“My Christmas celebration would not be complete without worshipping our newborn King with you here at St. Matt’s,” declared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on the feast of the Epiphany, which he celebrated at the South Bend cathedral the morning of Jan. 2.
He shared with the congregation present in the new year that his practice is to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, visit his family in Pennsylvania for a few days and then return to the diocese to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany at St. Matthew Cathedral. He did the same this year, despite a New Year’s Day snowstorm.
Third graders at St. Matthew Cathedral School enacted a Christmas pageant at the cathedral in honor of the celebration of the Epiphany. Three of them — Thomas Balderas, Jesus Escoban and Nolan Patterson — donned red, purple and blue robes and the crowns of kings and processed in with the bishop bearing gifts representing gold, frankincense and myrrh, which they presented for him to incense and lay in the creche.
Two deacons assisted at the Mass, Deacon Frederick Everett and Deacon Drew Clary, CSC. The occasion was also made festive by the participation of the choir, organ and a brass ensemble.
The Magi worshipped the baby that Mary cradled in her arms, the bishop began. He noted that today Christians worship Him in the Eucharist.
“Indeed, at every Mass, we worship Him; we praise and thank Him. Our prayers rise up to Him like incense, one of the gifts of the Magi. On the altar will become present the One whom the Magi saw lying in the manger: Christ, the living Bread who came down from heaven to give life to the world.”
“Why did the Magi set off from far away to go to Bethlehem?” the bishop asked. “The answer has to do with the mystery of the star, the star which they saw in the East and which they recognized as the sign of the birth of the Messiah, the King of the Jews.” The famous prophecy of Balaam, in Num. 24:17, speaks of a star or scepter rising out of Israel.
The bishop alluded to several astronomical phenomena that may explain the special star, as well as the speculation of some Fathers of the Church that it was an angel in disguise. At the Epiphany Mass, astronomers and other scientists were lifted up during the prayer of the faithful.
St. John wrote in his first letter: “God is light; in him there is no darkness,” said the bishop. “Then further on he adds: ‘God is love.’ This is what the Magi saw when they entered the house in Bethlehem: they saw God’s light and love in the Child Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God. They saw the light that enlightens all the peoples of the world, the light of the Epiphany. They were guided to the source of light by the light of the star (creation) and by the light of the Scriptures (Balaam’s and Micah’s prophecies) … They did homage to the Messiah of Israel, who is the Light of the World.”
“It is good to reflect today on our mission as disciples of Jesus, as his Church, in the light of the mystery of the Epiphany,” he continued. “We are called to make Christ’s light shine in the world.” Citing the Sermon on the Mount, he noted that Jesus taught the Beatitudes – and that by living in the way of the Beatitudes, “we can attract people through the witness of our love.”
“Immediately after giving the Beatitudes, Jesus said to His disciples: ‘In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your deeds and give praise to your heavenly Father.’”
He explained, “We attract people to the light by our love. Our light, the light of the Church, is not ourselves. We shouldn’t think that we are to shine with our own light. St. Ambrose expresses this reality well by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the Church.”
The moon, according to St. Ambrose, “shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ. She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say (with St. Paul), ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’”
The bishop concluded by encouraging the congregation to follow the right stars, the “little stars in whom shine forth the true light of Christ and his love. These stars are the saints, the greatest of whom we celebrated yesterday: Mary, the Mother of God. With their help, we won’t fall into the darkness.
“In this New Year, may the Blessed Virgin Mary help us to be missionary disciples, little stars that mirror the light of Christ,” he asked. “May she intercede for us that we may have the humility, the wisdom and courage of the Magi.”
Inserted into the liturgy this year, cantor Susan Berger proclaimed the dates of all the movable feasts in 2022, including Easter and Pentecost. Bishop Rhoades called special attention to June 19, the feast of Corpus Christi. In the United States, the feast will mark the beginning of the three-year eucharistic revival announced in the fall by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On the feast day, Bishop Rhoades will lead a diocesan procession of the holy Eucharist that brings together the entire Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in one location, Warsaw. Details of the procession will be shared this spring.
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