Sunday, Jan. 8, is Epiphany Sunday in the United States. The Baptism of the Lord, a solemnity, will be celebrated on Monday, Jan. 9.
Pope Benedict XVI, along with most of the Church worldwide, will celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord on Jan. 6, a Friday. The Pope will celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday, Jan. 8.
Each year on the Baptism of the Lord Sunday, Pope Benedict baptizes children in the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy offers a helpful compendium of popular pious practices for many feasts, including Epiphany.
1. For Mass, it recommends “the solemn proclamation of Easter and the principal dominical feasts.” Many priests, including the Benedictine monks here in Atchison, have revived this practice “to make the connection between the Epiphany and Easter and orientate all feasts towards the greatest Christian solemnity.” Do a video search of “Epiphany proclamation” to find examples.
2. Exchange of Epiphany gifts: “Ensure that the exchange of gifts on the Solemnity of the Epiphany retain a Christian character, indicating that its meaning is evangelical. Hence, the gifts offered should be a genuine expression of popular piety and free from extravagance, luxury and waste, all of which are extraneous to the Christian origins of this practice.”
3. Epiphany house blessing. In this house blessing, says the Vatican, “On the lintels are inscribed the cross of salvation, together with the indication of the year and the initials of the three Wise Men (C+M+B), which can also be interpreted to mean Christus mansionem benedicat [May Christ bless this home], written in blessed chalk.” To find aids for this brief ceremony, search online for: “Epiphany house blessing.”
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
The birth of the Savior had been announced by prophets, heralded by angels, and accompanied by the sign of a giant star in the sky.
Jesus has come into our midst. His presence among us could not be more obvious. The wisest men of history have told us about him, the Catholic faith has explained him to us, and Christmas is a huge, dazzling display that points to him.
Those who make Christ the most important thing in their lives are better for it. They become freer because they gain the knowledge and courage needed to make right choices. They become happier because they are better able to appreciate everything they have and experience deeper peace, even amid suffering. People with a deeper relationship with Christ also have deeper, more joyful relationships with each other.
We can take courage from Joseph and Mary. Joseph and Mary were in a seemingly hopeless situation. The world didn’t help them. The political power was against them.
In the Epiphany, they were in an anonymous room away from home, harboring the Christ Child from a king who wanted to murder him. All seemed lost.
But Christ’s quiet presence was enough to weather all the storms and win every battle necessary, and God sent them support from far away.
In our own time, the world’s power seeks to destroy the Christ Child’s presence in our culture.
But by resting in his quiet presence, we can stay close to him and be certain that he will win out in our day, too.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.