Sunday Church at Home. Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, 02 January 2021

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Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

2nd January, 2022

 

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

Jesus, the Star that Guides All People.

 

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply:        Amen

 

Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply:        Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader:          Today we celebrate the revealing of God’s plan to the Gentile nations: the magi represent those non-Jewish peoples who accept the Gospel of Jesus, and with the magi we can give thanks that we have been included in the offer of the Good News.

AN EPIPHANY BLESSING FOR THE HOME

This short liturgy is a way of marking our homes, usually at the main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols as we ask God’s blessing upon those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year.
All gather at the front door of the house and the leader says the prayer of blessing with hands joined:

Leader:          O God, you once used a star to show to all the world that Jesus is your Son. May the light of that star that once guided wise men to his birth, now guide us to recognize him in the epiphanies of the daily experiences of our lives.  As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love.  May all who enter here find your gracious hospitality, for Christ has come to dwell in this house and in these hearts.

All reply:        Amen.

Each person present can take turns writing the following blessing over the doorway of the house with chalk.

20 + C + M + B + 22

(The letters have two meanings. They abbreviate the Latin words “Christus Mansionem Benedicat”, “May Christ bless this house”. They also are the initials of the customary names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The year is divided before and after the these letters.  The crosses (+) represent the protection of the Christ.)

Let us sing:

We three kings of Orient are / Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain / Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night/ Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding / Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain / Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never / Over us all to reign
O Star of wonder

Frankincense to offer have I / Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising / Worship Him, God most high
O Star of wonder

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume / Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying / Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
O Star of wonder

Glorious now behold Him arise / King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia / Earth to heav’n replies
O Star of wonder

The service continues with the Liturgy of the Word.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Isaiah 60: 1-6

 

Introduction to the reading: When the Jews began slowly to return from exile in Babylon, their capital Jerusalem was desolate. The prophet encourages them with images of brightness, then surprises them with the prediction that they will attract pagan nations to God.  It is a thrilling reading, which has enriched how we imagine the Magi.

 

A reading from the book of Isaiah

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall walk by your light, and kings in the brightness of your rising.

Lift up your eyes round about, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall  come from far,
and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant,
your heart shall thrill and rejoice;
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

 

The word of the Lord.

 

 

Responsorial psalm: Ps 72: 1-2. 7-8. 10-11. 12-13 (R.cf. 11)

 

R/: All nations on earth shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

 

O God, give your judgement to the king,

to a king’s son your justice,

that he may judge your people in justice,

and your poor in right judgement.

 

In his days shall justice flourish,

and great peace till the moon is no more.

He shall rule from sea to sea,

from the River to the bounds of the earth.

 

The kings of Tarshish and the islands

shall pay him tribute.

The kings of Sheba and Seba

shall bring him gifts.

Before him all kings shall fall prostrate,

all nations shall serve him.

 

For he shall save the needy when they cry,

the poor, and those who are helpless.

He will have pity on the weak and the needy,

and save the lives of the needy.

 

R/: All nations on earth shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

 

 

Second reading: Ephesians 3:2-3a. 5-6

Introduction to the reading: Even Jewish converts to Christ maintained the ancient belief that Jews were God’s only chosen people. Paul says God has now revealed a long-secret mystery, namely that Gentiles, too, are to enjoy God’s favour, because of Christ.

 

A reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians

Brothers and sisters,
I assume that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for you,
how the mystery was made known to me by revelation,
which was not made known to the children of men in other generations
as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs,
members of the same body,
and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
We have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship the Lord.
Alleluia!

Gospel: Matthew 2: 1-12

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea
in the days of Herod the king,
behold, Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem saying,
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?
For we have seen his star in the East,
and have come to worship him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him;
and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people,
he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea;
for so it is written by the prophet:
‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the Wise Men secretly
and ascertained from them what time the star appeared;
and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,
“Go and search diligently for the child,
and when you have found him bring me word,
that I too may come and worship him.”

When they had heard the king they went on their way;
and behold, the star which they had seen in the East
went before them,
till it came to rest over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star,
they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
and going into the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother,
and they fell down and worshipped him.
Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts,
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed to their own country by another way.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Lots of legends about Magi have sprung up over the centuries. We don’t know how many Magi paid homage to Jesus, but because they brought three gifts, we normally think about three Magi or wise men.

Tradition gives their names as Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior. In this story, Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior, were three different ages.  Gaspar was a young man, Balthassar a middle-aged man and Melchior an elderly man.  They arrived in Bethlehem and found the cave where the Holy One was, and entered, one at a time, to do Him homage.

Melchior, the old man, entered the cave first.  He found an old man like himself in the cave.  They shared stories and spoke of memory and gratitude.

Middle-aged Balthassar entered next.  He found a man his own age there.  They spoke passionately about leadership and responsibility.

Young Gaspar was the last to enter.  He found a young prophet waiting for him.  They spoke about reform and promise.  Then the three wise men spoke to each other about their encounter with the Christ. They were shocked at each other’s stories.  So they got their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh together and all three went into the cave.  They found a Baby there, the infant Jesus only twelve days old. There is a deep message here.  Jesus reveals himself to all people, at all stages of their lives, whether they are Jew or Gentile.

Today we celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord. The word Epiphany means the revealing or opening up or manifestation. Jesus was revealed by God the Father to the world as its Saviour when the light of a star guided the magi from the East to worship him.

The Magi were not members of the Chosen Jewish People, so the Epiphany today shows Jesus came for all people. The body language of the Magi before Jesus spoke of their attitude. They prostrated themselves before Jesus. They worshipped him, and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold was a gift for Kings.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfume. It  would be offered to God in Temple worship (Ex 30:37).

Myrrh is a resin added to perfumed oils. It was used by the High Priest as an anointing oil (Ex 30:23), and to prepare bodies for burial.

These gifts were expensive and it can be fun to ask – what happened to them? Possibly Joseph sold the gifts to finance the Holy Family’s trip to Egypt. The gifts might have been God’s way of providing for the journey that lay ahead.

While the Magi paid homage to Jesus, there is another attitude in today’s Gospel, the attitude of Herod.  He does not have an attitude of reverence and respect for Jesus. Herod pretends that he is just as respectful to Jesus as the Magi. He tells them, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” (Matt 2:8)

However his thoughts were not thoughts of homage, he merely wanted to trick the Magi into telling him where Jesus was so that he could have him murdered. Herod did not want to lose power and control to somebody else, so he rejected the baby Jesus even though Jesus would be no threat to his kingly power. Herod’s problem was not Jesus but Herod himself, Anytime I decide that I want to reach the top and hang onto power at all costs,  no matter who I hurt or destroy,  then I have set myself up as a modern day Herod.

Herod said to the Magi, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” He was speaking to the Magi with a forked tongue. He was telling lies. The baby Jesus was surrounded in Bethlehem by those who loved and cared for him but in Jerusalem there was a crowd of people just looking after their own self interest. They said one thing but meant the opposite. Truth was lacking.

The next step after the lies, deception and double-speak was Herod trying to kill the baby Jesus because Herod completely misunderstood what Jesus meant. In the massacre of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, Herod had all boys in Bethlehem under the age of two killed (Matt 2:16-18). For Herod it was only one further step from his double-speak to persecution and murder.

Matthew tells us that after the magi gave homage to the child, they “departed for their country by another way.” Matthew isn’t talking about road maps is he? The story of the birth of Jesus is not just a listing of facts like a newspaper story. It is a story with meaning to deepen our understanding of who Jesus is. The gospel – the Good News – wants us to accept the revelation about Christ and acknowledge him as the Messiah. Graced by faith we are to follow what we believe and profess it with acts of love where we recognise Christ in our neighbour.

The Magi’s change of route then suggests a change of life – a new way of acting – because of their encounter with Christ. The Epiphany is both a revelation to us and a call to follow up on what has been revealed about Christ and his life. With the magi we give homage today to one who is the Light of the world. We also resolve to change our ways by what the Word teaches us and with the help of Christ’s presence in this Eucharist.

Herod consults the people’s religious leaders, the chief priests and scribes. They have the correct information, drawn from their tradition, about where the child can be found. But having information is one thing; changing our lives to follow on what we know is quite another. Herod’s desire to maintain absolute power prevented him from recognising that the kingship of Jesus is not of this world..

The magi have the information, and they act on it. They do homage and go home by another way – a poetic suggestion to us all. We know the truths of our faith, but how much of our lives still needs to change and respond to what we believe?

Jesus came for everyone, as today’s feast teaches us. But some have rejected Jesus and his Church when they spread lies, fake news and misinformation. Herod’s problem was not Jesus but Herod himself. He was not truthful, and the truth is compromised in many ways today also. On the other hand the response of the magi to Jesus is a model for our reflection.

The Magi teach us that people can come to Christ by a very long route. People of wealth, wise men from far away, thirsting for the infinite, they set out on the long and perilous journey that would lead them to Bethlehem.

Great joy comes over them in the presence of the Infant King. They are not scandalized by the poor surroundings, but immediately fall to their knees to worship him. Kneeling before him, they understand that the God who with divine wisdom guides the course of the stars and also guides the course of history, is casting down the mighty and raising up the lowly.

Upon their return home, they would certainly have told others of this amazing encounter with the Messiah, thus beginning the spread of the Gospel among the nations. Today we contemplate the nativity scene and we reflect on the responsibility of every Christian to spread the Gospel. Each of us is called to bear glad tidings to all, testifying by our practical works of mercy to the joy of knowing Jesus and his love.

From today’s Gospel reading:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the new born king of the Jews?”

Reflection:

Where are we looking for Jesus today? Even if we had no other gospel story than this one, we should know where to look: among the newcomers and displaced; among the new born poor and their families; among those who have no roots and are searching; among those pushed around by an uncaring system of laws and decrees.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What touched me in the readings today?
  • Would I describe myself as one of the modern-day magi, a searcher for God?
  • How do I go about spreading the Good News?

 

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader:          Let us bring our prayers to God our Father, in gratitude for all we have been given, and humbly ask for our needs and the needs of our world.

 

Reader:

We pray for our Church and for the Pope: (pause) that we may all be filled with hope and courage to offer Christ’s light to the world.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for God’s blessing on the New Year: that God will fill the coming days with health of body, mind, and spirit; renew the gifts of the Spirit within us, and inspire us with new ways to share the Good News with others.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all those in positions of leadership: (pause)
that God will give them a clear understanding of the issues before them and wisdom to effectively address them for the common good

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for our parish: (pause)

that we may be bearers of hope to one another and to those around us whose lives are darkened by fear and failure.

LORD HEAR US

We pray that children everywhere will have the love they need to flourish: (pause)
may we make every effort to support initiatives that will promote hope and freedom for our younger generation.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US

 

Leader:          Let us pray our prayer for the Epiphany:

 

Gracious God,

our hearts rejoice in your presence,
as we give you our thanks and praise,
for you are the fulfilment of all our searching.
Your beloved son, Jesus, is revealed to the whole world
as Saviour and Redeemer,
and as the King who reigns in justice and peace.
By the light of a star,
you made him known
to the magi from the east,
who came to pay him homage.
Be our daily star,
guiding our lives to healing in the time of pandemic.
May we always follow your light of truth in all that we do.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you. Amen.

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 

All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:           Lord God of the nations,

we have seen the star of your glory

rising in splendour.

The radiance of your incarnate Word

pierces the darkness that covers the earth

and signals the dawn of peace and justice.

Make radiant the lives of your people

with that same brightness,

and beckon all the nations

to walk as one in your light.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Blessing

 

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

 

Leader:          Let us pray for God’s Blessing:

 

May God, the source of every blessing,

grant us the fullness of grace

and keep us safe throughout the coming year of 2022.

Amen.

 

May the God whose only-begotten Son

enlightened the world on this day

make us also a light to our brothers and sisters.

Amen.

 

May the God who guided the Magi with a star

lead us to find Christ the light

when our earthly journey is done.

Amen.

 

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All:                  Amen.

 

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