Today, we celebrate the great feast of the Epiphany when Jesus is revealed to the nations as king, prophet and priest to the entire world. Church tradition has it that there were three Magi (or Wise Men, or Astrologers) all of whom were pagans and of royal and foreign lineage, who searched out the new-born King of the Jews. No doubt, they were completely surprised to find this King in a manger surrounded by the poor of the countryside, or perhaps with Mary and Joseph alone with him. But the Church has called these Magi, Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, saints because they accepted the great gift of God in the child Jesus, and their lives were forever changed. Yes, they are honored as saints, whereas the great king of the time in Israel, Herod, is noted with infamy because he did not accept such a gift.
Perhaps today you also, as I did, bless your home by scratching the following with a piece of chalk over the lintel of your home’s door:
reciting these words as you did so:
“God of Heaven and Earth, you revealed you only begotten Son to Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, and to every nation by the guidance of a star. We ask your blessing on this house, and all who inhabit it, and on all who will enter it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their concern for others may reflect your love.”
It is a wonderful Catholic blessing and ritual. I encourage each of you to make use of it.
I have had the last two and a half days to lay around recovering from some sort of viral illness going around the area. I find it difficult to be inactive, and as God would have it, I received from my wife as a Christmas present Henri Nouwen’s book entitled The Way of the Heart in which he writes about silence, solitude and prayer. Apt topics for me at the moment, given my forced inactivity. Silence is not something most of us are used to anymore. Our minds are always filled with thoughts, ideas, words, worries and projects. Nouwen suggests our world is polluted with verbosity. He speaks of the Desert Fathers and their realization that silence protects and keeps custody of the fire of the Spirit who lives in us. They liken silence as a door that keeps the warmth of God’s love burning and hot within us, and excessive words as an open door that lets out that heat and dissipates its warmth. The whispers of smoke coming from within often are more attractive to those passing by us than the open door of our words. Interesting ideas. It is true, isn’t it, that when we are forced into a solitude of sorts we get rather anxious, wordy, trying to “connect” with someone with our words, and often having done so in such circumstances walk away feeling like we have given something away prematurely or irresponsibly?
I heard from various sources today that the Holy Father will no longer approve requests from bishops to name priests of their dioceses Monsignors unless they are over 65 years old. He apparently is also restricting the ranks of monsignors down to one (from what had been three, which was down from 14 in pre-Vatican II days.) No offense to my brother priests with this honor and title, but I am all in support of this move on the Holy Father’s part.
More and more I am thinking that Pope Francis is doing what Pope John Paul the First was beginning to do back in 1978 when his papacy was cut short. There is so much that is present in Bergoglio that appeared to be present in Luciani that it is unmistakable in my opinion. Unfortunately, Luciani is increasingly forgotten. There are a few of us still trying to keep his memory alive. Papa Luciani and Papa Bergoglio, I suspect, would be like a well-practiced chorus in unison of rhythm and in perfect pitch with each other.
Happy Epiphany, everyone!