Blog Post - January 5th
Most Holy Name of Jesus (Latin Calendary)| Epiphany 9 Ordinary Time)| S. Telesphorus| S. John Neumann|Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
In Ordinary Time the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus is on January 3rd. In the Latin Calendar it is a movable Feast Day usually on the First Sunday in January unless that date coincides with the Feast Day of The Epiphany. If that occurs, then the Feast Day is transferred to another date which may or may not coincide with the Feast Day in Ordinary Time. This blog post (for the Latin Calendar) will always show the Feast Date on this date regardless as to when the actual Feast Day occurs in the Liturgical Latin Calendar. In the future, check with the Latin Liturgical Calendar, for that year's actual Feast Day. This posting is for the year 2020.
Most Holy Name of Jesus
In a world of fiercely guarded corporate names and logos, it should be easy to understand this feast. The letters IHS are an abbreviation of Jesous, the Greek name for Jesus.
Although St. Paul might claim credit for promoting devotion to the Holy Name because Paul wrote in Philippians that God the Father gave Christ Jesus “that name that is above every name” (see 2:9), this devotion became popular because of 12th-century Cistercian monks and nuns but especially through the preaching of St. Bernardine of Siena, a 15th-century Franciscan (May 20).
Bernardine used devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus as a way of overcoming bitter and often bloody class struggles and family rivalries or vendettas in Italian city-states. The devotion grew, partly because of Franciscan and Dominican preachers. It spread even more widely after the Jesuits began promoting it in the 16th century.
In 1530, Pope Clement V approved an Office of the Holy Name for the Franciscans. In 1721, Pope Innocent XIII extended this feast to the entire Church.
Jesus died and rose for the sake of all people. No one can trademark or copyright Jesus' name. Jesus is the Son of God and son of Mary. Everything that exists was created in and through the Son of God (see Colossians 1:15-20). The name of Jesus is debased if any Christian uses it as justification for berating non-Christians. Jesus reminds us that because we are all related to him we are, therefore, all related to one another.
“Glorious name, gracious name, name of love and of power! Through you sins are forgiven, through you enemies are vanquished, through you the sick are freed from their illness, through you those suffering in trials are made strong and cheerful. You bring honor to those who believe, you teach those who preach, you give strength to the toiler, you sustain the weary” (St. Bernardine of Siena).
MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS
Today is the feast day of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
O GOOD JESUS, according to Thy great mercy, have mercy on me.
O most merciful Jesus, by that Precious Blood which Thou didst will to shed for sinners, I beseech Thee to wash away all mine iniquities and to look graciously upon me, a poor and unworthy sinner, as I call upon Thy Holy Name. Therefore, O Jesus, do Thou save me for Thy Holy Name's sake.
O God, Who didst appoint Thine only-begotten Son to be the Savior of mankind and didst command His Name to be called Jesus; mercifully grant that we may enjoy the vision of Him in Heaven, Whose Holy Name we venerate on earth. Through the same
Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Blessed be the Most Holy Name of Jesus without end!
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
“Thy name is like oil poured out.”–Cant. 1.
The Church celebrates a special festival for the glorification of the sacred Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is salutary and right, for it is the Name of the Redeemer of the world; and, therefore, with regard to its relation to Him who bears it, and to the work He accomplished, it is a most solemn, mighty, holy, sanctifying, sweet and consoling Name. But the most important point in its consideration is that it exercises a powerful influence upon our lives as children of God and His Holy Church.
But, to denote more clearly the person of the Redeemer, and what He accomplished by the institution of His Church, we add, according to the direction of Holy Scripture, to this Name still another, namely, Christ. We should frequently think of the signification of this Name and its relation to us; for after it we are called, in imitation of Christ, and as members of His Church, Christians. It can be said of this holy Name, as well as of the name Jesus, that it is a most holy, solemn, mighty, sanctifying, and consoling Name, admirably qualified to exercise an influence upon our lives, that we may not only call ourselves disciples of Jesus and of His Church, but also live as such.
I will, therefore, speak today of the dignity of the Name to be called a Christian, and of the influence which that Name should exercise upon our lives. O Mary, help of Christians, protectress of the Catholic Church, assist us, that we may not merely be called Christians, but may also live as such! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!
As we read the acts of the martyrs, we see that, at the time of the persecution of Diocletian, Christians, in the bright light of day, walked in the public streets having plates on their foreheads, on which were inscribed the words: “I am a Christian.” This confession was to remind the persecutors of the Church how useless it was to induce the faithful–who knew what the name Christian signified, and what relation it bore to the name of Christ Himself–to apostatize from the true faith.
To understand this more clearly, we need only first think of the glorification which is due to the Name of Jesus; and consider how all the circumstances, which elevate it to such a dignity, and surround it with the light of glory, refer also in manner and degree to the name “Christian,” which we bear as children of His Church. I say, first, the Name of Jesus is a most solemn Name, which, as the angel said to St. Joseph, was sooner named in heaven than on earth. It is the Name of the Incarnate Son of God. The name Christian is also a name which was sooner named in heaven than it was bestowed upon man on earth. There was indeed no necessity that we should receive the happiness of being children of the true Church of Christ. For this great privilege we are indebted to the decree of the love and mercy of God, who, from all eternity, ordained that we should be born of Catholic parents; or else, enlightened and encouraged by the assistance of God, receive grace to become children of the Holy Church. We shall the better estimate this happiness, if we think of the multitude of men throughout the world who lived before Christ, are now living, and will yet live in the future, without ever attaining it.
Yes, a precious, a glorious and gracious name is the name of Christian. The name Jesus is the Name of the Son of God, who became Man for us, and the name Christian is that of the children of God; it was imparted to us at baptism, through which we were regenerated, as children of the Church, and, at the same time, as children of our Father in heaven. The name of Jesus is glorious, through the properties of the person and dignity of Christ and His kingdom. All these circumstances are so many rays which glorify the name of “Christian” before the face of heaven and earth.
The name Christian indicates an extremely high and glorious position, which we maintain among the creatures of God; for, as Christians, we are changed from children and slaves of Satan into children of God,–citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem,–fellow-citizens of the angels, and brothers and sisters of the saints. We are permitted to call Mary, the Queen of heaven, our Mother; and Jesus, who sits at the right hand of His Father, our Brother. Through baptism, by which the name “Christian” is imparted to us, we enter into the visible kingdom of Christ upon earth; enjoy, with Holy Church, her victories and triumphs, and attain to the possession of the infinite merits of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, who deposits them in the treasury of the Church,–yes, we even attain to the personal possession of Christ Himself, in the most august Sacrament of the Altar.
The happiness of being a Christian gives us, at the same time, the right to become heirs of heaven, and one day to enter into it, body and soul, to dwell forever there. Not only this; but this Name, if we live accordingly, gives us power to elevate our thrones in heaven always higher and higher, by the good works which we perform on earth in the state of grace, and to gather always more and more treasures, and so become richer and richer for eternity. What a great happiness to be a Christian! But, in order to reign one day royally with Christ in the strength of His Name, we must certainly do something on our part. We must lawfully combat against the powers of darkness, which endeavor to seduce us to deviate from the narrow path of salvation, and walk on the broad and pleasant road of eternal perdition.
In this regard, we must be zealous in overcoming temptation; we must avoid sin, and, with the zeal of the saints, perform good works. But the name Christian reminds us, furthermore, of a series of motives which, if we consider them properly, will inspire us with courage and strength to conquer in this manner victoriously, and to crush the head of the serpent of temptation, thus coming nearer and nearer each day to that perfection at which we all must aim.
I am a Christian, how could I, by sinning, sacrifice the dignity of having been created in the image of God, and every right and title to the triumphant kingdom of Christ in heaven? Never! ah, never! I am a Christian; and as long as I possess within my heart the power to feel, I will utter the triumphant cry: “Depart from me !” and endeavor, by my progress in the path of perfection, to remain close to Christ, and to become always more like unto Him, that He may not be ashamed to call me His brother before all the radiant angels of His heavenly realm.
The Name of Jesus is a holy and sanctifying Name, so also is the name of Christian. It was imparted to us in baptism, whose saving waters cleanse every stain of sin from the soul, and infuse into it the priceless boon of sanctifying grace. As true Christians we shine, as St. Paul assures us, like bright and sparkling torches amid the darkness, which, through idolatry, sins, and crimes of every kind, bury and enchain the nations of the earth.
“Let your light shine, that men may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” These are the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. How earnestly, therefore, should not the consciousness–” I am a Christian “–urge us to the imitation of Christ, and to the utmost solicitude in the momentous affair of our salvation. A martyr of Christ who, in the early ages of Christianity, was dragged before the judge because he was a Christian, gave to all the questions of the pagan judge the unvarying answer: “I am a Christian.” What is your name? “I am a Christian.” What is your occupation? “To be a Christian.”
If I can thus reply with truth, then indeed my salvation is secured; if not, then indeed I am in danger. Ah, yes! a Christian I am, and will ever be! The Name of Jesus is a Name which is full of the sweetest consolation and celestial benediction; so also is the name Christian. It whispers to us to look into the mystery of the Redemption of the world,–the passion and death of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ.
Instructed by Christ's word, encouraged by His example to bear the cross, all troubles lose the appearance of evil, and shine with a lovely light along the way to heaven to increase our joy in the kingdom of eternal reward, if we, with Him, for Him, and through Him, have victoriously endured the trials which He has sent us here on earth. It was this that amazed the heathens, and was so often the means of winning them to confess the truth of our holy faith. What admiration filled them when they beheld how Christians, in the midst of torments, praised and thanked God that He deemed them worthy to testify in this manner their love to Him, and their fidelity to the faith He came to teach. “I am a Christian.” This one thought is a blessed source of consolation. Oh, what joy in the remembrance that we are in possession of a dignity the very name of which is a pledge of security for us for time and eternity!
Well is it for us if, through constant meditation on the above, a true appreciation of this dignity penetrates us. Thus we shall, after a joyfully happy and meritorious life, receive, upon our dying bed, that consolation which St. Teresa experienced when she yielded her pure soul into the hands of the Lord: “I die as a child of the Holy Catholic Church.” Amen!
FEAST OF THE MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, which recalls the Marriage Feast of Cana, was at first chosen as the day on which to honor the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the universal Church. It is on the Wedding Day that the Bridegroom gives His Name to the Bride, and it is the sign that, from that day forward, She belongs to Him alone. The Church, therefore, wishing to honor a Name so precious to Her with a special feast, thought it appropriate to choose the day of the Marriage of Cana. But now She has chosen for the celebration of this august Name, a day closer to the Anniversary on which It was given—after eight days were accomplished, His Name was called Jesus. She leaves, however, the commemoration of the Sacred Nuptials to the Sunday of which it has ever been the glory. (In a Motu Proprio dated October 23, 1913, Pope St. Pius X moved this Feast to the Sunday between January 2-5, or January 2 if none of these days is a Sunday.)
In the Old Covenant, the Name of God inspired fear and awe: nor was the honor of pronouncing it granted to all the children of Israel. We can understand this. God had not yet come down from Heaven to live on earth, and converse with men; He had not yet taken upon Himself our poor nature, and become Man like ourselves; the sweet Name expressive of love and tenderness could not yet be applied to Him.
But when the fullness of time had come—when the mystery of love was about to be made known—then did Heaven send down the Name of Jesus to our earth, as a pledge of the speedy coming of Him Who was to bear it. The Archangel Gabriel said to Mary: Thou shalt call His Name JESUS. Jesus means Savior. How sweet will this Name not be to poor lost man! It seems to link earth to Heaven! No name is so amiable, none is so powerful. Every knee in Heaven, on earth, and in Hell, bows in adoration at hearing this Name! And yet, who can pronounce It, and not feel love spring up within his heart? But we need such a Saint as Bernard, to tell us of the power and sweetness of this Blessed Name. He thus speaks of It in one of his sermons:
“The Name of Jesus is Light, and Food, and Medicine. It is Light, when it is preached to us; It is Food, when we think upon It; It is the Medicine that soothes our pains when we invoke It. Let us say a word on each of these. Tell me, whence came there into the whole world so bright and sudden a light, if not from the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Was it not by the light of this Name that God called us unto His admirable Light? Wherewith being enlightened, and in this light, seeing the Light, we take these words of St. Paul as truly addressed to ourselves: Heretofore you were darkness; but now, light in the Lord.
“Nor is the Name of Jesus Light only; it is also Food. Art thou not strengthened, as often as thou thinkest of this Name? What is there that so feeds the mind of him that meditates upon this Name? What is there that so restores the wearied faculties, strengthens virtue, gives vigor to good and holy habits, and fosters chastity? Every food of the soul is dry, that is not steeped in this unction; it is insipid, if it be not seasoned with this salt. If thou write, I relish not thy writing, unless I read there the Name of Jesus. If thou teach me, or converse with me, I relish not thy words, unless I hear thee say the Name of Jesus. Jesus is honey to the mouth, and music to the ear, and gladness to the heart.
And here are the thoughts of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (who wrote the hymn “Iesu Dulcis Memoria” which is sung today) on the most holy Name of Jesus:
The sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works, and nourishes pure affections. All spiritual food leaves the soul dry, if it contain not that penetrating oil, the Name Jesus. When you take your pen, write the Name Jesus: if you write books, let the Name of Jesus be contained in them, else they will possess no charm or attraction for me; you may speak, or you may reply, but if the Name of Jesus sounds not from your lips, you are without unction and without charm. Jesus is honey in our mouth, light in our eyes, a flame in our heart. This name is the cure for all diseases of the soul. Are you troubled? think but of Jesus, speak but the Name of Jesus, the clouds disperse, and peace descends anew from heaven. Have you fallen into sin? so that you fear death? invoke the Name of Jesus, and you will soon feel life returning. No obduracy of the soul, no weakness, no coldness of heart can resist this holy Name; there is no heart which will not soften and open in tears at this holy name. Are you surrounded by sorrow and danger? invoke the Name of Jesus, and your fears will vanish.
Never yet was human being in urgent need, and on the point of perishing, who invoked this help-giving Name, and was not powerfully sustained. It was given us for the cure of all our ills; to soften the impetuosity of anger, to quench the fire of concupiscence, to conquer pride, to mitigate the pain of our wounds, to overcome the thirst of avarice, to quiet sensual passions, and the desires of low pleasures. If we call to our minds the Name of Jesus, it brings before us His most meek and humble heart, and gives us a new knowledge of His most loving and tender compassion. The Name of Jesus is the purest, and holiest, the noblest and most indulgent of names, the Name of all blessings and of all virtues; it is the Name of the God-Man, of sanctity itself. To think of Jesus is to think of the great, infinite God Who, having given us His life as an example, has also bestowed the necessary understanding, energy and assistance to enable us to follow and imitate Him, in our thoughts, inclinations, words and actions. If the Name of Jesus reaches the depths of our heart, it leaves heavenly virtue there. We say, therefore, with our great master, St. Paul the Apostle: If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.
Pope Innocent xiii. who, in the year 1721, commanded that the most holy name of Jesus should be festively honored throughout the Catholic world, although, a few centuries before this, St. Bernard, with the sanction of the Apostolic See, had esablished the solemn veneration of this most holy name, in his order.
In the Introit of this day's Mass, the Church thus shows the glory of this name: “In the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. ii. 10. 11.) “Lord, our God, how admirable is Thy name in the whole earth!” (Ps. vii. 1.) Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
(From Latin Sources)
(Transferred to the first Sunday after January 1 in countries where this feast is not a Holy Day of Obligation. It will always be displayed on this page, regardless as to when it occurs in the Liturgical Calendar in Ordinary Time. In the future, check with the Liturgical Calendar for Ordinary Time, for that year's actual Feast Date.) This posting is for the year 2020.
Catholicism Did Multiculturalism Before Anyone Else
The Feast of the Epiphany has traditionally been considered more theologically important than almost any other Feast Day, including Christmas. The early Christians had only Scripture, not the wealth of tradition we have today, to guide them in marking the great events of the life of Christ. So Holy Week and Easter, the Baptism of the Lord, Pentecost, and Epiphany jumped off the pages of Scripture as great events which merited celebration. These few dates became fixed points on the calendar and were later surrounded over the centuries with numerous other feasts and saints’ days.
Two lessons from the visit of the Magi are worth considering. The first is that the wise mens’ gifts were given after Christmas. Many Catholic cultures preserve the ancient tradition of giving gifts on the Epiphany, not on Christmas itself. This tradition separates the birth of Christ from gift giving. When these two things—the birth of Christ and the giving of gifts—are collapsed into the same day, it causes some confusion of priorities, and the birth of Christ never wins. Waiting to exchange gifts until January sixth lets the Child God have the stage to Himself for a day. It makes people, especially children, wait, a modern day rarity in the Western world. Gift giving postponed until January sixth makes for a long, leisurely Christmas season and has the benefit of tradition and good theology as well.
Another great lesson from the Magi is more theological—that a true religion must be true for everyone, not just for some people. Truth is not geographical or confined to borders. Truth by its nature conquers untruth. The Magi are the first non Jews, or Gentiles, to worship Christ. They tell us that the mission field of Christ is the whole world, not just the Holy Land. The Church is forever bound, then, to teach, preach, and sanctify the world over. The Magi crack everything open. The true God and His Church must light a fire in Chinese souls, Arab souls, African souls, and South American souls. This may take until the end of time, but Christianity has time on its side. The Magi give personal testimony to the universality of the Church, one of its four marks. The Epiphany is the start of the multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and faith-united society the Catholic Church envisions as the only source of true human unity. Catholicism started multiculturalism and diversity without sacrificing unity and truth.
Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior, your minds were prepared to receive a greater truth. Let us see in you an example of holy curiosity, of pilgrimage by light to light. When you discovered your treasure, you laid your gifts in homage. May our search also find. May our pilgrimage also end in truth followed by love.
(From Latin Sources)
THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
January 6 - Latin Calendar
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany.
Bethlehem! of noblest cities
None can once with thee compare;
Thou alone the Lord from heaven
Didst for us Incarnate bear.
Fairer than the sun at morning
Was the star that told His birth;
To the lands their God announcing,
Hid beneath a form of earth.
By its lambent beauty guided,
See, the Eastern Kings appear;
See them bend, their gifts to offer,
Gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.
Offerings of mystic meaning;
Incense doth the God disclose;
Gold a royal child proclaimeth;
Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.
Holy Jesus! in Thy brightness
to the gentile world displayed!
With the Father and the Spirit,
Endless praise to Thee be paid!
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
“We have seen His star, and are come to adore Him.”–Matt, ii, 2.
The festival of the Epiphany, also called the Feast of the Holy Three Kings, is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church of God; and from the very earliest ages was celebrated with special rejoicing by the children of the Catholic Church. We find the cause for this in the fact that this feast is associated with the remembrance of the greatest graces in which the faithful in every nation of the earth rejoice,–namely, their call to the only saving faith, the holy Catholic Church.
We learn from sacred history, that in the early days of Christianity this feast was celebrated with greater solemnity even than Christmas, the birthday of our Lord himself; for as the Church exclaims in her joy on Holy Saturday: “Of what use would it be for us to be born if we had not been made partakers of the benefits of redemption?” So might we cry out: “Of what use to us would it be to possess all the goods and pleasures of the world, if the grace of being called to the true faith had not been granted to us through the mercy of God?”
The three kings with their attendants, prostrate at the feet of the Infant Jesus, were the firstlings of the heathens who acknowledged Jesus, and entered His Church. As we reflect upon the great happiness vouchsafed to them, the question forces itself upon us: “Why do not all nations likewise enjoy a participation in their happiness?” My answer is: “Because they do not look upward with the same love of truth to the star of the Magi;” and this, as I understand it, I will explain today.
O Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, Mother of the King of kings, obtain for us, from your divine Son, hearts deeply penetrated with the love of truth! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!
Christ, before whom the three Magi knelt, calls himself the King of Truth. He calls His kingdom, the Church, a kingdom of truth; consequently, whosoever will enter His kingdom, and find therein salvation must love truth and seek it; then he will find it, follow it, and through its influence attain salvation. It was thus that the hearts of the Magi were disposed; therefore they learned to know Jesus and the truth contained in His Church, to live in her spirit, propagate the kingdom of Christ, and at last to enter the realm of His glory.
They saw the star, knew its signification, and followed it. Why? They loved truth. Had not this been the case, the annunciation of the birth of our Saviour through the star would not have excited so much interest in them. Had they not loved truth more than the goods and pleasures of this world, which, as crowned heads, they possessed in abundance, they would not have undertaken, at the cost of so much self-sacrifice, to seek for Christ. But they were more interested in obtaining the truth of salvation, in beholding the coming Teacher of nations, in learning to honor and adore Him, than in all the treasures of the world. Their resolution to search for Him was sublimely heroic.
If their eagerness for knowledge of heavenly things had not existed to so great a degree in their hearts, they might have thought within themselves: “It is well that He is born; He will surely arrange to come to us to teach us, or He will send some one else in His place. Besides, He is still a child, and can not converse with us, wherefore, then, should we undertake a journey connected with so many difficulties, and, perhaps, expose ourselves to the derision and mockery of the people of Jerusalem, to whom, it may be, the star did not appear?” All these circumstances, however, were of no weight with the three Magi, in whom eager desire and ardent love overpowered all other considerations, and they entered upon their journey.
The three sages searched for truth with assiduity and fearlessness. “Where is He who is to be born the King of the Jews?” Thus they inquired, full of confidence that their search would be rewarded, let the population of Jerusalem think what they would; let them mock and ridicule; did they but know the name of the place where the Messiah was to be born, according to the declaration of the prophets, they would find the way thereto, even if they could gain no companions for the journey, which it would seem was eventually the case, as they left Jerusalem alone. The star again appeared, and remained over the place wherein Mary abode with the child. They fall down before the divine Infant, and oh! with what joyful sentiments of adoration, love, and gratitude do they offer Him their homage! But, on the other hand, how graciously did the new-born babe bless them, and replenish their hearts with the power and unction of His grace; how did it strengthen them in their resolution to follow His inspirations, to live and die for Him, and to spread His kingdom among their people all over the earth!
The three Magi searched for the truth, found it, and returned, obedient to the admonition of an angel, by another road to their respective homes, thus to escape the snares of Herod, and to fulfill the will of God. It was thus, that these first fruits of faith in countries over which the dark cloud of heathenism still rested, gave the example unto all the children of men, how to know Christ and to enter heaven. And what is the reason that, up to this time, this was not done in such a manner as the mercy of God intended, for the evils of all mankind?
I answer by the assertion that love for truth is, in general, rare among men. They love darkness better than light,–delusion, which flatters them, more than the truth, which points to the exercise of duty, which teaches the spirit of Christian self-denial, which inspires contempt of human consideration, united with that fidelity which assures for us perseverance unto the end.
The gospel for today affirms that Herod, and with him all Jerusalem, was terrified at the message of the three Magi, that the Saviour, the King and Deliverer of the human race, was born. Herod was afraid, and trembled lest he should lose his throne. The scribes and Pharisees also, those whitened sepulchers of evil, as Christ called them, instead of rejoicing, were filled with alarm; for they felt, and truly, that the promised Messiah would penetrate their interior, and censure their hypocrisy and malice.
The people principally imitate those who have the power to govern or command them, and generally yield to the stronger will of men whose knowledge is superior to their own. They also felt disappointed, because they expected an earthly Messiah, who would elevate them to be the mightiest nation in the world, and endow them with all temporal advantages, riches, and pleasures. Yet now they hear He has entered this world without His advent being perceived, and, whilst the scribes remain in entire ignorance of His birth, men in the East are said to have seen His star, which nevertheless was not beheld by a single person in Jerusalem.
Love for truth was lacking in those who thus expressed themselves, and, therefore, they remained incredulous and indifferent, and did not even trouble themselves so far as to guide or direct the Magi to the vicinity of Bethlehem; nay, they probably regarded them as visionaries and dreamers. Behold here, as in a mirror, the character of the infidel, especially of those who, with premeditation, become infidels,–who, although born of Catholic parents, and brought up in the Church of God, later on, play the infidel, and pretend to waver in faith.
Such do not love truth, but the desire of their hearts is to find out what might make them rich and happy in this world. As regards their duties towards God–that is, with respect to religion–the generality of men are satisfied to live and die in that belief in which they were born, and do not inquire whether their religion is really the true religion.
Yes, a great portion, particularly of the so-called learned men, are afraid to recognize the truth, that they may not feel urged to confess and live according to its precepts. And, since they know that the word of truth condemns their sinful actions, and threatens them with terrible chastisements from God, they hate it, and wish that they could totally extirpate the kingdom of Christ on earth. If they, at times, arrive at the conviction that all their endeavors in this regard are Fruitless,–and if, at certain times, the voice of conscience whispers loudly that the threatenings of the Lord might one day be verified in them on account of their infidelity, then, in secret, like Herod, they tremble, and a fear, which for the time can not be stilled, fastens upon their souls.
Certainly they endeavor to appear, with all this, entirely different from what they are, and, therefore, become hypocrites, as Herod was. They assume the appearance of respecting God and His commands, Christ and His doctrines, but their actions do not correspond with their demeanor, for they persecute the Church with the direct intention to destroy her. Thereat they are filled with the suspicion which terrified the heart of Herod, that the Church would be dangerous to their plans. This is especially the case with rulers of the present day and with infidel politicians, although the experiences of the nineteenth century should long ago have opened their eyes, and forced them to see that the Holy Church not alone in spiritual, but in temporal affairs, exercises a most beneficial influence upon the state. They think to conquer by their cunning, just as Herod thought, but God's providence brings them to disgrace. I point especially to one propensity in the character of Herod, a fit type of this worthy class. He became a tyrant, and committed infanticide.
This also resembles, especially in our days, the conduct of the enemies of the truths of faith. Such men, if they succeed in grasping the reins of government, proceed to persecution, and as they are endowed with an evil prudence, they recognize that nothing can promote their ideas better than to pervert the Catholic youth to their dangerous ideas, and seek to destroy in their hearts the life of holy faith. Therefore their solicitude to impede the influence of the Church in the education of youth, with which that infanticide, of which Herod was guilty, is not to be compared.
Herod benefited the souls of the Holy Innocents against their will, whilst the Herods in our days corrupt the youth and destroy their souls. What crime! Therefore, children of the Church, thank God for your call to the only true Church–to the holy faith! Like the Magi, love the truth with all sincerity of heart. This disposition of heart is a pledge of victory over Lucifer, the “liar from the beginning.” Hold every-where and always to this maxim of life: ” Defend truth, and it will defend you and save you through Jesus Christ, the incarnate truth.”–Amen!
After the three Magi had first knelt in adoration and paid their homage to the new-born King of kings, they opened their treasures; and, according to Holy Writ, offered Him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
At the annual recurrence of this feast, beloved in Christ, the meditation upon its mystery points to three circumstances which principally and powerfully attract our attention, namely: the star, the Infant (to whom it led), the three Magi, and the nature of their offering. Each of these three circumstances has its deep significance; and this year we shall especially consider the gifts of the three Magi, and the nature of their offering.
This consideration, beyond doubt, deserves a particular place, since the feast itself signifies the call of all nations to the Church of Christ. This call, which is most intimately connected with the salvation of our souls, pre-supposes that we have not only the happiness of being exteriorly called to the true Church of Christ, but that we also, as her faithful children, live truly in the spirit which animates her. But that our lives, as Catholics, may be indeed modeled according to the Church, the character of the gifts must be expressed in our Christian conduct. I will prove this today, and that through the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which symbolize the virtues which we must practise.
O Mary, you who, with the warmest feelings of thanks, accepted the gifts which the three Magi offered to your Divine Child, look graciously upon that which we are resolved ,to offer to Him. I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!
The general signification of the feast which we celebrate today is well known to us, as also its importance for the salvation of our souls, because of our call to the true faith. Let us, therefore, from the depths of our grateful hearts, pour forth our ardent thanks for this priceless benefit, which has been granted to us in preference to millions and millions; yes, we have been called to the only true and saving faith before those nations whose people, during the long course of centuries, have lived and died in the darkness of error. But let us not forget the warning of the Lord. “From him to whom much has been given much will be required.”
And do not let us forget, beloved in Christ, that St. James cries out to us: “You believe: the devil believes, too; but show your faith by your works.” Christ assures us: “That the children of the house shall be cast out into extreme darkness.” From this it is evident that we must not only believe, but also live according to the faith; and such a life, I will not conceal from you, must bear the character of sacrifice, as every thing in the whole order of salvation clearly proves. It was decreed, by the eternal God, that man was to be redeemed and saved; and this by the bitter sacrifice which Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, offered. His whole life bore the character of sacrifice, and He terminated it by the sacrificial death of the cross.
He offered it already on the eve of His passion, at the Last Supper, in an unbloody manner, to His heavenly Father; and so instituted the Sacrifice of the New Law, which characterizes and includes the entire divine service of Holy Church. Sacrifice, considered in general, is the highest act of divine worship, as is shown by its usage even among the heathens. So much the more necessary, then, is it, that, in the New Law, divine worship must leave its impress and character in the life of every child of God, in imitation of our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Those whom God has predestined to glory, He has also chosen to become like unto our Lord and Saviour, as we are most expressly assured by the Apostle of the Gentiles. The character of the life of Jesus was essentially one of sacrifice. He cries out to all mankind: “He who will follow Me, let him take up his cross and deny himself,” which signifies that our whole life must be one of self-denial, and, therefore, of constant sacrifice. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that we be thoroughly penetrated by this truth. The spirit of the Gospel is arrayed in opposition to that of the world; and the character of the life of a worldling to that of a true Christian.
The character of the worldling is to enjoy himself in the fullest sense of the word; to plunge recklessly into pleasures' giddy maze; to satisfy every desire; to accomplish all his projects. This is the creed of the child of the world; while St. Paul, on the contrary, cries out to us, in a far different spirit: “Those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its evil desires.” They are living burnt-offerings of the Lord, and their rule of life may be summed up in the following words: “Lord, I am Thine, with all that I am and I have; all is dedicated and offered for Thy greater glory.”
It must be so, and can not be otherwise; for we can serve God only in the spirit of self-denial and self-immolation, since, by the fall of our first parents, the law of the flesh and concupiscence have been firmly implanted in our members in opposition to the law of the Spirit. Therefore, since all who desire to belong to Christ have to live in this spirit of sacrifice, St. Peter calls the Christians, “A priestly people”; and those who finish their lives in this spirit will one day rejoice in heaven; for St. John declares: “Thou hast made of us kings and priests.”
But if, in the second place, you inquire what are really the most proper and special gifts which, as children of the Church we are bound to offer, they are symbolized by the gifts of the three holy kings. They offered to the Infant Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I apply these gifts to our understanding, will, and heart, which are dedicated to God, and offered through our faith, as children of the Church, through our hope and our love.
This oblation of the life of a true Christian possesses, indeed, and that in the highest degree, the qualities which characterize a sacrifice in the service of God as an oblation of praise, thanksgiving, and expiation. I prove this through the following remarks: Man is, according to his nature, intellect, will, and heart.
The intellect is the power of the soul, by which we know the reality of things, and the relation which they bear toward one another. This faculty of the soul man offers to his God and Creator through holy faith; for holy faith places before him the truths which are above his comprehension. He believes them to be true only in consideration of the infallible truth, which is God Himself speaking to us by the mouth of the infallible Church. He believes these revealed truths, although they contradict the senses, and man should, by force of intellect, be utterly unable to penetrate them, or to prove them. This act, therefore, is an oblation of the intellect, and a magnificent and precious oblation it is. It is by faith, among other acts, that we honor God–the genuine coin or test-metal between true and false currency.
The will of man is, according to its nature, free. Naturally its desires tend toward the possession and enjoyment of that which is earthly; but the power of holy hope imparts to it the wish to aim after “the things which are above.” It draws man gently on to the resolution to yield his will to nothing whatsoever which is of “the earth, earthly”; but only to fulfill the will of God, who will reward our obedience and our fidelity with eternal bliss. This oblation is symbolized by the frankincense, whose sweet odor ascends toward heaven.
Our hearts feel and love, and naturally incline, toward creatures–toward other hearts. The power of love toward God effects that man loves God above all things,–every thing else he loves only in God and for God; and, that he may one day rejoice in the eternal possession of God, he joyfully resolves, in the fervor of his love, to sacrifice every thing in this world to overcome all difficulties which are an obstacle to the love of God. Yes, in the heat of this love, he desires even to sever the closest and tenderest bonds of friendship and nature.
This oblation is symbolized by myrrh, for no one is able to lead such a life without feeling, in regard to earthly things, and in the combat of the interior, the bitterness of self-sacrifice.
In this disposition, the faithful, hoping, and loving soul praises and thanks God unceasingly by her life, which is dedicated and immolated to the Lord. Well may we rejoice if we in truth have a right to declare before Christ, with St. Ignatius: “Take, O Lord, all my liberty, my intellect, my memory, and my entire will. All that I am and that I have, I have from Thee. I give and offer it all to Thee again. Give me only Thy love and Thy grace, and I am rich enough.”
Such is the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh of our dedication and oblation to Him, the Triune God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Homily of St. Gregory the Great
Dearly beloved: As you have heard in the Gospel lesson, an earthly king was troubled when the King of Heaven was born. Earthly greatness is thus brought to confusion when the Majesty of Heaven appears. But, we ask, why is it, pray, that at the Redeemer's birth an angel appeared to the shepherds in Judea, while from the east, the Magi were led to adore Him, not by an angel, but by a star? The reason would appear to be this. To the Jews, as creatures possessing the use of reason, a reasoning being, that is an angel, speaks. The Gentiles, who do not seem to possess the use of reason, are not led to the knowledge of the Lord by a voice, but rather, by a sign. Hence, St. Paul says: Prophecies are given to believers not to unbelievers; and signs to unbelievers not to believers. Therefore the prophecies were given to the Jews, as to believers, and not unbelievers, whereas to the Gentiles, as to unbelievers, and not believers, signs were given.
Note further! It was the Apostles who preached the Redeemer–after He had reached His age of perfection–to those same Gentiles, even as a star, and not human voices proclaimed Him to the nations when He was an Infant, too young to speak. Surely common sense demands that the tongues of men should proclaim the Lord and His teaching, even as voiceless elements proclaimed Him before He had begun to speak. With all the signs which point to the birth and death of the Lord, consider how stony were the hearts of those Jews who would know Him neither through prophecies nor through miracles.
All elements in nature testified that their Creator had come. Let me indicate them in our everyday fashion. The heavens knew that He was God, for they sent a star to herald Him. The sea knew Him, for it bore up His feet upon it. The earth knew Him, and trembled when He died. The sun knew Him, and hid his light. The stones and walls knew Him, and were rent at His death. Hell knew Him, and gave up its dead. All the insensible elements of nature knew Him, but even up to this minute the hearts of the unbelieving Jews will not recognize Him as God, and–more hard than rock–will not be rent in penitence.
Homily of St. Augustine
Our Lord Jesus Christ, dearly beloved, Who from eternity is the Creator of all things, today, being born of a mother, has become for us a Savior. Today, of His own will, He is born for us in time, that he might lead us to eternal life in the Father. God is made man that man might be God. Today is the Lord of Angels become man, that man might eat the Bread of Angels.
Today is fulfilled that prophecy: Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. He Who had made others was Himself made that He might save those Who would perish. For in the psalm man confesses: Before I was humbled, I sinned. Man sinned and became guilty; the God-Man is born that He might deliver the guilty. Man indeed fell, but God descended. Man fell miserably, God descended mercifully. Man fell through pride, God descended with grace.
O miracle! O marvel! My brethren. The laws of nature are changed in man. God is born. A virgin conceives without knowing man; the Word of God weds her who knows not man. At one and the same time she is both mother and virgin–she becomes a mother, yet is undefiled. The Virgin bears a Son, yet knows not man. She is inviolate, but not barren. He alone is born without sin; the son born apart from the cooperation of man, conceived not in the concupiscence of the flesh, but through obedience of the virgin's soul.
For families who practice traditions involving “the Magi” or “La Befana” leaving gifts for children, the day begins with the wee ones discovering what was left for them while they slept on Twelfth Night.
At today's Mass, there will be a blessing of gold, frankincense, myrrh, Epiphany Water, and, after Communion, a blessing of chalk. Bring small special items of gold to have with you during the Mass, and they will be blessed if they are exposed as you sit in your pew with them (wedding rings, rosaries, an heirloom piece of gold jewelry, for example).
When Mass is over, you will take some of the blessed chalk, frankincense, myrrh, and Epiphany Water home with you, so it's good to bring a container to transport Holy Water and one to put some grains of incense and a piece of chalk into. (Note: if you can, take and keep 5 pieces of blessed incense for your Paschal Candle this Easter),
When you get home, sprinkle some Epiphany water (otherwise and afterwards used as regular Holy Water) in the rooms of your house to protect it and bring blessings. This Holy Water recalls the waters of the Jordan, and is a visible reminder of Christ's Divinity, of Jesus's revealing Himself as God at His Baptism, when were heard the words from the Father: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” This rite of blessing the home — led by a priest, if possible, or the father of the house if no priest is available — goes like this:
Upon entering the house:
Peace be to this house.
And to all who dwell herein.
From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incensed.
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him. He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.
After this is completed:
From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead and lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
All they from Saba shall come
Bringing gold and frankincense.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.
Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee– Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.
And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.
Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, walk through the house and bless each room by sprinkling with Epiphany water and incensing it.
Take the blessed chalk and first write the initials of the three Wise Men, connected with Crosses, over the inside of your front door (on the lintel, if possible). Then write the year, breaking up the numbers and the year so that they fall on both sides of the initials. It should look like this, for ex.:
20 C+M+B 20
with the “20 “being the millennium and century, the “C” standing for the first Wise Man, Caspar, the “M” standing for Melchior, the “B” standing for Balthasar, and the “20” standing for the decade and year. It is also popularly believed that the Kings' initials also stand for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (“Christ bless this house”).
Note that some write the first Wise Man's name as “Gaspar,” “Kasper,” or “Jaspar,” so the initials would be “G+M+B” or “K+M+B” or “J+M+B.” In any case, these initials over our doorway serve to remind us of Who the Magi saw and how they saw Him. They remind us to adore Him as they did. The chalk markings remain over the door 'til Pentecost.
It is a popular custom among some people that all who enter or re-enter their home for the first time after the blessing should step with their right foot across the threshold so as to start things off “on the right foot.”
It is customary in some religious orders to choose a new patron Saint today for the coming year. Families can do this, too, choosing a new Saint by designating someone (e.g., father or mother, etc.) to select the new Patron, by determining by lots who will select the new patron, by having family members write down their choices and choosing at random, by allowing the person to choose who presents the best argument for a particular Patron, etc. It would be very beneficial if the person who chooses teaches the rest of the family about that particular Patron, perhaps looking up the Saint in Butler's works, finding art work depicting the Saint, etc., and sharing it.