The Epiphany of Our Lord

January 7, 2018 Column Father De Celles

Thanks for a Beautiful Christmas. I always underestimate
the goodness of my people. As we approached the Christmas
“weekend” this year I was nervous that some of you might
either skip one of the two Masses required (Sunday and
Christmas) or approach the double obligation with some
“reticence.” I should have known better. It truly made
Christmas extra “merry” for me to find that not only were the
crowds for the Sunday Masses larger than our average
Sunday, but all the Masses for Christmas seemed to be
somewhat larger than in prior years. And more than that, there
was not one hint of reticence or complaint—everyone was as a
cheerful as the days called for.
That also carried forward to the next weekend (last
weekend). Since the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God was
not a holy day of obligation this year, I had no idea how many
folks would come to Mass on Monday, January 1. I figured,
after all, it was New Year’s Day and people might
understandably take the opportunity to sleep in, etc. but I was
very pleasantly surprised to see good crowds at all three
Masses on Monday—as large as the average Sunday Mass.
God bless you for your devotion and love for Jesus
and His Mother. And thank God for giving me such good
More Thanks. As the Christmas Season comes to an end, I’d
like to add a few more Christmas “thank you’s” to those from
prior weeks. First, I want to thank all of you for your
generosity in the Christmas collections. Second, I want to
thank all who contributed gifts to the Giving Tree; because of
your kindness we were able to help 41 families celebrate
Christmas, 11 from Our Lady of the Blue Ridge, and 30 from
our parish. Third, on behalf of Fr. Smith and myself, I want to
thank all of you who dropped off baked goods and other treats
and gifts for us in the rectory. Your kindness is overwhelming.
And last but not least, I want to thank 8-year-old
Anna McDermott who represented all of you at Christmas
Midnight Mass, as she carried the statue of the Baby Jesus in
procession for the Blessing of the Christmas Crèche.
Epiphany and the End of the Christmas Season. Today we
celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, commemorating the visit
and adoration of the magi to Christ in Bethlehem. It has
historically been celebrated on January 6th since at least the 3rd
century, but is celebrated in the U.S. on the Sunday falling
between January 2nd and January 8th (inclusive). In the
Orthodox Church and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic
Churches it also, effectively, celebrates the birth of Our Lord,
i.e., Christmas. This year it also represents the last Sunday of
the Christmas season, which ends tomorrow, Monday, with
the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
The visit of the magi is rich in symbolic meanings for
Christians, in particular those relating to the revealing
(“epiphany”) of the Christ to the gentile world. As we think
about this, it reminds us that that the Church is the Body of
Christ on Earth, and so is called to continue the Christmas/
Epiphany revelation of the coming of the Messiah to the
world. But this is not just a responsibility for the Pope,
bishops and priests: each of us is baptized into Christ and
members of Christ’s Body, and so each of is called to go out
to the gentiles of today—those who do not share our Christian
and Catholic faith—and reveal Christ to them. This can take
various forms, but it begins with living our lives as if we
believe in Jesus ourselves. So we live lives in keeping with the
moral teaching of Christ, especially when it comes to chastity
and charity. But we also must speak to others about Jesus, and
His Church. Again, this can take various forms, considering
prudence, our own particular talents, and the particular
opportunities the Lord gives us to share our faith.
As we come to the end of our Christmas season, ask
yourself and ask the Lord: how is He calling you to reveal Him
to the world you live in this year? To your friends, your family,
your co-workers, and to strangers? Ask Him, and listen
carefully for His answer.
Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. Today, January 7, is
normally the feast of our parish Patron, but since it falls on
Epiphany Sunday, the liturgical celebration of his feast is
suppressed this year. Which would probably suit the humble
St. Raymond just fine. But it is fitting that we not forget the
feast entirely.
For those of you who don’t know much about St.
Raymond, I invite you to read the 32-page biography we
published about a year and a half ago. If you don’t have one,
come by the parish office and pick one up.
As a brief reminder…Raymond was born of a noble
family, near Barcelona, in 1175. At the age of 20 he became
professor of canon law. In 1210 he left teaching to complete his
studies in civil and canon law at the University of Bologna. He
went on to hold a chair of canon law at that university for three
years. (The date of his priestly ordination is uncertain, but it
would seem to be around 1195).
On August 1, 1218 Raymond received a heavenly
vision in which the Blessed Mother (“Our Lady of Ransom”)
instructed him to help St. Peter Nolasco found the Order of
Mercedarians, which would be devoted to the ransom of
Christians taken captive by the Moors (Spanish Muslims).
Raymond did not, however, join that order but rather entered
the Order of Preachers (“Dominicans”) in Barcelona in 1222.
As a Dominican, Raymond continued to teach and preach, and
devoted considerable effort working to convert Moors and
Jews, coaxing St. Thomas Aquinas to write his Summa Contra
Gentiles to help in his efforts.
At the request of his superiors Raymond published the
Summa Casuum, a book on cases of conscience for the
guidance of confessors and moralists, the first guide of its kind.
This work eventually led to his appointment as confessor and
theologian to Pope Gregory IX in 1230. The Pope soon
directed Raymond to re-arrange and codify the canons
(juridical laws) of the Church, which required him to rewrite
and condense centuries of Church decrees. The Pope published
Raymond’s work in 1231, and commanded that it alone should
be considered authoritative. From then on St. Raymond would
be known as the “Father of Canon Law.”
In 1238 he was elected Master General of the
Dominican Order, the second successor to St. Dominic, but he
resigned two years later, claiming that at 63 years old he was
too old for the job. He continued his writing, preaching and
pastoral work, as well many important responsibilities
entrusted to him by various popes, for another 37 years until
his death in Barcelona on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100.
He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil.
St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us!
Oremus pro invicem! Fr. De Celles