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Posted by on Jan 16, 2015

The Magi and the Gift of Holy Discontent

The Magi and the Gift of Holy Discontent

 


Fr. Geoffrey Plant of Sydney, Australia has prepared a multimedia homily for the feast of the Epiphany. In his homily, Fr. Plant presents the main points of the feast.

The term “epiphany” comes from the Greek meaning to “shine forth”. We tend to assume that there were three kings because there were three gifts named: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Fr. Plant notes that they were not called kings but “magi” in Greek, with stands for wise men or sages.

The gifts are symbolic of the nature and meaning of Jesus. Gold is a symbol of royalty, frankincense is a sign of the divine, and myrrh is for burial, indicating that Jesus will triumph through suffering and death.

Fr. Plant suggests the wise men also brought the gift of Holy Discontent. Examples of holy discontent may be seen in the character of Popeye. An example of unholy indifference is seen in the the character of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Fr. Plant sees the magi as showing a holy discontent: a willingness to search, to be changed, and not to feel comfortable again. He compares them to Herod’s wise men who despite being so close to Bethlehem fail to see the signs in the heavens though others have seen them from afar.  Quoting W. H. Auden, Fr. Plant compares the hardness of heart of Herod’s wise men to our own post-modern era:

We would rather be ruined than changed

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die

W.H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety

This gift of Holy Discontent — the gift of prophecy and activism — is what the wise men bring to the Christ child and to us according to Fr. Plant. It is the divine call to the kingdom through suffering, death, and resurrection.

 

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Posted by on Jan 5, 2015

Experiencing and Celebrating God-With-Us Through Gifting

Experiencing and Celebrating God-With-Us Through Gifting

 

Presents-under-the-Christmas-treeby Petr KratochvilGifting, the giving and receiving of gifts during the Christmas season, serves to remind us of God’s great gift in coming to live with us personally. In Jesus, the Word of God, became a human, like us in all things but sin. God chose to enter into the vulnerable, imperfect, uncertain, but wonderful reality of life as a fully human being, starting as a baby with normal human parents, family, and friends in a small village. Through the gift of incarnation and redemption, God healed the division between the divine and the human, giving humans the chance to be re-united with their source.

Christians have celebrated this great gift from the very beginning through their celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. Sharing of gifts of time, talent, and money has also been a hallmark of the Christian life, not just within the community but also reaching outside to the most vulnerable members of society. The world has never been the same since God entered personally into our human experience, because now God lives as Holy Spirit within each of us and reaches out to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Diverse gifting traditions

Traditions for giving and receiving gifts vary around the world. In some areas St. Nicholas brings gifts on his feast day, December 6. In others Santa Claus or the Christ Child bring gifts at Christmas. In still others, the gifts arrive at the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany in early January, when the coming of Jesus was shown forth to the Gentile world as well as to the original children of Israel.

The gifts arrive in different ways as well. Some are placed in shoes, others in stockings. Some are placed under a tree, others arrive carried by family or friends. Some are wrapped, others shine in all their glory to delight children who wake early to find them. Some even come via the postal service and other freight delivery trucks! However they arrive and however they are packaged, they carry love in their wake.

As we have moved through Advent and into the Christmas Season this year, I have also been noticing the ways that traditional holiday foods arrive in or as packages. Many candies and baked goods arrive in lovely containers. The tamales we enjoy at Christmas and New Year’s Day have meat or vegetables seasoned with chili hidden inside the corn dough. Chinese dumplings eaten to celebrate the New Year have a mixture of meat and/or vegetables hidden inside the noodle dough that we see. King cakes have a figurine or other surprise hidden inside. Steamed puddings have nuts and raisins inside. Each of these traditional forms of gifts and food (and others from around the world) is a way that we as humans express the wonder of God’s gift of himself to us through the birth of Jesus.

May the joy of Christmas and the wonder of Epiphany be yours now and into the year we have begun.

 Image by Petr Kratochvil – public domain

 

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Posted by on Jan 9, 2013

Epiphany — The Coming of a Shepherd for All God’s People

Epiphany — The Coming of a Shepherd for All God’s People

 

The Adoration of the Magic by Murillo

The Adoration of the Magic by Murillo

The readings for the Feast of the Epiphany and the week that follows ring out with joy at the coming of the Lord, not just to the Jewish people, but to all the world. “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” (Is 60:1) “… the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph 3:6) “… behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Mt 2:1-2) “All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.” (Ps 72:11)

Yet amidst all of this joy and talk of kings and splendor, the reality of God’s kingdom quietly peeks out. Where has the child been born? Not in Jerusalem, the center of political and religious power. Those in Jerusalem — kings and priests alike — have not heard of the birth of a child to inherit the throne. The priests and teachers remember the prophecy of his birth: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” (Mt 2:6) Bethlehem, city of David, home of another child who grew up to replace an earthly king to whom he was not related, is once again to produce such a king! The news was not a source of joy to the rulers of the age; an attempt to thwart the prophecy was duly launched, leading to the massacre of all of the boys aged two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. (Mt 2:16) The birth of a child to be the new king brings terrible suffering to many innocent children and their families.

The king of the prophecy will be different: he will be a shepherd for God’s people, Israel. A shepherd takes a different approach to governing and to leadership. The shepherd will govern with justice, protecting the afflicted ones and bringing peace “til the moon be no more” to the land. (Ps 72:7) The kings of the nations will pay homage to this king and all nations will serve him because this king rescues the poor who cry out for help. He takes pity on everyday people and the poor, rescuing them from all who would oppress or take advantage of them. Such a king would indeed be welcomed and his glory would truly shine forth. This king, blessed by God, will bring glory to Jerusalem — the center of the Lord’s presence among His people.

This great feast of Epiphany, the shining forth of the Lord’s splendor from Israel into the world at large, reminds us of our call as the People of God: a call to care for each other so that the splendor of love in all its practical applications will be a witness everywhere to the presence of the Shepherd, leading us in bringing justice and peace to our world.

 

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Posted by on Jan 6, 2012

A Sweet Treat for the Feast of Epiphany – Rosca de Reyes

A Sweet Treat for the Feast of Epiphany – Rosca de Reyes

Roscón de Reyes

The Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, is traditionally celebrated on January 6  in western Christian Churches. While the Roman Catholic Church has moved the celebration of the Epiphany to the Sunday following the Feast of Mary Mother of God (January 1), this feast continues to be celebrated on January 6 in many homes and communities. In Latin cultures, the Three Kings bring gifts to children on this day and families gather for festive meals.

Rosca de Reyes or Roscón de Reyes (King’s Bread) is a traditional pastry served on the Feast of the Epiphany. It is generally served with a cup of hot chocolate or atole in Mexico. In Spain, people savor this sweet bread for breakfast, while in Latin America it is more commonly served in the afternoon.

The tradition of making ring cakes dates back to the Saturnalia, when the Romans would fashion round cakes made with honey, figs, and dates, and distribute them to all people, including slaves. In the third century, people started to put one dried fava-bean in the dough, and whoever received the piece of bread that contained the bean would be named rey de reyes (king of kings) for a short period of time.

The cakes that are made today are formed to imitate a crown – shaped as a ring and decorated with bright “jewels” (fruits.) In Spain, a fava-bean is still hidden in the dough, but in Mexico a doll representing the baby Jesus in tucked inside the ring. The doll symbolizes that Jesus had to be hidden and protected after he was born. Today in Mexican culture, the lucky person who finds the doll is expected to take the figurine to church on February 2 and host a party that day to celebrate El Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemas).

The following is a recipe for Rosca de Reyes for those who like to bake and would like to try a special treat.

Rosca de reyes
(King’s Bread Ring)

Ingredients:

2 packets of yeast
2 Tablespoons lukewarm water
2/3 cup boiling hot milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 well beaten eggs
1/3 cup softened shortening
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups finely-chopped candied or dried fruits and citron or a little dried lemon peel + a handful for decoration
Chopped nuts. maraschino cherries, and/or orange peel for decoration (optional)

Soften yeast in lukewarm water. Combine hot milk, sugar, salt, and stir to blend. Let cool to lukewarm. Add softened yeast, eggs, shortening, and half of the flour. Beat until well blended. Add remaining flour and candied fruits. Mix until the dough is moderately stiff. Knead lightly on floured board until smooth. Grease baking sheets.

To shape dough:

To make 2 small rings, divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a rope about 20-inches long. Shape into 7-8-inch circles on greased baking sheets, or use ring molds. Put one china, or heat resistant plastic doll into each ring so that they do not show.

To make one large ring, roll the dough into a longer rope and shape into a ring of desired size. Tuck a doll into the dough.

Brush with melted shortening. Let rise in slightly warm place until double in bulk. Bake at 375˚ for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. (The smaller ring will take less time to cook.) Let cool.

To decorate: Blend powdered sugar and milk (or water) to make a thick icing. Spread icing over ring(s) and decorate with more candied fruits, maraschino cherries or peels.

Image by Tamorlan
Used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

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