Sunday, January 06, 2008

Daily meditation 01/06/08, Feast of Epipjany


An Epiphany Prayer

Lord Jesus
may your light shine our way,
as once it guided the steps of the magi:
that we too may be led into your presence
and worship you,
the Child of Mary,
the Word of the Father,
the King of nations,
the Saviour of mankind;
to whom be glory for ever.

Frank Colquhoun


O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 46, 97 ; PM Psalm 96, 100
Isa. 49:1-7; Rev. 21:22-27; Matt. 12:14-21

From Forward Day by Day:

Isaiah 60:1-6. Arise, shine; for your light has come.

My paternal grandfather was born on this day. He was named Epifanio, in commemoration of this principal feast day. This is a day of celebration as the church universal remembers the Magi, their presentation of gifts, and their worshiping the Christ Child. On this day many Hispanic Latinos share in a King's cake with a tiny plastic baby Jesus in it. Most bakeries in our neighborhoods will have standing orders. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the infant Jesus has the privilege of hosting the next fiesta at his or her home on February 2, the next feast day of the season.

I never met my grandfather. But I have heard of his courage and his journey to this country. I know of his rearing of children, including several World War II veterans, and the new city that he called home. And I recall his name Epifanio, which I claim as my own. Blessed Epiphany!

To hail thy rising, Sun of life,
the gathering nations come,
joyous as when the reapers bear
their harvest treasures home.
-John Morrison (d. 1789)

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Accra (West Africa)

The Season of Epiphany

Dennis Bratcher

In western Christian tradition, January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany. It goes by other names in various church traditions. In Hispanic and Latin culture, as well as some places in Europe, it is known as Three Kings’ Day (Span: el Dia de los Tres Reyes, la Fiesta de Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Because of differences in church calendars, mainly between the Eastern Orthodox and the western Catholic and Protestant traditions, both Christmas and Epiphany have been observed at different times in the past. Today, most of the Eastern Orthodox traditions follow the western church calendar. The exceptions are some Greek Orthodox Churches and related traditions (e.g., Russian and Serbian Orthodox) that still follow the older calendar and celebrate Epiphany as the Theophany on January 19th.

Epiphany is the climax of the Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from December 25th until January 5th. In most traditions, the day before Epiphany is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, the evening of which is called Twelfth Night. This is an occasion for feasting in some cultures, including the baking of a special King's Cake as part of the festivities of Epiphany (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the Eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. In these traditions the Twelfth Day of Christmas is January 6th, the Epiphany.

In traditional Christian churches Christmas, as well as Easter, is celebrated as a period of time, a season of the church year, rather than just a day. The Season of Christmas begins with the First Sunday of Advent, marked by expectation and anticipation, and concludes with Epiphany, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. The one or two Sundays between Christmas Day and Epiphany are sometimes called Christmastide. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. Depending on the timing of Easter, this includes from four to nine Sundays. Other traditions, especially the Roman Catholic tradition, observe Epiphany as a single day, with the Sundays following Epiphany counted as Ordinary Time. In some western traditions, the last Sunday of Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday.

babyjesus.jpg (30908 bytes)The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King. In some Central and South American countries influenced by Catholic tradition, Three Kings’ Day, or the night before, is the time for opening Christmas presents. In some eastern churches, Epiphany or the Theophany commemorates Jesus’ baptism, with the visit of the Magi linked to Christmas. In some churches the day is celebrated as Christmas, with Epiphany/Theophany occurring on January 19th.

The colors of Epiphany are usually the colors of Christmas, white and gold, the colors of celebration, newness, and hope that mark the most sacred days of the church year. In traditions that only observe a single day for Epiphany, the colors are often changed after Epiphany to the colors of Ordinary Time, usually green or thematic sanctuary colors, until Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent. The colors for Transfiguration Sunday are usually the colors of Holy Days, white and gold.

As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.

The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by "showing" Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian brotherhood and fellowship, especially in healing the divisions of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.
An Epiphany Prayer

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus.

As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbor that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others. Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, religious or social? O Lord, help us realize that the walls that we erect for others only form our own prisons!

Will you fill us so full of your love that there is no more room for intolerance. As you have forgiven us much, will you enable us with your strength to forgive others even more? Will you enable us through your abiding Presence among us, communally and individually, to live our lives in a manner worthy of the Name we bear?

May we, through your guidance and our faithful obedience, find new avenues in ways that we have not imagined of holding the Light of your love so that it may be a Light of revelation for all people.

We thank you for your love, praise you for your Gift, ask for your continued Presence with us, and bring these petitions in the name of your Son, who has truly revealed your heart. Amen

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2006, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved

Speaking to the Soul:

Home by another way

Daily Reading for January 6 • The Feast of the Epiphany

A colleague of mine noticed several years ago one of those marvelous phrases of multiple meaning strewn throughout our scriptures, the familiar reference to the magi who, “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, . . . left for their own country by another road.” We both had noticed that the political acumen of the magi surely certified their wisdom. But it was my friend who noticed something else: that nearly everyone who encounters Jesus ends up going home by another way. The encounter with Jesus changes people, makes them different. After they have met this Jesus, they seem incapable—or certainly unwilling—to go back the same way they had come.

The Feast of the Epiphany and the season that follows is, for the church, a traditional season of mission and evangelism. Of course, for the modern church in America, there are very few mission fields left to us, few places where the basic outlines of the gospel has not penetrated geographical, political, and cultural barriers in one fashion or another. And evangelism demands some good news to proclaim, but too many days there seems precious little good to report. But there is still a ripe mission field remaining for each of us, if only we turn our sights inward.

I was reminded of this at a national conference for Episcopal students where we used varied liturgies from prayers books across the Anglican Communion. I was reminded of how very different we all are, and how much more so we grow daily. In this modern-day church, as in that ancient stable, those gathered really have nothing much in common. If we look around that manger, if we look at those who surrounded Jesus throughout his life, and even those who stood around at his death, we find that they were as diverse a lot as one might find. Like us. For truth be told, when you get right down to it, we probably really do not have much in common, you and I; the only thing we have in common is this person, Jesus. And that was certainly true for those of us who gathered at that conference. Even when we could not agree on what this Jesus looked like, or what he thought, or the meaning of what he said and did, we could still acknowledge that he was our common connection.

That was his singular gift, a genuine gift, something inherent in his person, and not some skill he crafted or stratagem he employed. For on the first Epiphany he was but an infant. Yet the force of his person was such that the different gathered around him.

From Daysprings: Meditations for the Weekdays of Advent, Lent, and Easter by Sam Portaro (Cowley, 2001).

++++++++++ Reflections

Let us remember our holy Fathers of past days, the hermits whose lives we attempt to imitate. What sufferings they bore, what solitude, cold and hunger, what burning sun and heat! … Do you suppose they were made of iron? No, they were as frail as we are.
St Teresa of Jesus
Way, 11.4

Reading from the Desert Christians


When an archer desires to shoot his arrows successfully, he first
takes great pains over his posture and aligns himself accurately
with his mark. It should be the same for you who are about to
shoot the head of the wicked devil. Let us be concerned first for
the good order of sensations and then for the good posture of
inner thoughts.

St. John Chrysostom


Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Spiritual Choices

Choices. Choices make the difference. Two people are in the same accident and severely wounded. They did not choose to be in the accident. It happened to them. But one of them chose to live the experience in bitterness, the other in gratitude. These choices radically influenced their lives and the lives of their families and friends. We have very little control over what happens in our lives, but we have a lot of control over how we integrate and remember what happens. It is precisely these spiritual choices that determine whether we live our lives with dignity.

From the Principles of the Third Society of St. Francis:

Day Six - The First Aim, cont'd

The primary aim for us as tertiaries is therefore to make Christ known. This shapes our lives and attitudes to reflect the obedience of those whom our Lord chose to be with him and sent out as his witnesses. Like them, by word and example, we bear witness to Christ in our own immediate environment and pray and work for the fulfillment of his command to make disciples of all nations.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Star of Wonder
January 6th, 2008
Sunday’s Reflection

STAR of wonder,
you have led us,
along with so many,
to the Child of the Light.
Continue to guide us on our journey
to be Followers of the One,
the Creator and Redeemer
and Sustainer of us all.
For it is in Christ’s name
that we pray.

- Beth A. Richardson
Child of the Light

From p. 101 of Child of the Light by Beth A. Richardson. Copyright © 2005 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection


Question of the day:
How are we committed to creating unity in our community?

The only way that I know how to get people together is to start getting people together. When they start dealing with each other, they start learning who they are. They start getting feelings and resentments. They start getting hurts. They say, Brother, why are you getting hurt right now? Whats hurting you? What need isnt being met? What are you afraid of? OK, lets deal with that. Dont run from it. Unless youve make some commitments, unless you understand loyalty, thats the point where youre going to move out. Thats why there are and must be marriage vows. Who of you in the second year of marriage wouldnt have run away? The Lord gives you that pledge, that promise to hold you in there. Its the same way in the Church: Weve laid our lives down for one another. Im not free to pull back on my love commitment to my brothers and sisters. Where you see unity, trust it. Now you might think Im going to say the converse of that: Where you see disunity, distrust it. No. Where you see disunity, lay down your life until there is unity. What else would the cross be? What else will redeem the broken world? Did you ever notice that God had to lock Noah and all the wild and creeping things in the ark? God know they would try to escape from their own salvation (see Genesis 7:16).

from The Spiritual Family and the Natural Family

From John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Tradition Day by Day: Readings from Church Writers. Augustinian Press. Villanova, PA, 1994.

The star still leads us

Christ our God is born. He who created all things from nothing takes flesh endowed with a human soul and becomes a man. A star from the east, visible by day, guides the wise men to the place where lies the incarnate Word, to show in a mystical way that the word contained in the law and the prophets is superior to the evidence of the senses, and to lead the Gentiles to the full light of knowledge. For clearly, the word of the law and the prophets, rightly understood, is like a star leading those divinely chosen and called by the power of grace to recognize the incarnate Word.

The great mystery of the divine incarnation for ever remains a mystery. How can the person of the Word truly exist in the flesh while at the same time being wholly with the Father? How could he who is wholly divine by nature have become completely human without in any way repudiating either his divine nature in which he subsists as God, or ours in which he was made man? Only faith can grasp these mysteries. Faith is the ground of our confidence concerning things we can neither perceive nor understand.

Maximus the Confessor

Daily Readings From "My Utmost for His Highest", Oswald Chambers


"And he pitched his tent having Bethel on the west and Ai on the east: and there he builded an altar." Genesis 12:8

Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself, it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others.

Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two. The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him. Rush is wrong every time, there is always plenty of time to worship God. Quiet days with God may be a snare. We have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be. There are not three stages in spiritual life - worship, waiting and work. Some of us go in jumps like spiritual frogs, we jump from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God's idea is that the three should go together. They were always together in the life of Our Lord. He was unhasting and unresting. It is a discipline, we cannot get into it all at once.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

January 6, May 7, September 6

So we have asked the Lord
who is to dwell in His tent,
and we have heard His commands
to anyone who would dwell there;
it remains for us to fulfill those duties.

Therefore we must prepare our hearts and our bodies
to do battle under the holy obedience of His commands;
and let us ask God
that He be pleased to give us the help of His grace
for anything which our nature finds hardly possible.
And if we want to escape the pains of hell
and attain life everlasting,
then, while there is still time,
while we are still in the body
and are able to fulfill all these things
by the light of this life,
we must hasten to do now
what will profit us for eternity.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

There is a poignancy in this paragraph that is little associated with great spiritual documents. First, Benedict stresses again that we are not alone in our undertaking to live above the dregs of life. What is "not possible to us by nature," we must "beg for by grace," he says. This is an enterprise between two spirits, in other words, God's and our own. We will fail often, but God will not fail us and we must not stop.

"God," the elder said, "is closer to sinners than to saints." "But how can that be," the eager disciple asked.
And the elder explained: "God in heaven holds each person by a string. When we sin, we cut the string. Then God ties it up again, making a knot--bringing the sinner a little closer. Again and again sins cut the string--and with each knot God keeps drawing the sinner closer and closer."

Even our weaknesses take us to God if we let them.

It is a very liberating thought: We are not capable of what we are about to do but we are not doing it alone and we are not doing it without purpose. God is with us, holding us up so that the reign of God may be made plain in us and become hope to others. If we can become peacemakers, if we can control our need to control, if we can distinguish between our wants and our needs, then anybody can.

Dynamis is a daily Bible meditation based upon the lectionary of the Holy Orthodox Church.

St. Luke 13:10-17 (1/6) For the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost (The 27th

To Heal All: St. Luke 13:10-17, especially vs. 16: “So ought not this loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” During the reign of
King Asa of Judah (911-870 BC), the Holy Prophet Hanani reproached the
king for making defensive treaties with pagans rather than relying upon
God (2 Chr. 16:1-9 LXX). The Prophet reminded King Asa of a basic truth
concerning God and mankind: “...the eyes of the Lord look upon all the
earth, to strengthen every heart that is perfect toward Him” (2 Chr.
16:9 LXX). In today’s Gospel, note that Hanani’s declaration is
manifested in the Lord Jesus’ actions. His healing of a bent woman
includes efforts also to heal all who were present - in the same way
that He seeks to renew “every heart that is perfect toward Him.”
The Lord Jesus did two things when He healed the bent woman: He declared
that she was loosed from her infirmity (vs. 12), and He laid “His hands
on her” (vs. 13). St. Cyril of Alexandria draws attention to the
difference between the manner in which our Lord healed and the manner of
the worthies of the Old Testament as they healed: “each of the Holy
Prophets, if anywhere at all they wrought any miracle, is seen to have
done it by the power of God.” Typically, they fell on their faces before
the Almighty and besought Him with appropriate words of prayer; but
“Christ, the Savior of all, offers no prayer, but refers the
accomplishment of the matter to His own power, healing her by a word and
the touch of the hand.”

Not to overwhelm the multitudes who were present in the synagogue, but
rather to awaken them to His Divinity, Christ Jesus subtly departs from
a familiar pattern employed by the ancient saints for gaining God’s
compassion and healing. Instead, He behaves in a manner appropriate to
His Divine nature, that they might perceive something of the One present
with them and turn to Him to be healed. Our Lord’s “low-key” style did
not overwhelm or force the witnesses to believe in Him. Rather, He led
them to trust Him for their own healing. In response, “all the multitude
rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him” (vs. 17).

When the Lord was “censured” for working on the Sabbath - allegedly
contrary to the Law of Moses (Ex. 20:8-11) - He admonished the ruler of
the synagogue for condemning Him, pointing out a contradiction in the
man’s thinking. The Evangelist tells us that the ruler and other
“adversaries” of the Lord were “put to shame” (vss. 15-17). The Lord
yearned for them to be healed of their wrong thinking, but instead, as
Blessed Theophylact notes, they “burned with rage that He had healed at
all,” missing a great opportunity to have their souls and theology healed.

Had the Lord Jesus’ adversaries perceived His Divinity from His telltale
manner of healing, they would have realized that God gave the
commandment to rest on the Sabbath for the benefit of men and beasts,
but not for Himself. God did rest on the Sabbath (Gen. 2:2), yet never
ceased providing for us. If, on the Sabbath, the sun left its course,
the rains did not fall, and the rivers did not run, and a multitude of
other Divine works stopped, what disasters would befall us!

By laying His hand upon the bent woman, our Lord used His own human
nature drawn from the Theotokos, to show us a new means for being
healed. As St. Cyril of Alexandria discerned in this act of the Lord:
“it is possible to see that His holy flesh bore in it the power and
activity of God.” Thereby, He revealed that the “Incarnation of the Word
and His assumption of human nature took place for the overthrow of death
and the destruction, and of that envy nourished against us by the wicked
serpent....” And we, Brethren, being initiated into this Holy Mystery,
are privileged to partake of the same healing and life-giving God!

O Lord, may Thy life-giving Mysteries be for the healing of our souls
and bodies!

St. Matthew 3:13-17 (1/6) The
Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ

Christ's Baptism: St. Matthew 3:13-17, especially vss. 14, 15: "John
tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You and are You
coming to me?' But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so
now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'"
While John the Forerunner lived silently in the desert from childhood,
the Lord Jesus remained quietly unrecognized in Nazareth. Then the
Evangelist Luke tells us that "the word of God came to John" (Lk. 3:2),
and he began "preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of
sins" (Lk. 3:3). It was "time for the Lord to act." Therefore, the
Lord Jesus "came from Galilee to be baptized by him" (Mt.
3:13) - not to observe, talk, or listen to him, but to be baptized by him.

Since the baptismal rite that the Forerunner offered was for
"repentance" (Lk. 3:3), one might ask if there were not some
contradiction in Jesus accepting a ritual signifying personal
repentance. After all, the Apostle Paul asserts that He "was in all
points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15)! Our expectation
is inverted: the all-holy God-man is baptized by John, the teacher of
baptism for repentance. Why does Christ ritually unite His sinless
humanity with our corrupt humanity? Why does He subject His Light to
our darkness and sin?

St. John, filled as he was with the Holy Spirit, saw the contradiction
clearly: "And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized
by You, and you are coming to me? '"(vs. 14). But Christ understood
that what is to be saved must be fully assumed. In His baptism He was
not repenting. Rather, He was uniting His all-pure Self to our corrupt
nature in order to restore us to Himself, despite our sinfulness. He
was using His humanity as a bridge from His holiness to our sinfulness.
As St. Paul said in another place: "He made Him Who knew no sin to be
sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2
Cor. 5:21).

The Holy Fathers note that when the Lord was baptized, "the whole
universe [was] watered by mystical streams." Hence, the whole created
order, by the entry of the All-pure Person of God the Word, was "lighted
from on high....the land and the sea have divided between them the joy
of the world, and the world hath been filled with rejoicing. The waters
saw Thee, O God, the waters saw Thee; they were afraid. Jordan turned
back when it beheld the fire of the Godhead coming down and descending
upon it in the flesh" (and see Ps. 113:3-5 LXX).

Thereby, the Lord's purpose in being baptized was grand in scale, yes,
even cosmic in scope. Not only are men restored to God as He unites
Himself to our race again in Jordan's waters, but the "whole creation
[which also] groans and labors with birth pangs together until now"
(Rom. 8:22) experiences in itself the wondrous process of its renewal.

By the mystery of Christ's Baptism, the waters of earth that suffused
His Body were spiritually transformed to be a means by which the Holy
Spirit may be conveyed to men, to us. In Holy Baptism, the Spirit acts
through water and we are united with Christ. Part of Christ's purpose
in Baptism was to prepare all of earth's waters for our new birth in the
Spirit (Jn. 3:5).

Note carefully: the capstone that completes God's "arch of intention" in
the Lord Jesus' Baptism was the descent of the Holy Spirit and the
spoken affirmation by God the Father: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I
Am well pleased" (Mt. 3:17). In the Lord Jesus' Baptism, the mystery of
the Holy Trinity is disclosed for the first time in a complete
revelation of the Divine nature of three Persons: the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit. Christ's Baptism is an eternity-filled moment, the
first instance in time revealing the glory, nature, and purpose of the

Great art Thou, O Lord, and wondrous art Thy works, and there is no word
that sufficeth to hymn Thy wonders! This change hath been wrought by
the right hand of the Most High.

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