the Baptism of Christ. It moved us to sentiments of repentance and induced us to confess our sins. Christ did not need the baptism of John. Although He appeared in the “substance of our flesh” and was recognized “outwardly like unto ourselves,” He was absolutely sinless and impeccable. He conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world.”

Many of the incidents which accompanied Christ’s baptism are symbolical of what happened at our Baptism. At Christ’s baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; at our Baptism the Trinity took its abode in our soul. At His baptism Christ was proclaimed the “Beloved Son” of the Father; at our Baptism we become the adopted sons and daughters of God. At Christ’s baptism the heavens were opened; at our Baptism heaven was opened to us. At His baptism Jesus prayed; after our Baptism we must pray to avoid actual sin.

The mystery of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan by St. John, the Precursor, proposes the contemplation of an already adult Jesus. This mystery is infinitely linked to the Solemnities of the Lord’s birth and the Epiphany that we celebrate this weekend. At Christmas we have contemplated the human birth of the Word incarnate by the Virgin Mary. In the 4th century, the Fathers of the Church deepened the understanding of the faith with regard to the Christmas mystery in the light of Jesus’ Humanity. They spoke of the Incarnation of the Word already working like the ‘Christification’ of that humanity that he had assumed from His Mother. Or put in simpler terms: Jesus is the Christ from the first instant of conception in Mary’s spotless womb because He Himself, with His Divine Power, consecrated, anointed and ‘Christified’ that human nature with which He became incarnate.

Next week I will finish this commentary on Epiphany and the meaning of the Lord’s baptism and our own baptism as well.

A blessed week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor