January 8th, 2017

Deacon Blaine Barclay

Epiphany – the word means, manifestation, revelation, to uncover, to unveil, a striking appearance, to display, show, come suddenly into view, to bring forward from hiddenness, insight, as in ‘I just had an epiphany’.  What a powerful word we used to name the feast we celebrate today. ’’The light of revelation to the gentiles”, unveiled precisely in the vulnerability of human flesh.

Today we recall the visitation of the Magi, wisdom seekers from the east.  They have come from far away, led by the light of a star.  Who were these Magi, and where did they come from?  There seems to be some agreement that they were Zoroastrian priests, from Persia, (modern day Iran), with knowledge and deep sympathy for Judaism and the Hebrew scriptures. Some scholars think they may have been converts to Judaism, which would explain their affinity for the wisdom found in the scriptures.  They have also been identified as king’s.  As our first reading says,  “nation’s shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Whoever they were, let us join them on their journey and follow the star.

Psalm 19 tells us that, ’the heavens declare the glory of God.  The skies announce what his hands have made.’ I don’t know about you, but some of the most profound experiences I have ever had of the presence of God have been while looking up at the stars on a cloudless, moonless night.  Overwhelmed with the mystery behind the cosmos. Held up and held together by the mystery of the love that gives rise to all that exists.  Our wise ones from the east have the courage to follow their star, the star that points to the vulnerability of the flesh of the child Jesus.

Everything about this story speaks of vulnerability.  The vulnerability of our wisdom seekers, traveling in a strange country, away from home and hearth, subject to the whims of a violent king.  The vulnerability of the children of Bethlehem, anyone under the age of two later swept up in the infanticidal fears of the same power hungry king.  The vulnerability of the child Jesus; now, no longer an infant, but somewhere under the age of two, who subsequently has to flee to Egypt with his parents in order to escape this holocaust of the innocent.  Think about that for a moment. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, fleeing in the night, spending his childhood as a Middle Eastern refugee family, fleeing the violence of their homeland.  How does the saying go? ’The more things change, the more they remain the same’.  Or do they?

The vulnerability of human flesh remains, as does the violence of politics, and the slaughter of the innocents. The displacement of persons is a constant throughout history.  And yet, and yet, and here we come to the heart of our story of the Magi and the child Jesus.  It is precisely in the vulnerability of this child, this toddler Jesus, where Epiphany happens.  The glory of God is revealed, unveiled, is shimmering forth precisely in the poverty of the flesh of this child, who even now lives his early life under the shadow of the cross.

Let us follow our Magi, priests, kings, wise men, across the threshold of our story.  On entering the house, (notice that it is no longer a cave, a barn, or a manger. ’’On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage’’.  In Baptism we have also crossed the threshold of the house of faith.  With them, let us also, ‘see the child with Mary his mother’, kneel down on the ground of our hearts, and pay him homage.  Recognizing the epiphany, the revelation of God, emptied into the flesh of this child, into the littleness of our own human flesh.  Here lies the wisdom of our wise men.  Theirs is not a complicated, abstract wisdom, hammered out in fine, high sounding words.  But a concrete wisdom that risks everything on a desert pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the ‘House of Bread’, paying homage to the playful flesh of this little child.

And finally, how do they pay him homage?  Out of the treasure of their hearts they offer him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  According to Exodus chapter 30, these three gifts were used in the incense offering and prayers in the holy of holies in the temple. The gift of our Magi was the gift of their homage, their worship, their incensed prayers, in the presence of the new holy of holies, the flesh of this Christ child. The veil has been torn aside, the Presence made manifest, ‘Epiphany’. In imitation of the Magi, in heartfelt response to the gift of Gods presence in our midst, Emmanuel, God with us, we too can offer him this same gift of our bended knee, our homage, our prayer, our w

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.