Epiphany of the Lord

Deacon Blaine Barclay
January 2 and 3rd, 2016

Epiphany- a word that means manifestation, revelation, disclosure, unveiling, appearance, uncovering, as in “the dawn from on high that is breaking upon us”, as in, “the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light”. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world`. Epiphany is the feast of the coming of the light of Christ into the world, for the whole world. It is a Christmas feast, is sometimes even referred to as `little Christmas`. This the feast day when some Christians exchange gifts, in commemoration of the gift that is Christ, but also in memory of the gifts that the original wise men gave to the Christ child. In the early Church this feast was the main celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Only gradually did December 25th come to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus. In some eastern Churches, this is still the major Christmas feast. For us, it is still the other Christmas, the `little Christmas`. The time between the two (Dec. 25th and Jan 6th) is traditionally referred to as the twelve days of Christmas, and liturgically, as the season of Christmas. The time between the anticipation, waiting, expectation, and the hope of Advent, and the extraordinary transformation of the ordinary that we refer to as ordinary time.

The feast of Christmas and the feast of Epiphany are the two bookends of one feast, one festive season. As liturgical feasts, they are not just a remembrance of things past, as if we were simply celebrating the anniversary of a past event, the birth of Christ, or the coming of the Magi. A different kind of memory is at work here, like the remembering that is the Eucharist, `do this in memory of me`; liturgical memory makes the truth and transformative power of the original event present in the here and now.

The Word of God has become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, and this changes everything. The whole of reality has been transformed-transfigured-metamorphosized by this saving event. As an ancient Christian author puts it, `the flesh is the hinge of salvation`. A later early Christian author puts it this way; `what he did not assume, he could not save.` The infinite has become finite, in the words of a poet, `Infinity dwindled to Infancy`. Human nature has been renewed, restored, transformed in the person of Jesus Christ, the New, the Second Adam. In Christ a new beginning, a new future is possible for each one of us and for humanity as a whole. `The people who dwelled in darkness have seen a great light`. À light of revelation to the gentiles`. Epiphany, `little Christmas`, is not so little after all. In the humanity of Christ, the dawn from on high has broken in upon us, scattered our darkness, and shattered our deafness. This Epiphany event is not just a local event, the birth of the Jewish messiah, celebrated by angels and poor religiously marginalized shepherds, although it is that. When Christ is born, when God the Word becomes flesh in Jesus, even those previously excluded from the covenant of mercy, the gentiles, the pagans, the goyim, come on pilgrimage from far away, to greet him, to welcome him, bearing gifts for the new born King. And more than this, before they offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they come to worship this child, to pay him homage, literally, to prostrate themselves before him. Before they give him their gifts, they first receive the gift of this child, and they receive him for who and what he is. As our second reading says, “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind.“ These wisdom representatives from the east were the first to recognize that “the gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body and sharers in the promise of Christ Jesus through the Gospel.“ The good news, the glad tidings of the gospel has been extended to include the whole of humanity, then and now. As Pope Francis has said, in relationship to this Jubilee Year of Mercy `no one is excluded from God`s mercy`.

Before they give their gifts, these wise ones give themselves. Only the gift given out of the treasure house of one’s heart will have true weight and meaning. It is more important to give the self than it is to give a gift, and in our gift giving to first receive the gift of the other person, and to give of ourselves in all our giving. There is a close connection between the heart of giving and the giving heart. Didn`t Jesus say, `where your treasure is there will your heart be also.` Let us listen once more to the gospel today. “Overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.“ On the occasion of this our Epiphany, let us also journey and set out on pilgrimage with our wise companions from the east, and following the star that God has set before us, may we too find the child who has already found us by giving us the star. May we give ourselves to Jesus, and present to him out of the treasure chest of our hearts, out of the refiners fire of our lives, the gold of our love, the incense of our worship and praise, and the Myrrh of our suffering and struggles on this brief pilgrimage of our lives. And, giving to us the gift of himself, God-with-us, he gives us light, manifestation, revelation, Epiphany. Hope for all our tomorrows.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.