Blog # 220 Liturgical Feasts
A song book, a home video of Grandma's birthday party, playing cards, seeds, a recipe book, a crucifix, Matthew 2: 1 - 12,(yesterday's Gospel passage: the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem). What have all of these in common? There is something real in each of them that comes from the past and reaches to the present, inviting a response. Sing it again, play it again, plant another garden, bake another cake. Remember Grandma. . See her wonderful smile again. Introduce her to her four-year-old great-grandchild, though she died at the age of 87 six years ago. This is how we loved her on her eightieth birthday. This is how she sang for us. This is what she said about Grandpa who had died twenty years before. It is different,yes, but true, and also the same as it was when we were there with her thirteen years ago. The video helps us remember. Watching it again helps us to renew and grow in our love for her. It is not just another TV show. We keep it and plan to watch it again. It is similar with the other items listed above. Seeds for more tomatoes. New and different tomatoes, but the same breed we enjoyed last season, and connected with them in the seed. The same playing cards. Bridge, the same name of the game mother played last night, but now you are playing with a different set of friends. You found the recipe for the great spaghetti source you enjoyed in the famous restaurant in New York City when you were there for your fifteenth wedding anniversary. You are not in New York now, but you remember. You put the recipe together and it was cooking on the stove all day. You found all of the ingredients called for in the recipe. Your kitchen smells very much like a famous restaurant in New York. How happy you and John will be when you light the candles and sit down for supper together this evening. The spaghetti sauce has everything the recipe called for, but it has that additional ingredient that makes it uniquely special this evening, your anniversary love
It is something like this with the feasts we celebrate throughout the liturgical year. Something real happens in the past. We believe. We remember. We sing it again. We watch it again. Jesus is born and we are there. Jesus claims to be God. Jesus teaches. Jesus dies on the wood. We are there. He asks us the same questions He asked Peter and the other disciples.. He tells us the same message He gave in Jerusalem. He offers us the same love He offered Martha and Mary in Bethany. We are invited to respond, to make it our own. The same recipe, a new bag of flour! God's love in us.
Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany, the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem. It happened a long time ago, in a far away place. They came by camel rather than by air. They traveled a path through the desert. It was a long and difficult journey. If we realize what our liturgical feasts are designed to do, we realize we have a part to play, today, in the events in the life of Jesus that we recall and relive in a particular feast. We have questions to answer. What was happening? Who are the people involved? What did they think, or say, or do?
Mary and Joseph continue to be present in today's feast. They are faithful servants of the Lord, holy ones. We admire them and thank them. They give us joy and inspiration in their love for Jesus. The Magi are discoverers, willing to grow, to follow their star, responsive, self-giving, persevering, rich yet humble, blessed. To be like them we are not called to learn how to ride a camel, but how to identify and follow the star. Their physical star may have been Haley's comet. No doubt they were among many people who saw it with their physical eyes. The guiding star of the Magi was the star that told them God's plan for them, and invited them to go after it. I was their conscience, and they followed that star to Jesus. We have a conscience too, that same star. Oh!Herod was jealous, fearing and fearsome, selfish, insecure, and violent. We can thank him for teaching us how we should never be. Finally the ordinary people. As tradition has handed the story down, the Magi were few in number. Most of the people seem to have been unaware of them and their story. Most of the people seem to have been following another agenda. The story of the Magi goes on, but most of the other people have passed on with their temporary agendas. Maybe later on some of them came to know and believe in Jesus. Maybe some of them were there on Calvary and just watched that go by too. Maybe they did not realize they had a part to play. Some people like them are alive today. The traditional content of today's feast has been a recognition of the DIVINITY OF JESUS, identified in the coming of the earthly rulers and wise men to pay Him homage and offer their treasures to Him, and, secondly, an emphasis on the UNIVERSALITY OF SALVATION and the call to welcome the whole world into the love of God in Jesus. This is seen in the fact the Magi are traditionally given as Gentiles rather than as Jews or as already members of the People of God and Children of Abraham. In this content we see our invitation as believing Christians to be evangelists in the spread of the Gospel in our world and in our moment of history with such marvelous means of communicating the message to the whole world instantaneously on the internet.