Sunday Church at Home – Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

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 + 21

(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: The last part of the book of Isaiah contains the words of a prophet who lived after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon (which is modern-day Iraq).  They found their temple destroyed and the city leveled.  But with great faith the prophet envisions a wonderful future for Jerusalem.

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: The Ephesians were a community in which Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity lived side-by-side.  The author of this letter confirms that God’s saving grace is available to everyone, whatever their ethnic or religious background.

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.

Homily by Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Traditionally the Feast of the Epiphany is about the revelation of God incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. It is commemorated by the visit of the Magi to the Christ-child. It is about Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. 

But, today, what does the Epiphany of the Lord say to us as we stand at the beginning of this new year facing the challenge of a pandemic, one that has already taken so much from us, one that has left many feeling frustrated and fatigued?

I wonder if the Magi experienced something of the challenge, joy, frustration and fatigue that we do at this time? 

In the Gospel we are told very little about them. Notice what we know:

  1. Follow a star and come to Jerusalem from the East
  2. Ask directions in this foreign land
  3. Overwhelmed with joy when they find the child
  4. They are warned in a dream to stay away from Herod and to go home by another road

These four details offer us some reflection and insight which may help us and give us some direction at this time in our own lives. 

The Star

We are told that the Magi follow a star… The star guides them to Jerusalem from the East. It offers them direction. It illuminates their way. 

I wonder what star we are following? What is guiding us? Perhaps the star of “busyness” – “materialism” –  “individualism” etc. have been guiding the decisions we made. 

Many people, in the last nine months, have been asking questions about the meaning of their lives, their priorities, their goals and dreams. Many have noticed that the star they have been chasing is one that has not led them to health, wholeness, balance and faith. It has often led to restlessness, frustration, fatigue and meaninglessness. As one person said to me: “It took COVID for me to realise my life is completely out of sync”.

Sometimes we follow the right star, often we follow the bright star of the world which may not necessarily be the one we should be following! The invitation to us on this Feast of the Epiphany is to ask ourselves: What star am I following? In other words: what motivates me and drives me to do what I do and where has that left me? 

Ask for directions in this foreign land

The world we inhabit now is a very different world to nine months ago. Many of the things that come so naturally to us and are at the very heart of being human – socialising, physical contact etc. – are being strongly discouraged. We are living in a foreign land. We, like the Magi, are negotiating our way in unfamiliar territory. But we are told that the Magi stop and ask for help, they seek direction.

 

To whom (or what) do we turn when we seek direction? Where are we seeking direction now as we live through the onslaught of COVID? There is so much misinformation on social media. Notice how the Magi stop and ask Herod. They later come to know that Herod was misguiding them and so they find another way home, they find their own way with God’s help.

Sometimes the places we seek direction might not be helpful to us.  Maybe there is someone or a deeply held belief or attitude or event from our past that we allow to direct us and, like the Magi, come to see that this does not help us grow or find what we really seek. Maybe we rely on everything we see and read on social media. Maybe we have relied on our own sense of self-importance or arrogance for direction. 

Where will you seek direction as we transverse this foreign land at the beginning of 2021? Are you really brave enough to stare into a crib and take direction from a helpless infant as the Magi did? 

Overwhelmed with joy

When the Magi meet the Christ-child they are “overwhelmed with joy” the Scriptures tell us. Notice that they experience joy in the midst of a challenging journey. I wonder if the Lord is inviting us, today, in the midst of a challenging journey to consciously seek out what we can be grateful for, what we can be joyful about? We can so easily lose perspective when life is hard, when things are different and difficult. We can feel down and discouraged.

 

Where will you and do you find joy and gratitude at this time? In the midst of every struggle and challenge we will, if we look long and intently enough, find something we can be thankful for. What are you thankful for?

They are warned in a dream to stay away from Herod and go home to their own country by a different way

Perhaps I can be as bold as saying that COVID-19 has given us all a rude awakening, maybe even a warning. It has robbed us of loved ones and friends. It has made us feel anxious and unsure. It has cut us off from what we, perhaps, most enjoyed. It has shut our churches and access to Sacraments. It has made out world a very unfriendly and unpredictable space. It has prompted us to think and re-think all we took for granted. 

But it has also asked us to find a different way of living, of relating and of prioritising. It has forced us to look again at out priorities, our attitudes, our patterns of consumption, our economies and, maybe most dauntingly, the very worldview we hold dear. It has taught us that we are all interconnected – globally – and that we all belong to one family and that we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper, like it or not!

Most of all, perhaps, it has unexpectedly and unwontedly invited us to find our way home by a different way. Home is a place where we feel welcome, relaxed, at ease, accepted, loved and valued. Home is a place where we have a sense of who we are and feel that we can be who we really are. 

Just as the Magi needed to find a new way home so too, this feast of the Epiphany in 2021, invites us to find a different way of living: a way that is more human, more loving. We are, it seems to me, being invited to become men and women for others rather than men and women for ourselves. Herod was a man for himself. The Magi live for (the lives) of others. 

On the Feast of Christmas we heard Jesus named “Emmanuel – God is with us”. On this Feast of the Epiphany we come to see how God is really with us in our own times and world, struggling with COVID-19, when we take up the invitation to reflect upon:

the Star we follow; 

the way we negotiate this foreign time and foreign land; 

actively seeking joy and gratitude for what we do have;  

actively finding a new way home, a new way of living. 

The experience of the Magi, their own challenge, joy, frustration and fatigue teach us how to live in the midst of our own struggles. Will you allow their story to teach you today? 

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader: The Lord has spoken to us through the words of the scriptures; we now speak to the Lord as we make our prayers of intercession.

Reader:

We pray for the Church: (pause) 

that, through our words and deeds, we may be a Light to those who are searching for direction and a sign of hope for those seeking to begin again.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for God’s blessing on the New Year: (pause)

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 who are working to bring about a more just society in South Africa and in the world: (pause)
that the Lord may be with them and give them courage and strength as they persevere in their efforts.

LORD HEAR US 

We pray for a renewal of prayer in our lives: (pause)

that we may make time for God each day of this year and be attentive to God’s invitations and promptings in our hearts.

LORD HEAR US 

We pray for all who are fighting the Coronavirus: (pause) that God will strengthen medical personnel, inspire researchers, and guide those who will be distributing the vaccine.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for:

Constance and Douglas Zulu

LORD HEAR US

We pray for Arnaldo Da Costa, who died during the week.  

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine on him.  

May he rest in peace.  Amen.

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

All: Amen.

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