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‘Epiphany: A Child Entrusted to Our Love by His Mother,’ by Archbishop Follo

Considerations Over Three Feasts

Epiphany: a child entrusted to our love by his mother

                                        Considerations over three feasts:

Sacred Family – December 30, 2018

Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Peace – January 1, 2019

Epiphany, the manifestation of a child entrusted to our love – January 6, 2019

  • A family who is a model because of its sainthood.

With Christmas, Advent became an adventure. Through His incarnation, the Word of God has dwelled among us and we, like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi, have started the Christian adventure that is the mission to announce what has happened and what we have encountered: the Word of life, of peace and of joy.

To communicate what has happened is to make communion our presence and the presences we encounter, to renew the miracle of His Presence, to renew His coming, and to renew with others the event He has realized with us, with others, with things, and with all: peace. God is peace and He is the one who brings peace.

The fact that they went to Bethlehem and entered in the temporary dwelling of the sacred family, has allowed the shepherds and the Magi not only to meet the Son of God, but also to live a familiarity with Christ. At the beginning they stayed at the doorstep of that humble abode, then they went closer to Christ. I hope that they had the opportunity to touch Him, to cuddle Him and I’m sure that Christ has dwelled in them. Then, they took Him into the world: the small world of the shepherds and the big world of the Kings.

The shepherds and the Magi left the cave not because they had to go back to their daily life, but to continue as missionaries the saintly journey where another was giving meaning to their doing.  Even if they had not fully acknowledged it, they had put themselves in the stretched hands of a child, in the hands of Another, in the hands of God.

To adhere to this event and to this Presence, one must begin a journey. We must depart from ourselves not just from our home or our loved ones. We must put our roots in Christ so that we can stretch out in the world in the same way that the branches of a tree grow toward the sky the more the tree put its roots in the ground.

Why should we begin this journey? Not only to return home, but also to announce that the encounter with Christ is a growth in humanity. The newborn, the God made Man doesn’t destroy anything, doesn’t leave anything out, but consecrates all and discloses everything. He gives to all feelings and to all vocations a dimension which is infinite, unbelieving, unforeseen and wonderful.

In this regard the best simple and imitable example comes from the Sacred Family who was a missionary community. In fact, the mission of Christ became the missionary vocation of Mary and Joseph who put their freedom at the Son’s disposal. These two saints, united in the respect and in the love of a pure and fecund community, began the journey of their life with Christ and for Christ. For Him and with Him they went from Nazareth (whose name means Garden) to Bethlehem (whose name means city of Bread), from Bethlehem to Egypt, and  from Egypt to Nazareth. They carried Christ along the roads of the world and they were the first partners of Salvation.

The Sacred Family was the Ark of the Covenant, carried in the exodus of life. It was and it is “a school of the gospel. Here we learn to observe, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the profound and mysterious meaning of that simple, humble, and lovely manifestation of the Son of God. (Paul VI Reflections at Nazareth January 5, 1964)

  • An abnormal family as a way of life

                    The singularity of the Sacred Family (a virgin mother, a stepfather, a son who is God) doesn’t undermine the fact that it is and must always be the example of all Christian families.

It is clear that it is not an average family but it is correctly proposed as the model of the concreteness of a couple that sees their life overturned by God’s action and by man’s delirium. They are a model in their ability to put themselves truly aside without any retribution, without fear to serve the mission of peace of Jesus, and, doing so, they enter into the great project that God has on the world.

As every other mother, Mary holds tightly to her chest the baby who can feel the heat and the smell of her skin.

In the cave, Joseph is now serene because if it is true that he was the witness of a birth in humanly humbling conditions (which is the first announcement of the “divestment” (Phil 2:5-8)), it is also true that he was the witness of the adoration of the shepherds that had followed the annunciation of the angel (Lk 2:15-16) as well as that of the Magi (Mt 2:11). The adventure of having the birth of his spouse’s son happening far away from home, had a big impact on him. Now, after that difficult night full of emotions and signs in which the angel asked him to welcome Mary and her son, the young Joseph is full of faith in the future. What Joseph had seen and heard is big indeed, and this event comforts him in his role of a father to whom the “private” and “hidden” life of Jesus is entrusted.

After the long and difficult stay in Egypt, Mary and Joseph go back to Nazareth where Jesus grows up. The adolescent Jesus runs away from home to dispute with the doctor of the Law. What a tenderness we see in these two parents who have problems with a rebel son who, according with the human logic, we would say that has an adolescent crisis. In reality the “boy” Jesus was expressing the Father’s authority and His belonging to the divine Family.

We must admire Mary’s and Joseph’s big faith that made them recognize in their child, who looked exactly as any other child, the Son of God.

The feast of the Sacred Family pushes us to look at our family with a look of faith and light, and to recognize the hidden Mystery in all our loved ones. They teach us about God and make us understand that a heroic life has become daily life so that daily life can become heroic.

Let’s the following prayer be the today’s and always the prayer for our family and for all the families of the world:

God, our creator and Father, you wanted your Son, generated before the beginning of time, to become a member of the human family. Revive in us the adoration for the gift and the mystery of life so that the parents be participant of the fecundity of your love and the children grow in wisdom, age and grace praising your holy name” Let’s bring to humanity the joyful announcement:  “For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us…and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:5)

     3) God is in the ones who brings peace: He is peace.

Peace, continuously offended and attached, is a common desire because peace is life. I believe it is for this reason that Pope Paul VI in 1967 established World Peace Day January 1st, the day in which the liturgy celebrates Mary as Mother of God and Mother of all men and women.

Peace, in the biblical sense, is the gift of the Messiah. It is the salvation carried by Jesus. It is our reconciliation with God. It is also a human value to be made real socially and politically, but that has its roots in the mystery of Christ (Gaudium and Spes, chapter V), who is the, “author of salvation and the source of unity and peace (Lumen Gentium, paragraph 9). It is clear that the Christian must take part in the efforts of having peace in the world.

The first way to be maker of peace is sacrifice. Let’s then make sacrifices and educate ourselves and others to sacrifice. People of my generation will remember how our mothers and our priests invited us to make every day during Advent a small “sacrifice” to be presented to the Baby Jesus so that he could be more comfortable in the manger. Our mothers and our priests in a simple way taught us that the true meaning of Christ’ birth in the world was to make peace on Earth through sacrifice.

The history of the Child of Bethlehem is a history of sacrifice up to the sacrifice of the Cross, seal of peace.

Peace realized through sacrifice is the evident manifestation (=epiphany) of God’s project which is the perfect communication of what He is: self-giving Love.

  • Epiphany of peace

 

Epiphany celebrates three divine manifestations: the manifestation to the Magi, the manifestation on the Jordan banks for the baptism of Jesus, and the manifestation at the wedding at Canaan.

Today, the manifestation of the Savior to the pagan Magi is predominant: they represent our vocation to the light of the Gospel and the triumph of the generous faith: “We have seen the star and we came…” They abandoned their palaces and their certainties and followed the “certainty’ of the star of Christ. In doing so they were able to reach the Child, who was carrying eternal Love in the world. They not only came to Christ but also in Christ.

When the Magi came to the cave, they realized that their search had ended. Then their mission was beginning.

What did they see that gave them a new mission?

A Child in the arms of the Mother, who, with her consent, had put God at our reach. The “veil” of her humanity doesn’t allow the infinite brightness of the divinity to make us blind. This manifestation of God to humanity is a mystery of mercy, which no human mind would have ever been able to conceive on its own.                     Borrowing from the Byzantine liturgy I write:

They saw the Virgin Mary as a “spiritual sparrow that brings forth the Spring of charity, which wipes out the atheist Winter, and the luminous cloud that brings the spiritual rain, which refreshes the burned earth. Her womb is like a spiritual paradise where the divine plan grows”.

                      They saw Jesus whose “invisible nature, being born from the Virgin Daughter of God and becoming like us, makes itself visible to us. He comes to live among us carried on Cherubim’s’ wings. In a way that surpasses every imagination, the life-giving Master becomes flesh to save our race. The evershining sun comes from a tender Virgin to lighten all that is under the sun.

                       They saw Joseph as the paternal guardian of “the One, who wrapped up like a newborn, holds the universe in His hands. He is lying in a manger, which is the burning throne of the Word. The Word has been incarnated into the form of a child.”

                      After they had seen, adored and offered their gifts, these Kings left the Cave. Theirs was not a simple return home. The Light that they had contemplated was in their hearts and they carried it into the world.

Through Christians’ testimony, the light of Bethlehem continues to shine in the entire world. To those who have welcomed it, Saint Agustin reminds: “Even we, recognizing Christ our King and priest who died for us, have honored him as if we had offered him gold, incense and myrrh. What remains for us to do is to bear witness to him by taking a different road from the one on which we came” (Sermo 202, In Epiphania Domini)

                      It is way of justice and peace because it manifests the light of a God who shows his face to us and appears to us in the manger at Bethlehem. He is the only one who can make the human heart open itself to peace and become a maker of peace.

This is true in particular for the consecrated virgins. Epiphany reminds them to live their vocation with the realization of the commitment they have undertaken with their consecration that doesn’t force them into a specific service, but requires them to be a living testimony of a perfect life.  They are requested to be witnesses of the Father. In fact, as it is read in the consecration rite, the Father “calls them to be in His presence as angels in front of His face” (Rite of the consecration of Virgins, # 64) in the same way that the Magi were in front of Jesus whom the Virgin Mother had trusted to their love.

May God, hidden to man’s eye, reveal himself in the sainthood of the life of His consecrated virgins.

As practical advice, I’d like to propose an exhortation by Saint Bede the Venerable and Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace:

“Let’s love Christ and let’s follow with perseverance the commandments that we have begun to follow. The more we’ll love him, the more we’ll earn the Father’s love. He will give us the grace of his infinite love for eternity. Now He allows us to believe and to hope. We will therefore see Him face to face. He will manifest Himself to us in the same glory that the Father had before the world began.  (Saint Bede the Venerable, Homily 12)

Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace:

Lord, make me a channel of your peace;

that where there is hatred, I may bring love;

that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;

that where there is error, I may bring truth;

that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;

that where there is despair, I may bring hope;

that where there are shadows, I may bring light;

that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;

to understand, than to be understood;

to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

Amen.

About Francesco Follo

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