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The Epiphany Of Our Lord

Feast date: Jan 06

The Epiphany of Our Lord is the Christian feast observed on Jan. 6, 2016.  The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek epiphainen, a verb that means "to shine upon," "to manifest," or “to make known.” Thus, the feast of the Epiphany celebrates the many ways that Christ has made Himself known to the world, mainly the three events that manifested the mission and divinity of Christ:  the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12), the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11), and the miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11). 

The visit of the Magi is emphasized on Epiphany Day, and Christ's baptism is celebrated the first Sunday that follows.

Holy Innocents

Feast date: Dec 28

The Holy Innocents are the children mentioned in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 2:16-18.

Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry, and sent his soldiers to kill all male children ages two and under that were in Bethlehem and on the boarders, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled the prophesy of Jeremiah: A voice in Rama was heard, of lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailed her children, and would not be comforted, because they were not.

The Greek Liturgy asserts that Herod killed 14,000 boys, the Syrians speak of 64,000, and many medieval authors speak of 144,000, according to Rev. 14:3. Modern writers reduce the number considerably, since Bethlehem was a rather small town. Knabenbauer brings it down to fifteen or twenty (Evang. S. Matt., I, 104), Bisping to ten or twelve (Evang. S. Matt.), and Kellner to about six (Christus and seine Apostel, Freiburg, 1908).

This cruel deed of Herod is not mentioned by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, although he relates quite a number of atrocities committed by the king during the last years of his reign. The number of these children was so small that this crime appeared insignificant amongst the other misdeeds of Herod. Macrobius relates that when Augustus heard that amongst the boys of two years and under Herod's own son also had been massacred, he said: "It is better to be Herod's hog, than his son" alluding to the Jewish law of not eating, and consequently not killing, swine. The Middle Ages gave faith to this story, and Abelard inserted it in his hymn for the feast of Holy Innocents.

It is impossible to determine the day or the year of the death of the Holy Innocents, since the chronology of the birth of Christ and the subsequent Biblical events is most uncertain. All we know is that the infants were slaughtered within two years following the apparition of the star to the Wise Men (Belser, in the Tubingen "Quartalschrift," 1890, p. 361). The Church venerates these children as martyrs (flores martyrum); they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead (St. Aug., "Sermo 10us de sanctis").

The Latin Church instituted the feast of the Holy Innocents at a date now unknown, not before the end of the fourth, and not later than the end of the fifth century.

The Roman Station of December 28 is at St. Paul's Outside the Walls, because that church is believed to possess the bodies of several of the Holy Innocents. A portion of these relics was transferred by Sixtus V to Santa Maria Maggiore. The church of St. Justina at Padua, the cathedrals of Lisbon and Milan, and other churches also preserve bodies which they claim to be those of some of the Holy Innocents.

The Nativity of The Lord - Christmas

Feast date: Dec 25

The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131; in Latin Dies Natalis.

Early Celebration

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Sts. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts, and Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday. Arnobius can still ridicule the "birthdays" of the gods.

 

The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria says that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ's birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (May 20) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. The December feast therefore reached Egypt between 427 and 433.

 

In Rome the earliest evidence is in the Philocalian Calendar, compiled in 354, which contains three important entries. In the civil calendar December 25 is marked "Natalis Invicti." In the "Depositio Martyrum" a list of Roman or early and universally venerated martyrs, under December 25 is found "VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudæ."

 

De Santi (L'Orig. delle Fest. Nat., in Civiltæ Cattolica, 1907), following Erbes, argues that Rome took over the Eastern Epiphany, now with a definite Nativity colouring, and, with as increasing number of Eastern Churches, placed it on December 25. Later, both the East and West divided their feast, leaving Ephiphany on January 6, and Nativity on December 25, respectively, and placing Christmas on December 25 and Epiphany on January 6. The earlier hypothesis still seems preferable.

 

Origin of Date

 

Concerning the date of Christ's birth the Gospels give no help; upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion. Again, in winter it must have been; then only field labour was suspended, but Rome was not thus considerate. Authorities moreover differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season.

 

Natalis Invicti

The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on December 25, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont's epoch-making "Textes et Monuments" etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355. Mommsen (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, 12, p. 338) has collected the evidence for the feast, which reached its climax of popularity under Aurelian in 274. Filippo del Torre in 1700 first saw its importance. It is marked, as has been said, without addition in Philocalus' Calendar. It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Chrisian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont.

 

Liturgy and Custom

The fixing of this date fixed those too of Circumcision and Presentation, of Expectation and, perhaps, Annunciation B.V.M., and of Nativity and Conception of the Baptist (cf. Thurston in Amer. Eccl. Rev., December, 1898). Till the tenth century Christmas counted, in papal reckoning, as the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, as it still does in Bulls. Boniface VIII (1294-1303) restored temporarily this usage, to which Germany held longest.

 

The Crib (creche) or Nativity Scene

Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223 originated the crib of today by laicizing a hitherto ecclesiastical custom, henceforward extra-liturgical and popular. The presence of ox and ass is due to a misinterpretation of Isaias 1:3, and Habakkuk 3:2 ("Itala" version), though they appear in the unique fourth-century "Nativity" discovered in the Saint Sebastian catacombs in 1877. The ass on which Balaam rode in the Reims mystery won for the feast the title Festum Asinorum (Ducange, op. cit., s.v. Festum).

 

Hymns and Carols

The degeneration of these plays in part occasioned the diffusion of noels, pastorali, and carols, to which was accorded, at times, a quasi-liturgical position. Prudentius, in the fourth century, is the first (and in that century alone) to hymn the Nativity, for the "Vox clara" (hymn for Lauds in Advent) and "Christe Redemptor" (Vespers and Matins of Christmas) cannot be assigned to Ambrose. "A solis ortu" is certainly, however, by Sedulius (fifth century). The earliest German Weihnachtslieder date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the earliest noels from the eleventh, the earliest carols from the thirteenth. The famous "Stabat Mater Speciosa" is attributed to Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306); "Adeste Fideles" is, at the earliest, of the seventeenth century. These essentially popular airs, and even words, must, however, have existed long before they were put down in writing.

An Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass was celebrated Dec. 11, 2021, at the namesake parish in Immokalee as one part of three days of feast day celebrations.

St. Andrew, Apostle

Feast date: Nov 30

On Nov. 30, Catholics worldwide celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, apostle and martyr. A fisherman from Bethsaida and brother of Simon Peter, St. Andrew is said to have spread Christianity in Russia and Asia minor after Pentecost in the first century. He was crucified by the Romans in Greece on an X-shaped cross, which is now his distinctive symbol as well as the symbol of Scotland, of which he is the patron.

St. Andrew demonstrated his love for his brother as well as his apostolic zeal when, convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, he sought out St. Peter. “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, 'we have found the Messiah.' Then he brought him to Jesus.” (Jn. 1:40-42)

Some of St. Andrew's remains were brought to Scotland in the fourth century, though parts of his skeleton lie in the crypt of the cathedral in Amalfi, Italy, where they are removed twice a year and produce a clear, water like substance. The substance, called “manna,” is said to have miraculous attributes.

All Saints of the Seraphic Order (Feast)

Feast date: Nov 29

On November 29, the Church celebrates the many Franciscan saints who followed in the footsteps of St. Francis. It is a special day for all Franciscans to celebrate the feast of ‘All the Saints of the Seraphic Order.’

According to tradition, St. Francis of Assisi prayed the following prayer:

"O Lord Jesus Christ, two favors I beg of you before I die. The first is that I may, as far as it is possible, feel in my soul and in my body the suffering in which you, O gentle Jesus, sustained in your bitter passion. And the second favor is that I, as far as it is possible, may receive in my heart that excessive charity by which you, the Son of God, were inflamed, and which actuated you willingly to suffer so much for us sinners."

In response to his earnest prayer, the Lord appeared in the form of  a seraph, or a six-winged angel (They are usually considered the highest order of angelic beings, immediately above the Cherubim, and their special duty is to love God).

Then Jesus bestowed on St. Francis the wounds of his suffering. St. Francis had been marked with the love of Christ, the stigmata.

St. Francis died two years later in 1226, leaving the world the Franciscan Order, which became synonymous with the Seraphic Order. To this day, seraph wings and seraphs are symbolic of the Franciscan Order.

The final Rule of life for Franciscan friars was also approved on this day in 1223. To commemorate this, and all the saintly examples produced in the Franciscan Order, on this day all the saints of the Seraphic order are remembered at Franciscan churches.