Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Epiphany - a reflection on the Feast and Star

Today, in both the modernist and traditional rite and calendar of the Church, it is the Feast or Solemnity of the Epiphany or "Manifestation" of the Lord. That is, unless it has been transferred to a Sunday with the absurdity of being as early as January 2 or as late, as it will be next year, as January 7, after the actual date. Talk about an "external solemnity." When Christmas is on a Tuesday, at least we celebrate on the same day/date.

There is so much that can be said about this feast theologically, historically and liturgically. 

From the Office 

The Antiphon to the Benedictus in Morning Prayer, or Lauds, is:

Hódie  cælésti sponso iuncta est Ecclésia, quóniam in Iordáne lavit Christus eius crímina; currunt cum munéribus magi ad regáles núptias; et ex aqua facta vino lætántur convívæ, allelúia.
And at Evening Prayer, or Vespers, the Antiphon to the Magnificat is:
Tribus miráculis ornátum diem sanctum cólimus: hódie stella magos duxit ad præsépium; hódie vinum ex aqua factum est ad núptias; hódie in Iordáne a Ioánne Christus baptizári vóluit, ut salváret nos, allelúia.

As we examine these Antiphons, we note that the Baptism of the Lord at the Jordan River and the changing of water into wine at the Marriage Feast of Cana are mentioned. The Early Church celebrated the Epiphany as a great Feast, second only to Easter, which makes the loss of it today in the nervous and disordered liturgy and calendar when transferred and not a Holy Day of Obligation, an even greater loss to the people and to the Faith. Our forefathers believed that these three epiphanies or manifestations all occurred on the same calendared date the appropriate years apart. This is apocryphal, of course, but it does show how important liturgy and order was and is to the Church and how far we have fallen from it. 

More manifestations

The great hymn written in 1862 by Christopher Wordsworth - Songs of Thankfulness and Praise refers to these manifestations.  

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise,
manifested by the star
to the sages from afar;
branch of royal David's stem
in thy birth at Bethlehem;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan's stream,
Prophet, Priest and King supreme;
and at Cana, wedding guest,
in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in power divine,
changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
palsied limbs and fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight,
quelling all the devil's might;
manifest in gracious will,
ever bringing good from ill;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Sun and moon shall darkened be,
stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
all will see his glorious sign;
all will then the trumpet hear,
all will see the Judge appear;
thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
mirrored in thy holy Word;
may we imitate thee now,
and be pure, as pure art thou;
that we like to thee may be
at thy great Epiphany;
and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in man made manifest.

Here it is sung by the Choir of St. John's Episcopal Community in Detroit. Note that notwithstanding their heresy and schism, liturgically they are singing it on the "Second Sunday after Epiphany!" How sad that they get this more than our Catholic priests, musicians and liturgical terrorists. 

Yet, not just the baptism and wedding but also the curing of the lame and the casting out of demons. In the unchanging lectionary of the Roman Missal of 1962, unchanged since the 6th century until the liturgical terrorists of 1970 decided they knew better, these readings followed the immediate Sundays after Epiphany. The First Sunday after Epiphany which became Holy Family Sunday, still did not change the Gospel, the finding of Jesus in the Temple. It was also a "manifestation" in this case of the Lord manifested in the Temple before the Elders. The whole season after Epiphany up to the Gesima Sundays was along this them of manifestation and revealing the Lord through His miracles and his mission to the world. Sadly, it exists only in bits and pieces in the new three-year lectionary. The Second Sunday contains the Gospel of the Wedding Feast at Cana, The Third Sunday is the Curing of the Leper (palsied limbs) and the Centurion's prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof..." and the curing of his beloved servant. In this Gospel, the Lord also says that the children "of the kingdom" of Israel shall be "cast out into the darkness" -- something to keep in mind regarding the Vatican's ridiculous non-magisterial statement about the Church not having a mission to convert the Jews to Christ! The Fourth Sunday is the manifestation of the Lord's power to calm the seas in the boat with His apostles. As we approach these Sundays, they are often transferred to the end of the year with the advent of the Gesima Sundays which this year begin on January 24 with Easter being very early, on March 24.

Referring again to the belief that these three manifestations occurred on the same date and it was believed to be, our January 6, reveals another little example of how the liturgy is not always reasonably chronological as in an Octave perhaps or Eastertide, but also theological and historical. We have, twelve days after the Nativity, the visit of the Wise Men from the East and the manifestation of Our Lord to the Gentiles. We decorate the crèche. of course with the Magi, as it tells the whole story of Nativity and Manifestation.

Yet, in a few weeks, on February 2, we will have Candlemas, the Presentation of Our Lord, and another manifestation, in the Temple when Blessed Mary underwent her Purification according to the Jewish ritual. We know that immediately after the visit of the Magi, they were warned by an Angel of God to return to their lands through another way due to Herod's rage and plan to kill the Child. We also know that St. Joseph was warned to "Take the Child and His Mother and flee to Egypt." How does this correspond then with the Epiphany coming liturgically before Purification? In fact, it shows us that the celebration of the manifestations may have indeed occurred on the same date but that Magi visited Our Lord when he was a toddler, not an infant. If Our Lord's nativity was indeed on December 25, and there is much evidence that it was, then he was just over a year old. We know that Herod slaughtered all infants under two, after consulting about the time "the Child was born." Logically, they could not have journeyed from their lands to  Bethlehem in twelve days. Further, they visited the Holy Family, in a "house" not the cave and manger. It is likely then that the Holy Family remained in Bethlehem for a period. Joseph probably found work in his useful trade as a carpenter which would have been a builder of many things, not just of wood bus also of metal. He was skilled and an upright man and provider and he would have quickly sought to provide an abode for Mary and the Holy Child to get them out of the cave and manger. We can imagine, for a moment, as a man, a husband and entrusted by God as the earthly father of Jesus, how distressing it must have been for St. Joseph to be in an abode for animals. 

Octave of the Epiphany

Prior to the 1962 Roman Missal, there was an Octave of the Epiphany. It was tragically removed and of course, was not restored in the Novus Ordo which also banished the Octave of Pentecost. Both of these should be returned to both Forms of the Roman Rite. Yet, interestingly, the liturgy this week in the Ordinary Form lectionary Responsorial Psalms and Alleluias where the transfer of Epiphany has been to Sunday, all contain the Epiphany elements - a recognition of the long-lost Octave.

Father Z commented recently on the Star of Bethlehem video by a devout, non-Catholic, Christian, Rick Larsen (may he be brought fully to the faith). Using a computer program called Starry Night, he researches the night sky by going back in time to see how the stars and constellations were lined up at the time of Our Lord's birth. It is fascinating, though discounting of the star being an "angel" or "pillar of fire" or some other miracle. It conflicts with the view of some Church Fathers that the star was within the atmosphere not so much an "astronomical" event because all heavenly bodies, even a comet or a bright planet such as Venus, were referred to as stars. Still, it makes fascinating consideration of this great Feast and Solemnity of the Epiphany, though I would say "potentially scientifically proven."

At the end of the video is something just as profound. The exact, logical calculation of the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 


Murray said...

We use Bishop Lahey's wretched CBW III in our cathedral parish, and the Laheyized version of this hymn is one of the most egregious examples of his gender-neutralizing fervor--though, to be fair, it has plenty of competition. The final line of every stanza has been changed to avoid the dreaded m-word, so that we are asked to sing, in order:

God in flesh made manifest...

God on earth made manifest...

And finally, worst of all:

God in us made manifest

Not only does the Laheyized hymn discard the appealing wordplay of God in man made manifest, but the final alteration seems to border on the heretical. Tony Esolen takes on the Lahey version here.

Oh, and Happy Epiphany, Vox!

Vox Cantoris said...

Ah yes. Good old Lahey, he was after all, just one of the girls. Filthy pervert and his child porn and ten year sodomite boy.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Easter (Pascha) falls on Mar. 27th. The Feast of the Annunciation falls on Good Friday this year. It's transferred on the Latin calendar, but on the Byzantine Catholic calendar we will have both. (Our Lord couldn't die for us on the Cross unless He had a human nature, which He assumed when Our Lady gave Her consent to the Incarnation).