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Traditions associated with Epiphany vary based on location

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For The Dialog

Father Stanislao Esposito didn’t anxiously await Christmas morning to see what Santa had left him while growing up in Italy. Instead, he awaited a Jan. 6 visit by La Befana, a good witch, who brought gifts for boys and girls.

“The idea was that since Jesus got his gifts on the Epiphany, so did we,” said the pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea-Holy Savior in Ocean City, Md. Read more »

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Seek out signs God offers for finding Jesus, pope says on feast of the Epiphany

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Go out and seek the signs God is offering everyone today that will lead to Christ, Pope Francis said.

The thirst for God is present in everyone, and it’s the church’s task to help those with “a restless heart” by pointing them to the true light of Christ, the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany, which marks the manifestation of Jesus as savior to the world.

Men dressed as the Three Kings ride on horses in an Epiphany parade in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Men dressed as the Three Kings ride on horses in an Epiphany parade in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

In his homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said the church’s mission is to help people “know the face of the father” by first receiving “God’s light and then to reflect it. This is her duty.”

The church must always remember, however, that the light it shares is the glory of the Lord. “The church cannot deceive herself into thinking that she shines with her own light. She cannot,” he said.

“Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the church remains anchored in him, to the extent she lets herself be illuminated by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples,” he said.

It is only by receiving this divine light that Christians can be true to their vocation of proclaiming the Gospel, which is not proselytism, not a mere profession and “not simply one option among many,” but an obligation, he said.

The Three Wise Men who come from afar seeking the promised king show that “the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the creator, who calls all people to recognize him as the good and faithful father,” the pope said.

“The church has the task of recognizing and bringing forth more clearly the desire for God, which is present in the heart of every man and woman,” he said.

“Like the Wise Men, countless people, even in our own day, have a restless heart, which continues to seek without finding sure answers,” he said. “They, too, are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.”

But Christians must also keep asking and looking for the Christ child as well, especially in today’s age, and “to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that they require our diligence in order to interpret them and, therefore, understand his will.”

“And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our intelligence, and our love,” the pope said.

As people follow the light that “streams from the face of Christ full of mercy and fidelity,” he said, do not forget that this light is also “very small,” coming from a tiny, humble child in a manger.

“True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the church is summed up.”

While Pope Francis and thousands of people were at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, thousands more lined the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square for the traditional, folkloric Epiphany celebration. Marching bands, Roman gladiators and hundreds of people in Renaissance costumes paraded up the street along with the Three Kings and real camels.

At the Angelus at midday, the pope said the revelation of Jesus to the shepherds and the Three Wise Men “teaches us that in order to encounter Jesus it is necessary to know to look up to heaven, to not be withdrawn into oneself, but to have a heart and mind open to the horizon of God, who always surprises us, to know to welcome his message and respond quickly and generously.”

The Three Wise Men also compel “us to not be satisfied with mediocrity, to not just stumble along in life, but to seek out the meaning of things and to look deeply at the great mystery of life with passion. And they teach us to not be scandalized by smallness and poverty but to recognize the majesty in humility and know how to kneel before it.”

Finding that star, such as the Gospel, is a source of great joy and consolation, he said, because one feels “guided and not abandoned to our fate.”

“Without listening to the Gospel, it is not possible to encounter” Jesus, he said.

The pope asked people to pray that the Virgin Mary “help us turn our gaze away from ourselves, to let ourselves be guided by the star of the Gospel in order to encounter Jesus, and to know how to lower ourselves in order to adore him.”

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God created all people, desires to save them, pope says on Epiphany

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In every age and in every culture, people seek God just as the Three Kings did and, in every age, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they find him in the surprising humility of a baby born in a manger, Pope Francis said.

“Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love,” the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates Mass on the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS photo/Andrew Medichini pool via Reuters)

Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates Mass on the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS photo/Andrew Medichini pool via Reuters)

Before beginning the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis and two families, each with two small children, paid homage to the newborn Lord by kissing a statue of Baby Jesus that had been placed in front of the main altar on Christmas Eve.

The journey of the Magi from the East and their discovery of the babe, the pope said in his homily, is a sign that Jesus came to save all peoples, not just his fellow Jews.

“According to tradition, the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the heavens in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over human affairs,” the pope told the congregation. “The wise men represent men and woman who seek God in the world’s religions and philosophies: an unending quest.”

The Holy Spirit prompted them to follow the star, kept them strong when their quest proved difficult and filled them with the grace they needed “to have a personal encounter with the true God,” he said.

While it would have been understandable to not believe that the baby was the Messiah, the Holy Spirit helped them “enter into the mystery,” the pope said. “The wise men are thus model of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendor of power.”

The feast of the Epiphany, he said, is a time for all Christians to ask themselves where God can be found in their lives and whether they resist the temptation to put their faith in people or things that demonstrate worldly power.

“The crib points us to a different path from the one cherished by the thinking of this world,” Pope Francis said. “It is the path of God’s self-abasement, his glory concealed in the manger of Bethlehem, on the cross upon Calvary, in each of our suffering brothers and sisters.”

While Pope Francis and thousands of people were at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, thousands more lined the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square for the traditional, folkloric Epiphany celebration. Marching bands, baton twirlers and more than 1,500 people in Renaissance costumes paraded up the street ahead of the Three Kings on horseback.

Vatican police said there were 50,000 people were in the square to recite the Angelus at midday with the pope.

The revelation of Jesus to the Three Kings, the pope said at the Angelus, was the “manifestation of God’s love and universal salvation. He does not reserve his love to a privileged few, but offers it to all.”

Just as all human beings have one creator, the pope said, God willed that they would have one savior, Jesus Christ.

“For this reason, we are called always to nourish great trust and hope for every person and his or her salvation,” he said. “Even those who seem far from the Lord are followed, or better, pursued, by his passionate and faithful love.”

Like the Wise Men, he said, Christians must continue to journey closer and closer to the Lord, attentive to the signs of God’s presence, untiring and courageous.

“Attentive, untiring and courageous — but one thing is missing,” he said. “Walk in the light! And what is the light? The Gospel of Jesus. Always have a Gospel in your purse or pocket to read.”

 

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