I know that Epiphany was celebrated this past Sunday in the States, but traditionally (and still on the Traditional Calendar) the feast day is on January 6! It is a beautiful feast day full of Christian meaning and it is actually the climax of Christmas. That means. . . that tonight is Twelfth Night, and the night when the Three Kings (representative of all nations, all humanity) arrived to prostrate themselves before the Savior.
In many countries, gift exchanges are done on this feast day, hence the reason for the gift-giving tradition. I remember growing up this was always a day to look forward to. In Hispanic countries the kids leave out some water and hay for the camels the night before to have as they travel on their way to see baby Jesus. (I am definitely going to continue this tradition.)
Last Sunday our pastor gave the most beautiful homily on the significance of this feast, and I took some notes to share. I’m sorry there’s no fluidity to it all, but I hope the ideas are clear.
Epiphany means the manifestation of God to the world, and we commemorate it in three events.
- The feast of the Three Kings, (also known as Epiphany)- the Word was made flesh for all humanity.
- Baptism of Our Lord- the voice and the Spirit in the form of a dove.
- The wedding feast at Cana- the first miracle of the water turned to wine. How beautiful that it was at a wedding!
It’s beautiful to see the closeness of our Lord with us. This closeness is like the one found in the marriage between a man and a woman. It is the closest human relationship possible, because it is one of mutual giving and self-surrender in complete love and trust. The relationship between the Church and its members is the same. The three manifestations help us realize it’s the same close relationship God wants to have with each soul. And this cannot happen without the Church.
Christ is the bridegroom, and the Church, his bride. As Catholics, we belong to the Church, and that bond between the Church and Christ is a bond of sanctity and grace through the Sacraments. Christ wants to be united with each one of our souls, therefore a relationship should always be developing in us with Him.
- Gold- Jesus is King, so they offer a valuable gift. Gold is symbolic of love. We offer God the greatest gift we can: devoted love.
- Frankincense- Incense has been used from antiquity. It represents the sweet smell of worship of God. Unfortunately the use of incense is at the lowest in Roman Catholic history. It is symbolic of prayer and devotion. As the smoke rises up, we need to be conscious of our prayer and devotion rising to Heaven.
- Myrrh- In ancient days, it was used to anoint the body after death. It is the recognition on the part of the Magi that the child, while God, was also man, and that He, too, would one day die. Spiritually, myrrh is symbolic of conformity to His will because it entails a sacrifice on our behalf.
The relationship of God with us is like a marriage- constant, pervasive and persevering. Through love, prayer, devotion and through conformity to His will we should always be developing our relationship with Him.
It was such a great homily! The season of Christmas ends on the Monday after the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, which signifies the purification of the world, through Christ himself. . . so our Christmas décor and spirit is still up and thriving!
And just for fun, I looked this up and had to share.
Source: Fr. Hal Stockert
Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law – private OR public. [. . . ]
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith [. . . ] The song’s gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The “true love” mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so…”
The other symbols mean the following:
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed
Let’s continue to live the spirit Christmas through all these meaningful feasts and symbols of the season for the last few days of this season!