“Know, dear brethren, that, as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so by leave of God’s mercy we announce to you also the joy of His Resurrection, who is our Savior.
On the 13th of February will fall Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the feast of the most sacred Lenten Season.
On the 31st of March, you will celebrate with joy Easter Day, the Paschal feast of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On the 9th of May will be the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
On the 19th of May, the feast of Pentecost.
On the 2nd of June, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
On the 1st of December, the First Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
The Church assigns the liturgical feasts their dates on Epiphany. Why? First, because Epiphany is the first great feast of the new calendar year. But more importantly, because it through the Epiphany that the world first recognized the divine majesty of Jesus. God becoming man will not save us, if we do not recognize Him as our Savior. Half the world, it seems, knows of Jesus Christ but ignores him. The Magi, representing the peoples of the entire world, find Jesus and submit themselves to Him with gifts and prostrations. Epiphany is actually a triple feast, commemorating also Jesus’ miracle at Cana, where he first revealed his glory, and Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, where the Father proclaimed his divine authority to all the world: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
The Twelfth Day
By God’s grace, the 6th of January this year falls on a Sunday, and so we can celebrate Epiphany on its proper day, on the “Twelfth day of Christmas.” We earnestly pray that Epiphany will soon be restored to its proper date and all Catholics will attend this great liturgical feast, even if it does not fall on a Sunday. On the twelfth day of Christmas, Jesus receives gifts from the Magi, and the Magi receive the great gift of seeing the face of God. St. Matthew tells us that the Magi were “overjoyed” at seeing the star, not only because it was a beautiful star, but because its beauty led them to the Savior. When they found Jesus and his Mother, they forgot all about the star. They prostrated themselves and did homage to the King of Kings, who made all the stars. A common mistake is that of paying more attention to the stars—sport stars, movie stars, political stars—than the Creator and Lord of the stars. My mind may wander at Mass, but it is glued to the TV screen when my favorite basketball star is making his three-pointer.
A Light shines in the darkness
The preface of the Mass often pinpoints the core mystery of a liturgical feast. Today’s preface describes Epiphany in these words: “When your Only begotten Son appeared in the substance of our mortality, he repaired us by the new light of his immortality” (my translation from the Latin). Simply unveiling his divine face—by shining his “new” light upon us, Christ remakes us. The magi saw this light radiating from the baby’s face and it transformed them. Think of how a child’s smile can disarm us. Now think what it must’ve been for the Magi, the shepherds, St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to look into the face of Jesus. If only Herod would have looked into the baby’s face! The pro-life movement most effectively changes hearts when it simply shows the face of the child to those who promote abortion.
Mother Teresa once picked up a man from the gutter, covered with worms. She carried him to her home for the dying and looked into his face. He looked up at her with a radiant smile and said, “I have lived like an animal, but I die like an angel.” Simply by shining on us, Christ’s light restores our humanity. No darkness can overcome it. The revelation of that unconquerable light is essential to our faith, such that the traditional form of the Roman Rite repeats it after every Mass in the so-called Last Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” Who knows what new forms of darkness this year might bring? Yet we begin this year with an unshakable faith in the Light that cannot be overcome, the light streaming from Christ’s sacred face, the light reflected in the face of his Holy Mother, and all who join him in his saving mission. This light will not be overcome.