Epiphany January 7th, Archbishop B. J. O’Brien

There are two great truths that our celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany reveals or makes manifest.  The first is that God is made visible in our world in the person of the Infant Jesus, because in him the Word of God from all eternity became man.  The second truth of our faith which the Epiphany celebrates is that this coming of God in human flesh is for the salvation of all.

In the first reading, Isaiah gives us a picture of the Jews returning from exile to Jerusalem.  In today’s liturgy, it is given a new interpretation.  The birth of the Saviour replaces the return from Babylon as God’s great act of salvation, and the image of the nations streaming to God’s light is a preview of that day when the Lord will gather men and women of every race and nation to share in his glory for all eternity.

Similarly, the second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians announces that henceforth Gentiles and Jews share the same status.  Gentiles are now co-heirs with their Jewish brothers and sisters and are “sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.

The gospel passage from St. Matthew continues this same theme of salvation that is destined for all, in the person of the Magi – these wise men, these foreigners, who come seeking the Christ Child.  The message is that the Good News is not to be fenced in by distinctions of race, class, language, or sex, but is meant for all.

When we listen to the gospel today, our thoughts can certainly focus on the biblical story of how the wise men came to discover the Christ Child, but we can also take another approach; for if we look a little more carefully, we can see how the quest of the wise men mirrors some of the stages of each believer’s journey of faith.

If we follow this approach, the first thing we notice is how the wise men were attracted to Christ.  It was not through the traditional channels of religious revelation; rather, it was by means a sign, a star, which was in keeping with their own line of learning and reading of the heavens.  This is how the call of God came to them which would eventually lead them to the Sacred Scriptures and Bethlehem and the child.

This brings up the question, what possibilities exist in our own lives which would lead us to Christ or closer to Christ?

  • might it be our appreciation of God’s creation, both in its immensity and grandeur and in its microscopic intricacy?
  • might a journey of faith be prompted by some crisis in our lives, such as illness or some major change, or by our experience of love and new relationships?
  • might the Word of God itself be what draws us – some word or phrase of Scripture which is suddenly understood or highlighted in a new way for us?

In St. Matthew’s account, we see two groups who are juxtaposed.  There is Herod and his followers and there are the Magi.  Although Herod hypocritically claims that he, too, wants to pay homage to the child, in fact, he is frantic about the possible loss of his power.  He and his followers are blind; they have access to the wisdom of the Scriptures, but they refuse to see the meaning of what the prophets wrote.  Their interest and concerns are elsewhere.  In contrast, the Magi are willing to take risks.  They are true searchers looking for the truth which will eventually lead them to the royal child.

The path of the Magi led them through unexpected suspicion and scheming and even placed them in peril.  When we respond to God’s call to know him more deeply, we can recognize a certain journey unfolding before us.  There are moments when all is tranquil and peaceful, when  we may feel close to God; and other moments which may be more stormy and questioning, as more is asked of us, or as we face opposition or lack of support from those around us, or because of our own resistance to growth and change.

The journey of the Magi ended in success.  The seekers became finders, and their response was to offer gold, frankincense and myrrh – gifts which recognize in the Christ Child kingship, divinity, and redemptive suffering.

When our journey of faith is successful, a similar transformation takes place.  We want to be givers; we want to share what we experience with others; and we want to give something of our most precious commodities: our time, our abilities, our resources.  In this way, perhaps, we become for another that ray of joy and hope that will start their journey of faith.

As we continue our celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, let us pray that we may be attentive to the signs through which the Lord manifests himself to us today, so that we can journey forward in faith being a seeker, a finder, and, finally, a giver, as were the wise men of old.

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.