The Epiphany is not just a feast. Traditionally, it is an Octave, and also a season, or, rather, the second part of the season of Christmastide. “Epiphanytide,” as it is called, is that portion of the liturgical year in the traditional rite (it has vanished from the new) that takes us all the way from Epiphany day to the sixteen-day season of Septuagesimatide (also absent in the new rite).
Thus, my writing about the Epiphany now and connecting it to current events in the Church is still timely.
The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates three mysteries at once: the Visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, and the Marriage Feast of Cana. The Magnificat Antiphon from Second Vespers for the feast summarizes all this beautifully:
We celebrate a festival adorned by three miracles: this day, a star led the Magi to the manger; this day, water was changed into wine at the marriage-feast; this day, Christ vouchsafed to be baptized by John in the Jordan, for our salvation. Alleluia.
While the Roman liturgy mentions all three of these salvific events on the feast of January 6, the focus that day is on the Adoration of the Magi. Hence the Gospel for the Feast’s Mass. The Octave day of the Epiphany (January 13), is reserved as a special Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, while the Marriage Feast at Cana is commemorated in the Mass on the Second Sunday after Epiphany.
In the Eastern Churches, a heavy emphasis is put on the mystery of Our Lord’s baptism (this being the principle mystery they celebrate on the Epiphany); hence, some very interesting customs have arisen among our Eastern brethren (separated and uniate) involving not only the blessing of water (which we Latins do, too), but also submersing themselves into it, as on pilgrimages to the Jordan River (pictures), or diving into various bodies of water to fish out crosses thrown thither by the clergy, or otherwise plunging themselves (e.g., in Russia) into the icy waters of January.
What these three mysteries have in common is that they are all manifestations or “showings forth,” which is what Epiphany means. In the Magi, Christ is manifested to the first fruits of the gentile world, and there are various traditions about the Wise Men bringing news of the Infant King they adored back to the East, receiving baptism from Saint Thomas in that Apostle’s missionary journey, and helping him to spread the Good News. In the Baptism in the Jordan, the voice of the Father and the appearance of the Holy Ghost give testimony to Christ — as does Saint John the Baptist. And the Marriage Feast of Cana is, of course, where Jesus turned water into wine, which was that “beginning of miracles” by which He “manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).
Each Epiphany mystery is a mystery of manifestation, but each is also a mystery of union — a union shown most naturally in the Wedding Feast at Cana. So, then, we are allowed to use nuptial language in referring to the other Epiphany mysteries, as the Church herself does. The heavenly Bridegroom woos His spouse, the Church, in the persons of the Magi, in whom He begins to unite himself to the pagan nations, formerly so alienated from God. In the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, Our Lord institutes the Sacrament of Baptism, and therefore, in principle, unites Himself to each of those who will make up His Spouse, which is also His Mystical Body. It is Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians (5:22-33), who speaks of the Church as both Christ’s spouse and His body, which (in Baptism) He has sanctified, “cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life” (v. 26).
Let us, in these evil days, cultivate a special devotion to the The Marriage Feast of Cana and its sacramental and ecclesiastical significance. Why? The devil is attacking the sacrament of Holy Matrimony with ferocity and in a seemingly mad frenzy. Most horribly of all, he is attacking it not only by means of worldly allurements, lust, greed, sloth, cowardice, and other vices, but he is attacking it also by means of the Church’s own sacred hierarchy, some of whom are teaching a false doctrine on marriage that desecrates that great sacrament — at the same time desecrating the Holy Eucharist and rendering the sacrament of Penance invalid.
There are bishops, citing Amoris Laetitia as their justification, who are allowing habitual adulterers to receive Holy Communion while remaining in their sin. In each case, this constitutes a profanation of the sacrament of the validly married party (or parties). Further, it renders any confessions invalid, since it removes the firm purpose of amendment for a habitual mortal sin. Finally, to receive Holy Communion in such a state is not permitted because of the persistence of unconfessed, objectively grave sin. Therefore, we are talking about “approved” desecrations of Our Lord in the very Sacrament of His Love. This is a scandal, and it constitutes a systematized, “officially” sanctioned, attack on marriage, family, and the sacraments just mentioned.
In this connection, it is easy to recall the words of Sister Lucy to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, who, we recall, is one of the four signatories of the five dubia sent to the Holy Father regarding Amoris:
…the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, she added, because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. And then she concluded: however, Our Lady has already crushed its head.
Steve Skojek has placed these words alongside those of some other approved prophesies to a very dramatic effect.
As I write, it is the day before the Feast of the Holy Family, whose office of Matins I have just anticipated. In the traditional rite, this feast falls on the Sunday after the Epiphany, which will have come and gone by the time anyone reads my words. I mention it to illustrate that this part of the Church year is intensely focused on marriage and the family. Let us not miss these lessons, and let us stir up our ardent love for the supernatural institutions that are being desecrated before our very eyes.
Sister Lucy’s words to Cardinal Carraffa — “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family” — make me wonder whether she also has in mind the supernatural family of the Church into which are born by Baptism, and the mystical marriage of Christ to His Church; for it seems that, through a variety of heresies, including indifferentism, liberalism, and Americanism, Satan is attacking the unique ecclesiastical family of God as well as the nuptials of Christ and His Church. Again, let us not forget those words in Ephesians five that speak of the marriage of man and wife being a figure of the greater union of Christ to His Church.
As a reminder of these heavenly nuptials, here are some words on the Epiphany from that great master of liturgical and monastic piety, Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Thanks be to thee, O Infant God, for that unspeakable gift (II. Cor. ix. 15) of Faith, which, as thy Apostle teaches us, hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into thy kingdom, making us parkers of the lot of the Saints in Light (Coloss. i. 12,13). Give us grace to grow in the knowledge of this thy Gift, and to understand the importance of this great Day, whereon thou makest alliance with the whole human race, which thou wouldst afterwards make thy Bride by espousing her. Oh! the Mystery of this Marriage Feast, dear Jesus! “A Marriage,” says one of thy Vicars on earth [Innocent the Third], “that was promised to the Patriarch Abraham, confirmed by oath to King David, accomplished in Mary when she became Mother, and consummated, confirmed, and declared, on this day; consummated in the adoration of the Magi, confirmed in the Baptism in the Jordan, and declared in the miracle of the water changed into wine.” On this Marriage-Feast, — where the Church, thy Spouse, already receives queenly honours — we will sing to thee, O Jesus! with all the fervour of our hearts, these words of to-day’s Office, which sweetly blend the Three Mysteries into one — that of thy Alliance with us. …
And here the learned Abbot quotes the Benedictus antiphon for the Feast, which says with with admirable Roman concision: “This day, is the Church united to the heavenly Spouse, for Christ, in the Jordan, washes away her sins: the Magi run to the royal Nuptials with their gifts: and the guests of the Feast are gladdened by the water changed into wine. Alleluia.”