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Epiphany Magi salesianity_blogspot_comEpiphany is on January 6, also known as Twelfth Night.

Before discussing the Old Testament reading for this day, I have a number of posts about Epiphany:

A Lutheran pastor reflects on the Epiphany

More Lutheran reflections on the Epiphany

Remembering the Epiphany in chalk

The Epiphany and the Bible

Why the Epiphany is so important — a Lutheran perspective

A Lutheran perspective on the Magi

Jesuit astronomer discusses the Star of Bethlehem (2016)

What to remember about Epiphany (2016)

Epiphany and king cake — a history

The three-year Lectionary Epistle reading is Ephesians 3:1-12. and the Gospel reading is Matthew 2:1-12.

The Old Testament reading is as follows:

Isaiah 60:1-6

60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.

60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Note the last verse!

Commentary for these verses comes from Matthew Henry.

Whilst we can read this as strictly a history of the Jews coming out of captivity, this is also a prophecy of God’s covenant with the Church (emphases mine):

The long continuance of the church, even unto the utmost ages of time, was there promised, and here the large extent of the church, even unto the utmost regions of the earth and both these tend to the honour of the Redeemer. It is here promised, I. That the church shall be enlightened and shone upon, Isaiah 60:1,2. II. That it shall be enlarged and great additions made to it, to join in the service of God, Isaiah 60:3-8. III. That the new converts shall be greatly serviceable to the church and to the interests of it, Isaiah 60:9-13. IV. That the church shall be in great honour and reputation among men, Isaiah 60:14-16. V. That it shall enjoy a profound peace and tranquility, Isaiah 60:17,18. VI. That, the members of it being all righteous, the glory and joy of it shall be everlasting, Isaiah 60:19-22.

The Jews had divinely-given light bestowed on them when they were no longer captive. The Lord’s blessings truly bestowed on them, it was time for them to arise, shine and reflect that light to others (verse 1).

God is Light. Jesus is Light. There is no better light:

As far as we have the knowledge of God in us, and the favour of God towards us, our light has come. When God appears to us, and we have the comfort of his favour, then the glory of the Lord rises upon us as the morning light when he appears for us, and we have the credit of his favour, when he shows us some token for good and proclaims his favour to us, then his glory is seen upon us, as it was upon Israel in the pillar of cloud and fire. When Christ arose as the sun of righteousness, and in him the day-spring from on high visited us, then the glory of the Lord was seen upon us, the glory as of the first-begotten of the Father.

Also:

What is the duty which the rising of this light calls for: “Arise, shine not only receive this light, and” (as the margin reads it) “be enlightened by it, but reflect this light arise and shine with rays borrowed from it.” The children of light ought to shine as lights in the world. If God’s glory be seen upon us to our honour, we ought not only with our lips, but in our lives, to return the praise of it to his honour, Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15.

Even though darkness — extreme darkness — will cover the rest of the earth, God’s glory will rise and appear over His people, protecting them (verse 2):

What a foil there shall be to this light: Darkness shall cover the earth but, though it be gross darkness, darkness that might be felt, like that of Egypt, that shall overspread the people, yet the church, like Goshen, shall have light at the same time. When the case of the nations that have not the gospel shall be very melancholy, those dark corners of the earth being full of the habitations of cruelty to poor souls, the state of the church shall be very pleasant.

Nations and kings will be drawn to the light of God’s people (verse 3). Henry points out that this did not happen to the Jews, therefore, this prophecy was meant for the Church. As such, there is no one place that this will occur. Rather, people will be drawn to the light as Christians exhibit it:

There is no place now that is the centre of the church’s unity but the promise respects their flocking to Christ, and coming by faith, and hope, and holy love, into that society which is incorporated by the charter of his gospel, and of the unity of which he only is the centre–that family which is named from him, Ephesians 3:15. The gospel church is expressly called Zion and Jerusalem, and under that notion all believers are said to come to it (Hebrews 12:22. You have come unto Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem), which serves for a key to this prophecy, Ephesians 2:19.

We have been reading in Acts about the purity of the early Church, despite rogue members, sorcerers and persecution. Thanks to that purity — that light — the Church expanded enormously in Gentile lands. That is what Isaiah prophesied:

The purity and love of the primitive Christians, their heavenly-mindedness, contempt of the world, and patient sufferings, were the brightness of the church’s rising, which drew many into it. The beauty of holiness was the powerful attractive by which Christ had a willing people brought to him in the day of his power, Psalm 110:3 …

Lift up thy eyes round about, and see them coming, devout men out of every nation under heaven, Acts 2:5.

Many will flock to join Christ’s followers, wanting to be part of their light (verse 4). And so it happened in Acts. The powerful, accurate — and doctrinal — teaching of Peter, Paul, Barnabas and the local leaders of the various churches they established drew thousands of followers. The reference to nursing refers to the yearning to be taught and fed the Gospel, as a nurse takes care of her young charges:

There shall come some of both sexes. Sons and daughters shall come in the most dutiful manner, as thy sons and thy daughters, resolved to be of thy family, to submit to the laws of thy family and put themselves under the tuition of it. They shall come to be nursed at thy side, to have their education with thee from their cradle.” The church’s children must be nursed at her side, not sent out to be nursed among strangers there, where alone the unadulterated milk of the word is to be had, must the church’s new-born babes be nursed, that they may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:1,2. Those that would enjoy the dignities and privileges of Christ’s family must submit to the discipline of it.

Great things will happen as the Church expands and her people turn from worldly ways to abundant charity (verse 5):

Those that are brought into the church by the grace of God will be sure to bring all they are worth in with them, which with themselves they will devote to the honour and service of God and do good with in their places. (1.) The merchants shall write holiness to the Lord upon their merchandise and their hire, as Isaiah 23:18. “The abundance of the sea, either the wealth that is fetched out of the sea (the fish, the pearls) or that which is imported by sea, shall all be converted to thee and to thy use.” The wealth of the rich merchants shall be laid out in works of piety and charity. (2.) The mighty men of the nations shall employ their might in the service of the church: “The forces, or troops, of the Gentiles shall come unto thee, to guard thy coasts, strengthen thy interests, and, if occasion be, to fight thy battles.” The forces of the Gentiles had often been against the church, but now they shall be for it for as God, when he pleases, can, and, when we please him, will, make even our enemies to be at peace with us (Proverbs 16:7), so, when Christ overcomes the strong man armed, he divides his spoils, and makes that to serve his interests which had been used against them, Luke 11:22.

Verse 6 is in part a prophecy of the Magi, who travelled for many months to reach the Christ Child. As Gentiles, they knew nothing of God the Father, but they knew that a special birth had taken place and they followed the star to the right place. They paid homage to Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

As we know from the New Testament, countless Gentiles came to know God through learning of Jesus Christ. They gave offerings of goods and personal belongings to glorify the Lord by giving to His people in the Church.

Contrast that with today’s churches. Some are full. Most are not. Yes, people convert every day to Christianity, but more stay away. It is because many denominations have renounced purity or put it to one side, preferring to meet the world on earthly terms. Where a strong background in doctrine via the Bible is lacking, there is little hope. Let us pray that this situation begins to reverse itself.

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Epiphany Magi salesianity_blogspot_comThe Feast of the Epiphany takes place on January 6 every year.

It was the one event where Jesus was paid great tribute by great men, Gentiles from faraway lands who did not know Him. This signifies that He came for all people, not just for the twelve tribes of Israel.

It took the Magi many months crossing difficult terrain to reach the Christ Child.

The liturgical season of Epiphany in 2017 runs from this day through to Transfiguration Sunday on February 26. Ash Wednesday follows on March 1 this year and marks the beginning of Lent.

The Lectionary reading and Psalm from the Old Testament for Epiphany prophesied of Jesus Christ and of rulers from far away nations who would pay Him homage, bearing gifts:

Isaiah 60:1-6

60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.

60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

72:1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

72:3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

72:5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

72:7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

72:12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

72:13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

72:14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

I wrote about the Epistle and Gospel for this feast day last year. The readings are the same every year, so do not be dissuaded by seeing Year C in the title:

Epiphany — Epistle (Ephesians 3:1-12)

Epiphany — Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12)

Other helpful past posts on this feast day are below:

A Lutheran pastor reflects on the Epiphany

More Lutheran reflections on the Epiphany

Remembering the Epiphany in chalk

The Epiphany and the Bible

Why the Epiphany is so important — a Lutheran perspective

A Lutheran perspective on the Magi

What to remember about Epiphany

Jesuit astronomer discusses the Star of Bethlehem (2016)

Epiphany and king cake — a history

Br Guy in Lab.jpgBefore Christmas, SpouseMouse brought to my attention an interesting article from the London Evening Standard.

On Friday, December 16, the paper published ‘Can science explain the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem?’ on their op-ed page. Br Guy Consolmagno SJ, the author, is the director of the Specola Vaticana, the astronomical observatory of the Vatican City state.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We liked this for two reasons. One, it shows you can be religious and scientific:

At the Vatican Observatory, our work is the same as any other astronomical observatory. We take new data about things in space and try to devise explanations for how they behave. But we’re interested in the Star of Bethlehem for the same reason that everyone else is: it’s a fun mystery, a place where science and hope intersect.

Two, Br Guy goes through all the theories. Some you might like, some you might not. I did not agree with everything he had to say.

Regardless, his article will make you think more about the Star of Bethlehem, especially as he concludes (emphases mine):

Actually, to me the most astonishing part of the story of the Magi is not that they would predict the birth of a king from the positions of the planets; any fortune teller could have done that kind of calculation. Nor is it that they’d pull up roots and travel afar to find out if they were right; we astronomers do that all the time. Instead, it’s that they would be able and willing to recognise the king they were seeking in the child they found in a manger.

I thought a lot about that over Christmas. We still have time to ponder it, as Epiphany isn’t until January 6.

In 2016, Shrove Tuesday is on February 9 and Ash Wednesday on February 10.

Epiphany gospel readings – Year C

Before going into the ancient history behind Shrovetide, let’s look at what denominations following the  Church calendar currently call the season of Epiphany.

Churches following the three-year Lectionary readings are using those for Year C until the first Sunday in Advent, when Year A readings begin.

The Lectionary readings for the Sundays after Epiphany normally focus on Jesus’s divinity and ministry. In 2014, I excerpted an excellent explanation of the Epiphany season from St Paul’s Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) of Kingsville, Maryland. The church has since taken the page down, but my post has the salient points, among them (emphases mine):

Epiphany is … a season that lasts until the beginning of Lent and encompasses four to nine Sundays, depending on the date of Easter.

… the church concentrates on several of the other incidents from Scripture that show how Jesus manifested God’s love to the world through His ministry of preaching, miracles, and healings.  What is common to each of these epiphanies is that in one way or another they make known the identity and mission of Jesus Christ: True Man and True God, born into this sinful world to be the Lord and Savior of all humanity.

This year, Sunday gospel readings included Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22), His first creative miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11), His preaching at the synagogue in Nazareth when they wanted to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-21Luke 4:21-30) and the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)). Be sure to read the missing and optional verses!

Shrovetide

Before the post-Vatican II liturgical changes occurred in the Catholic Church and before similar adjustments occurred in Anglican and Lutheran churches, these denominations observed what was called Shrovetide.

Shrovetide begins on Septuagesima Sunday and comprises Sexagesima Sunday and Quinquagesima Sunday (commonly called Shrove Sunday). My post, ‘The Sundays before Lent’ explains what each of these ancient names mean and what they signified in terms of spiritual disciplines. In brief, they mark the days before Easter: 70, 60 and 50, respectively. Centuries ago, some Christians began Lenten fasting the day after Septuagesima Sunday.

The word ‘shrove’ is the past tense of ‘shrive‘, an archaic verb meaning:

Present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.

Christians were supposed to go to confession during this time, a customary practice before Lent began. In England, Abbot Aelfric instituted this practice in 1000 AD.

Even into the 20th century, people took Shrovetide seriously. In the 1960s, I knew a Catholic lady who explained that these Sundays were meant to exercise the consciences of the faithful, get them to focus on their sinfulness and decide on the appropriate spiritual disciplines they would need to undertake during Lent.

Carnival

The final days of the season are Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday.

Of course, by then, Carnival, where celebrated, is in full swing. In some countries, it lasts for a week. In others, it starts on the final weekend of Shrovetide. In both cases, the festivities climax and end on Shrove Tuesday.

According to Wikipedia, Carnival was an ancient pagan time of revelry. Certainly, early Church councils and synods attempted to curb the excesses which took place at this time. Wikipedia tells us:

Many synods and councils attempted to set things “right”. The statements of Caesarius of Arles (470–542), which protested around 500 CE in his sermons against the Pagan practices, seemed to have formed the building blocks of the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum (small index of superstitious and pagan practices), which was drafted by the Synod of Leptines in 742 in which the Spurcalibus en februario was condemned.

Pope Gregory the Great (590–604) decided that fasting would start on Ash Wednesday.

He did this in order to draw a clear line of demarcation between Carnival and Lent.

My post ‘Lent, denominational differences and freedom in Christ’ has more on Carnival, including the origin of the word which:

derives from the Latin carne vale, or ‘farewell, meat [literally, ‘flesh’]’.  In England, the word valete is still used occasionally in formal academic announcements (parodied in the satirical magazine Private Eye); valete is the plural of vale and is used when bidding farewell to more than one person or thing.

Shrove Monday

In addition to Carnival celebrations, Shrove Monday was also a time to eat foods that would need to be either consumed straightaway or abstained from during Lent:

Centuries ago, as Lent approached, flour from the previous year was near its expiry date, so to speak.  Similarly, eggs, milk and meat fat (e.g. lard) would also have to be eaten or discarded before the fast. No household threw out food.  Therefore, the European custom prior to Lent was to use up these foodstuffs.

Centuries ago, the British called this day Collop Monday. Collop means sliced or minced meat. It was a final opportunity to eat meat prior to Lent. The meal was often a breakfast, in which eggs also featured. If bacon was used, the cook or housewife reserved the fat for the pancakes served the following day.

Shrove Tuesday

Nearly all European countries mark Shrove Tuesday with a special food item or fat-laden feast, a final opportunity for enjoyment before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

These customs are centuries old and spread to other countries around the world with European exploration and settlement.

The Reformation could not put paid to old pre-Lenten customs which live on today. The British and many Commonwealth nations still call Shrove Tuesday Pancake Day. In Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe, people enjoy semla, a sweet bun filled with frangipane and topped with whipped cream. People in Iceland celebrate Bursting Day by eating salted meat and peas.

Many countries celebrate Carnival or hold other ancient festivities on Shrove Tuesday.

In Britain, a number of towns in Britain hold pancake races, which date back to the 15th century:

The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning.[17][18] The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan while running.

The most famous pancake race,[19] at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race over a 415-yard course to the finishing line. The rules are strict: contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish, as well as wear an apron and a scarf. Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna). The race is followed by a church service.[17]

Another popular Shrove Tuesday tradition in England was the local football match. This has died out over the centuries, and the Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Derbyshire appears to be the sole survivor.

Yet, in the 12th century, a cleric, William Fitzstephen, wrote about a football match he witnessed in London. By the late Middle Ages, other towns and cities around Britain also held Shrovetide ball games. The types of games varied by region and tradition.

The Royal Shrovetide Football Match:

is a “mob football” game played annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England. 

The match has specific rules and takes place not on a pitch but all over town:

The ball is rarely kicked, though it is legal to kick, carry or throw it. Instead it generally moves through the town in a series of hugs, like a giant scrum in rugby, made up of dozens if not hundreds of people.

Shops board up their windows and people park away from Ashbourne’s main thoroughfares.

The match gained royal assent in 1928 when the future Edward VIII (the abdicator!) attended. In 2003, it was given royal assent a second time when Prince Charles opened the match.

Conclusion

It is fascinating to discover how ancient, widespread, varied and enduring these pre-Lenten traditions are.

This history provides food for thought on how our ancestors might have spent the days preceding Lent.

A few days ago, I posted a king cake recipe.

Although I was going to wait until next year to post on the history of this cake, it seemed apposite to do so now, as it can still be eaten for the next few days in France and until Lent in other countries.

Below is a summary of what form it takes and a bit about its history. (Post updated in 2017 for more information on Spain.)

New Orleans

One of my readers, Underground Pewster, commented on the aforementioned post, sharing his memories of growing up in New Orleans at this time of year, where king cakes were served throughout the Epiphany season — i.e. through Mardi Gras. The next day, of course, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

Underground Pewster says:

They are usually made with a brioche dough shaped into a ring and coated with purple green and gold colored sugar or icing. A small plastic baby is inserted and whoever gets the piece with the baby is either King or Queen for the day, or in the case of traditional Carnival Krewes is made the King or Queen for the parade, or in the case of children’s Friday afternoon king cake parties at school, the kid getting the baby has to bring next week’s cake. Hence the joke that Mama said to Lil Author as he went to off to school, “If yeh git da baby, swaller it!”

For our ex-patriates’ grown up annual Mardi Gras parties, the person getting the baby hosts next year’s party.

New Orleans king cakes have become increasingly decadent culminating in an abomination called the King Cake Burger.

He helpfully sent a link to the King Cake Burger from The Times-Picayune, New Orleans’s daily newspaper. In 2014, reporter Gary Sheets gave the rundown on this monstrosity or beauty — depending on how you see it — of a burger laden with cheese and bacon, topped with a king cake.

The Food Drunk Truck created this sandwich, which remains popular.

The icing and sprinkles are in traditional Epiphany colours. Wikipedia explains:

The colors of the king cake originally came from the Christian religion. The purple symbolizes justice, the green symbolizes faith, and the gold symbolizes power. The three colors honor the three kings who visited the Christ child (Jesus) on Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas.[3]

As for the cake itself:

In the southern United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain and is associated with Carnival (also known as Mardi Gras). Celebrated across the Gulf Coast region from the Florida Panhandle to East Texas, it originated in French Alabama and King cake parties in Mobile are documented back to the eighteenth century.

The king cake of the Louisiana tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted cinnamon roll-style dough topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Mardi Gras colors) with food coloring. King cakes may also be filled with additional foodstuffs- the most common being cream cheese, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry.

There are also variations on types of cakes and when they are served during other times of the year:

A so-called “Zulu King Cake” has chocolate icing with a coconut filling, because the Krewe of Zulu parade’s most celebrated throw is a coconut. Also, some bakers have now taken the liberty to offer king cakes for other holidays that immediately surround Mardi Gras season, such as green and red-icing king cakes for Christmas, red and pink-icing cakes for Valentine’s Day, and green and white-icing cakes for St. Patrick’s Day. Others have gone a step further and produce specialty king cakes from the beginning of football season for Louisiana State University and New Orleans Saints tailgate parties, then for Halloween, then Thanksgiving—and do not cease until after Mardi Gras season with an Easter holiday king cake.

How the king cake evolved in Europe

Before going into national and cultural variations of king cake, it is worth exploring its history in Europe.

As with so many other Christian feasts, Epiphany supplanted ancient Greek and Roman pagan holidays. Much of this also concerns the evolution of the Christmas holiday.

A French site, L’Internaute, says that around this time of year, the ancient Greeks held a festival in honour of Dionysus. We know him as the god of wine and excess. He was also the god of the seasons and the growing cycle. Occurring after Winter Solstice, this festival recognised the gradually longer days which heralded the eventual crops for the new year.

In a similar way, during Saturnalia, the Romans feted Saturn, who was asleep most of the year but woke up before Winter Solstice. Their festival, then, was held before the shortest day of the year, which was their New Year. In the beginning, the feast of Saturn revolved around agriculture and the coming growing season. Later, it was more of a civic and family-oriented time to celebrate common and personal social ties.

The festival lasted one week. During the festival, excess was the order of the day. Cakes were made in Saturn’s honour and were to be shared amongst family and friends. These cakes were round and baked until golden brown, suggesting the sun and longer days to come.

The tradition of a token of some sort designating a ruler for the day or the festival arose in ancient Rome. This tradition preceded the insertion of the token into the cake. Black and white tokens were used to designate a particular person. These tokens later evolved into the broad bean, the baby, the king and more. Today, you can even get tokens depicting film stars.

In the military a garrison would gather to nominate one of their men as commander for the day, who could do as he wished and order others about, too.

In both Greece and Rome there was another tradition for private households. The youngest member of the family, deemed to be the most innocent, sat hidden under the dining table and told his or her father who should have which piece of cake. That child was called Phoebus or Apollo after these oracular gods, seen to be prophetic.

With the spread of Christianity in the early centuries of the Church, Epiphany became the time to further contemplate our Lord’s divine nature as Saviour and Redeemer and the Magi’s recognition of this revelation, or, epiphany. Some of the earlier festive food traditions, such as cake, continued.

The Middle Ages

During the 13th and 14th centuries, the cakes were known as king cakes.

In a religious sense, this meant the Magi. In a practical sense, this was also the time of year when people had to pay a royalty to their local lord. Money — and a king cake — were given to him.

Within the family home, a large bean — generally the fava or broad bean — was inserted in the cake. Brioche formed the basis of the cake, which, depending on the country, might or might not have a filling inside. Some were shaped into rings, suggesting a crown. Oblong rings could serve more people.

The cakes were decorated with dried or candied fruit in the aforementioned colours of the Magi. These fruits represented jewels in a crown.

The Reformation

The Reformers and their followers — Lutherans and Calvinists — disapproved of carrying pagan practices into Christian life. They condemned the celebrations and cakes.

That said, so did a Catholic canon in France. In 1664, the Canon of Senlis opposed the eating of Epiphany Cake because it was ‘too festive’.

Frangipane

It is thought that frangipane, commonly used in French king cakes, dates back as far as 1226. According to legend, a Roman noblewoman, Jacopa da Settesoli, took this sweet to St Francis of Assisi as he lay dying. Pane means ‘bread’ and Frangi refers to Francis.

Others say that the word originates with the Frangipani family of Rome — also noblemen. Their name means ‘break the bread’.

A member of that family made perfumes for France’s Louis XIII.

However, L’Internaute says that Anne of Austria and her son Louis XIV popularised frangipane in France. They were the first to include it in a new king cake made with puff pastry. The cake was initially known as La Parisienne.

Today, much of France enjoys the frangipane variety.

However, the northern part of France near the Belgian border and the southernmost part of the country still use brioche.

The bean and other tokens

The broad bean continued its popularity through the centuries because it was widely available.

It represented the infant Jesus.

Once porcelain manufacture began in the 18th century, the bean was sometimes replaced with a baby or a king.

Gold coins were also used.

In the 20th century, all of these — including the fava — were made out of plastic, which continues to this day. For hygiene and safety reasons, metal coins have not been used in king cakes for years.

On that note, some bakeries place the token on the outside of the cake. The buyer can then insert it himself. This is to prevent lawsuits.

Not only does the token designate the King or Queen of the Day, it is also a lighthearted sign of luck and prosperity.

But with it comes a bit of responsibility, suggesting that the King or Queen must take care of his or her subjects!

As Underground Pewster said, that person is in charge of baking the next cake or hosting the next Mardi Gras party.

This tradition also continues in other countries.

My reader Lecroix commented that New Orleans no doubt acquired their cake from former governing countries France and Spain, where it is known as a Roscón (pl. Roscones) or, in Catalonia, a tortell. The Spanish version is basically the same around the country, although price variations exist based on ingredients. For example, the Asturias region:

has the same identical circular pastry, some with marzipan cream, some not and punctuated with the same candied fruit like cherries and oranges. Also, there are two prices as well, with the same purpose.

Delish has an interesting explanation of other customs, accompanied by photographs of various king cakes.

Mexicans put a doll token in their cake. Whoever has it in their slice must host the Candlemas meal on February 2 and make the accompanying tamales.

The Portuguese have a gooey round cake, laden with colourful fruit. Whoever gets the bean buys next year’s cake.

Wherever you are in the world, there is still time to enjoy king cake!

https://i1.wp.com/lookmag.look-voyages.fr/wp-content/uploads/galette-des-rois.jpgThe galette des rois — king cake — is eaten during the fortnight following Epiphany services.

This means there is still another week to enjoy this beautiful fusion of puff pastry and frangipane.

(Photo credit: Lookmag)

French pastry shops will sell millions of these delights before the middle of January.

Many people will also make these at home. I have done so in the past, and nothing could be easier.

Galette des Rois — King Cake

(prep time: 20 minutes, baking time: 35 minutes, serves 6 to 8)

Ingredients

1 roll of puff pastry

100 – 120 g (3 1/2 – 4 oz) ground almonds

100 – 120 g (3 1/2 – 4 oz) sugar

100 – 120 g (3 1/2 – 4 oz) butter, cut in cubes

1 tsp of dark rum or 1 capful of almond flavouring

1 egg (for frangipane)

1 egg yolk (for glaze)

One M&M or, traditionally, small plastic token and party crown

1 tbsp of icing (powdered) sugar (optional, see step 12)

Method

1/ Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F).

2/ Combine almonds, sugar, rum/almond flavouring and butter in a bowl to stir or mix by hand. Alternatively, blitz these ingredients in a food processor until well mixed.

3/ Add the egg. If you are doing this by hand, make a well in the middle first, then mix thoroughly until you have a smooth paste. If using a food processor, blitz until the mixture comes together.

4/ Roll out the puff pastry. Cut out two circles: one for each layer.

5/ Lightly grease a baking tray and dust with flour. Alternatively, use a non-stick mat (Teflon or Silpat brands) on an ungreased baking tray.

6/ Place the bottom layer on your mat or tray. Spread the frangipane on it but keep the edge of this layer clear to allow the top layer of pastry to stick and eliminate weeping of the filling.

7/ Place the M&M or plastic token — e.g. a bean or tiny Magi figure — somewhere in the frangipane. I have recommended an M&M only because it has a hard coating. I do not know how this will work; it is possible that slice might have a bit of stain in it if the colour from the coating gets too hot.

8/ Using a pastry brush or clean fingertip, dampen the edge of the pastry with water.

9/ Carefully place the top circle of pastry on top of the open tart and press the edge closest to the middle closed. The very outside edge should be able to puff up in the oven.

10/ Beat an egg yolk with a few drops of water until liquid. Brush this on top of the galette.

11/ Make a design using a dull knife or small metal spatula. These Galette des Rois recipes from Le Journal des Femmes have a variety of designs.

12/ Place in the oven to bake for 35 minutes. By then, the galette should be golden brown. Alternatively, take the galette out of the oven after 25 minutes, dust with 1 tbsp of icing (powdered) sugar, then return it to the oven for another ten minutes. The crust will be even shinier with a slight crunch.

13/ Allow the galette to cool thoroughly. Transfer to a plate using a non-stick spatula if you have used a mat.

14/ Share it with your family and friends. The person who gets the slice with the plastic token is King for a Day and can do whatever he pleases (ancient Roman custom). An old French custom involves reserving one slice for a poor person should s/he stop by whilst you are eating the cake.

Epiphany Magi salesianity_blogspot_com

Epiphany is January 6, traditionally considered Twelfth Night.

Those who were unable to get to church can read the Epistle, a discussion of which I published yesterday.

What follows is the Gospel reading from the three-year Lectionary,  taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Matthew 2:1-12

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;

4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.

8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.

10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Matthew writes of wise men from the East (verse 1). As we know, these were the Magi — astronomers, astrologers and king-makers. They were highly respected and close advisers to rulers in Persia, the Parthian empire and Media.

In those lands, the Magi and others had expected a new king for many years. Part of this was because that part of the world had lost power and territory to Rome. Another reason was that, during the Babylonian captivity, the prophet Daniel was there. He spoke of a king to come — the Messiah. Daniel was made the chief of the Magi (Daniel 5:11).

John MacArthur tells us:

Consequently, the eastern empire was looking for a king.  They had a king called Phraates IV who deposed because he was inept, and they were looking for a king …  And these wise men then, when they came, or these Magi really felt maybe this is the monarch we’ve been looking for.  Maybe this is the one who can take the reins and be the invincible king we need and lead us against the Roman opposition, and we can gain back the world we once conquered.  There was a time when the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians ruled the world.  And so they were looking for a king.  And beyond that, I believe these Magi also were looking for more than a king.  I think that they were real god fearers, and I think they saw not just the politics of it, but I think they saw the religion in it.  I think they were recognizing that this was an unusual act of god to bring about his anointed king, the one prophesied in the Old Testament.

It would have taken several months, possibly a year or two, to make the journey to Jerusalem. It is also possible that there were more than three Magi. There might have been a dozen wise men and they might well have had a military escort of soldiers with them. That would have been a noticeable entourage arriving in Jerusalem.

This also means that Jesus was not 12 days old but several months old.

Interestingly, Judea ignores the star that guided the Magi, who were Gentiles. So far, only the local shepherds noticed it. The other Jews of the time saw nothing.

The Magi went to Jerusalem, the most important city, thinking the new king would be there (verse 2). Other versions of the Bible use the word ‘worship’ rather than ‘homage’. The wise men were not only going to bring the child gifts but bow before him and possibly kiss his foot in reverence.

Herod heard of this and was frightened that he might lose his power base, even though, at age 70, he would meet his demise before this baby would be old enough to challenge him (verse 3).

The people of Jerusalem were also frightened by what Herod might do as a result. They were not wrong. Soon afterwards, he decreed that all babies under two years of age in and around Bethehem were to be slaughtered.

Herod called for the religious authorities — the chief priests and scribes — to tell him where in ancient prophecy the Messiah would be born (verse 4). They told him the birth would take place in Bethlehem of Judea (verse 5). From there would come the prophesied ‘ruler who would shepherd’ the people of Israel (verse 6). This comes from the opening verses of Micah 5. Here is Micah 5:4:

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth.

Note that the prophet used the verb ‘shepherd’ rather than ‘govern’ or ‘rule‘.

MacArthur points out the incredible difference between the Magi’s reaction and Herod’s to the Messiah’s birth:

He knew there was more than humanity here.  He knew there deity here.  He, like the wise men, knew it.  Amazing that his reaction was so different, isn’t it?  One decides to worship, the other decides to murder.  He panics and he’s angry.

MacArthur has this observation, which I hadn’t before considered:

He’s true to his plotting mind, and he’s too shrewd to kill the Magi, and probably too impotent, because there were a 1,000 Persian soldiers likely, and his own army was away on some other skirmish.  He had little choice, and he didn’t want to kill them anyway, because if he killed the Magi, he would kill the source of his information about the child.  And the child, who was the potential king, would be undiscovered and unscathed, and he didn’t care about the Magi at all anyway.  All he did was want to get rid of the child

Matthew records that Herod met secretly with the wise men asking them precisely when the star in the East appeared (verse 7). As he sent them to Bethlehem, he asked them to return and let him know where the child was so that he, too, could pay ‘homage’ (verse 8). He was an evil man.

Matthew Henry notes:

The greatest wickedness often conceals itself under a mask of piety.

He adds:

See how strangely he was befooled and infatuated in this, that he trusted it with the wise men, and did not choose some other managers, that would have been true to his interests. It was but seven miles from Jerusalem how easily might he have sent spies to watch the wise men, who might have been as soon there to destroy the child as they to worship him! Note, God can hide from the eyes of the church’s enemies those methods by which they might easily destroy the church when he intends to lead princes away spoiled, his way is to make the judges fools.

The Magi set off for Bethlehem, the star once again guiding them (verse 9). Then the star stopped, shining over the place where the Holy Family were living (verse 10). The wise men were ‘filled with joy’.

Henry explains:

God would rather create a new thing than leave those at a loss who diligently and faithfully sought him. This star was the token of God’s presence with them for he is light, and goes before his people as their Guide. Note, If we by faith eye God in all our ways, we may see ourselves under his conduct he guides with his eye (Psalm 32:8), and said to them, This is the way, walk in it: and there is a day-star that arises in the hearts of those that enquire after Christ, 2 Peter 1:19. 2. Observe how joyfully they followed God’s direction (Matthew 2:10). When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Now they saw they were not deceived, and had not taken this long journey in vain. When the desire cometh, it is a tree of life. Now they were sure that God was with them, and the tokens of his presence and favour cannot but fill with joy unspeakable the souls of those that know how to value them.

And:

Now they could laugh at the Jews in Jerusalem, who, probably, had laughed at them as coming on a fool’s errand.

Imagine how grand that occasion was. The wise men — Gentiles — were the first to worship Jesus. They knelt before him and ‘paid him homage’ (verse 11) — meaning that they probably kissed his feet, as one did with a king in those days.

They gave him three gifts. Gold was the traditional kingly gift. As I noted in my post of January 3, fragrant frankincense was used by the high priests. The Old Testament records their use of it when praying and giving sacrifices, the scent was intended to make these pleasing to God. Myrrh had three uses: perfume, healing unguent and, more importantly in Jesus’s case, an embalming element.

The wise men then left the Holy Family. They had a portentous dream and, consequently, did not return to Herod. Instead, they returned home by another route (verse 12).

Note that the wise men were not disappointed to find Jesus in humble conditions.

Henry has this analysis:

these wise men were so wise as to see through this veil, and in this despised babe to discern the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father they did not think themselves balked or baffled in their enquiry but, as having found the King they sought, they presented themselves first, and then their gifts, to him.

They presented themselves to him: they fell down, and worshipped him. We do not read that they gave such honour to Herod, though he was in the height of his royal grandeur but to this babe they gave this honour, not only as to a king (then they would have done the same to Herod), but as to a God. Note, All that have found Christ fall down before him they adore him, and submit themselves to him. He is thy Lord, and worship thou him. It will be the wisdom of the wisest of men, and by this it will appear they know Christ, and understand themselves and their true interests, if they be humble, faithful worshippers of the Lord Jesus.

In closing, MacArthur describes the different, yet coherent, ways the Gospel writers present Jesus:

In Matthew, He’s the sovereign; in Mark, He’s the servant.  Notice the ultimate contrast.  He is the sovereign; He is the servant.  Two extremes.  And then you come to that same kind of extreme contrast in the last two.  In Luke, He is the Son of Man, and in John, the Son of God.  Two absolute opposites; man and god, sovereign and servant.  And so the dimensions of Jesus Christ fill in all the space between those two in both cases.  The sovereign god and the servant man, and everything in between that fills up all that He is.  This is the principle behind the diversity in the four gospels … 

… Matthew at the very beginning emphasizes that Jesus Christ comes from David.  He comes originating in Abraham as it were in terms of the Jewish race and coming through the line of David, which is His right to reign and rule.  And so the beginning of this gospel is unique to Matthew.  No other gospel begins this way.  Matthew begins this way because Matthew presents Him as king.  And so Matthew traces the Lord’s lineage from Abraham through the royal line of David … 

Mark has no genealogy at all because the lineage of a servant is irrelevant.  So there is no genealogy at all in Mark.

And Luke presents Him as the Son of man.  And since Luke presents Him as the Son of man, Luke takes his genealogy all the way back and starts with Adam.  Because Luke wants us to know that He is a man from the loins of the first man, Adam. 

And John, the fourth gospel who presents Christ as the Son of God, bypasses all human genealogy and simply says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  And so he goes immediately back to eternity past and establishes the eternal essence of Christ. 

John does not cover the events of Epiphany, however, his Gospel alludes to them quite clearly (John 1:11-13):

11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

May Epiphany prove to be a significant closing feast day for us as Christmastide draws to a close — now and in future.

Epiphany is on January 6, the traditional Twelfth Night.

However, for those who missed church or had different readings, what follows is an exposition of the Epistle for Epiphany in Year C: Ephesians 3:1-12.

What follows is the Epistle from the three-year Lectionary as taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Ephesians 3:1-12

1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–

2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you,

3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words,

4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.

5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.

8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,

9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;

10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

St Paul was put in prison for putting Gentiles and Jews on an equal level theologically. He preached that they were united through Christ.

John MacArthur says that, at the time Paul wrote this letter, he had been a prisoner in for five years with a Roman soldier guarding him every minute of the day during that time. His first two years were in Caesarea, then followed three years in Rome where he was a prisoner in his own home.

Note that Paul does not say he is a prisoner of Rome but rather of Christ Jesus (verse 1). This is because he knew that, whatever suffering he endured, Rome had no real power over him. Via his conversion and ministry, Paul belonged to our Lord, hence he was His captive.

He adds that what he has preached and his time as a prisoner is for the sake of the Gentiles.

He speaks of the commission of divine grace which he was delivering for their benefit. MacArthur explains:

He says … I just want you people to know that this isn’t my idea. This is God’s.

Matthew Henry has this analysis:

He styles the gospel the grace of God here (as in other places) because it is the gift of divine grace to sinful men and all the gracious overtures that it makes, and the joyful tidings that it contains, proceed from the rich grace of God and it is also the great instrument in the hands of the Spirit by which God works grace in the souls of men.

Paul speaks of the divine mystery revealed to him, to which he alluded in Ephesians 1 and 2, albeit briefly (verse 3). Now he will reveal the mystery to them as he understands it (verse 4).

MacArthur interprets this for us:

The word knowledge in verse 4, is the word sunesis. It’s a wonderful word. He says, my purpose is to pass on my knowledge. And the word sunesis means mental comprehension, mental comprehension. And beloved, that always comes before spiritual application. You can’t apply what you don’t know. You’ve got to have a renewed mind … It is when we comprehend with our mind these great truths that they will affect the way we live and we can’t just exhort people to live a certain way unless we give them things to understand.

And so we meet the prisoner of the mystery. A man who so believed in the unity of the church that he literally gave his life for it. First to understand it, then to pass on that understanding, and then to pray that we would implement that understanding.

In verse 5, Paul says that this mystery had not been previously revealed. He means that the Old Testament people, including prophets, did not foresee the age of the Church. Therefore, it is upsetting to the Jews of Paul’s time to hear that they would be united with Gentiles. However, Christ’s presence on earth made this mystery of unity come to fruition (verse 6). Henry says:

This was the great truth revealed to the apostles, namely, that God would call the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ, and that without the works of the law.

Paul then says he is but a servant thanks to divine grace which God wrought in him (verse 7) and, of those servants, he is the very least (verse 8). Paul wrote this partly out of his deep humility but rather more because of the persecution he inflicted on Christians prior to his conversion. Despite those sins, now forgiven, God has given him the ministry of preaching of the boundless riches of Christ to the Gentiles and to reveal this mystery of salvation through Him (verse 9).

Henry has this observation about the King James Version text:

… it is an unspeakable favour to the Gentile world that to them the unsearchable riches of Christ are preached.

MacArthur says:

What are the unsearchable riches of Christ? They are all the truths about him. And all that he means to us. And a long time ago I committed myself that this is the priority of the ministry. To preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. And what does it mean? It means to tell people how rich they are in Christ. And that’s why I always talk about preaching the believers position. I’m not here just to browbeat you and make you feel bad and exhort you and club you and tell you to shape up and all that. I’m here to tell you how rich you are.

I believe I’ve been sent by God like Paul and every other man of God to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. Unsearchable means unfathomable, untraceable, can’t be measured, there’s no bottom. And so I can have the joy of just telling you how rich you are. If you’re a Christian, you are rich. Believe me you are incredibly rich. That’s my task as a minister a servant of Jesus Christ to tell you. In fact Paul says in 1 Colossians “that God had called him to preach and God wanted him to make known the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles.” He wants me to make known the riches of the glory of the mystery. The mystery is the church. You’re in the church; there are riches. And you need to know how rich you are. And so great part of the preaching of the word of God must be declaring to people the riches of Christ.

Paul says that the founding of the Church enabled this mystery to be revealed to ‘the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places’ (verse 10). Both commentators say the Apostle refers here to angels. MacArthur explains:

… the angels can see the power of God in creation. The angels can see the wrath of God at Mt. Sinai. The angels can see the love of God at Calvary, but God says they’re going to see my wisdom in the church. That God could take diverse male, female, bond, free, Jew, Greek and he could melt down all the walls and blend them together in an indivisible oneness all one with himself. One with the father, one with the Son, one with the Spirit, one with every other believer that God could do that kind of miracle of salvation is a wonder beyond wonders of wisdom and causes the angelic host to give him glory.

Paul writes that this was always God’s intention and Jesus Christ was the divine Person through whom this was made possible (verse 11). Furthermore, God the Son is our link to God the Father. Our faith, therefore, gives us ‘boldness and confidence’ in this regard (verse 12).

Henry interprets the final verses as follows:

… that is, “By (or through) whom we have liberty to open our minds freely to God, as to a Father, and a well-grounded persuasion of audience and of acceptance with him and this by means of the faith we have in him, as our great Mediator and Advocate.” We may come with humble boldness to hear from God, knowing that the terror of the curse is done away and we may expect to hear from him good words and comfortable. We may have access with confidence to speak to God, knowing that we have such a Mediator between God and us, and such an Advocate with the Father.

As for Paul’s plight, this wonderful mystery and the Ephesians, MacArthur says:

… if the mystery is so wonderful and the privileges are so incredible, I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you which is your glory. You see Paul was around preaching the mystery and being a prisoner of the mystery and unfolding the plan and trying to help fulfill the purpose and he was telling everybody the privileges and some of the Christians were sitting back saying, oh, poor Paul, he’s always in jail.

And he says, look, when you understand this incredible truth, of what it is to be in the church and what privilege it is don’t faint at my tribulation. It’s worth it to get the message out. See? It’s your glory I mean it’s bringing glory to you, it’s bringing you the very glory of God. Don’t worry about me being a prisoner, don’t faint because I’m going through all kinds of difficulty, it’s worth it. It’s worth it. And there we are right back at the servant’s heart again, aren’t we?

He always felt that way whatever it cost me to get you the message is a cheap price. Don’t worry about me if I’m a prisoner, if I’m beaten, if I’m stoned, don’t worry about me. Don’t faint at my tribulation; just get the message. It’s worth it.

Do we share Paul’s passion and enthusiasm for this divine mystery of salvation and unity through Christ Jesus?

It is a question worth contemplating as Christmastide draws to a close.

Today we had Epiphany readings at church.

The sermon was excellent. The priest gave us five takeaway messages about this feast day.

1/ The arrival of the Magi showed that Christ came to earth for Gentiles as well as Jews. The Epiphany represents this divine revelation.

2/ The three gifts were showing that they believed a King had been born. This is the reason they brought gold, associated with kings and rulers.

3/ Frankincense was used by the high priests. The Magi sensed that the infant Jesus was a High Priest.

4/ Myrrh was used as a medicine and an embalming element. This gift foretold His horrifying death on the Cross — the once-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world.

5/ The Magi were astronomers. Astronomers were highly regarded wise men, similar to the famous scientists of our time. In the ancient world, stars were considered to be heavenly bodies with angelic characteristics. When the Magi saw the new star in the East, they followed its movement until it stopped. Their only error was in thinking that the Holy Child was born in sumptuous circumstances and calling on Herod to enquire if He had been born there. Herod knew the prophecies of the Old Testament. He feared that this child would eventually threaten his power. The Magi did not honour his request to tell him where Jesus was. Instead, after a portentous dream, they left Bethlehem by another route to return to their homeland.

These are a few brief points to remember and contemplate on January 6.

(Image credit: Save Send Delete)

Epiphany Magi salesianity_blogspot_comJanuary 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany and the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

Traditionally, trees and decorations must be taken down and put away before dusk.

Speaking of darkness and light, how about a last look at Christmas illuminations? What better city to profile than Paris? It consistently has the most beautiful aesthetics in this regard, year after year. To see them in person is sheer delight. L’Internaute presents a selection of rather grand — and animated — photographs from 2014 of the Champs-Elysées and the city’s other famous boulevards.

My recent subscribers might appreciate my past posts for this feast day. They include an explanation for marking one’s lintel in chalk (as my grandfather used to do every year) and a marvellous expository of the Epiphany in the Bible by Dr Paul Copan, author of several books on Christianity, one of which is Is God a Moral Monster?

Most of my Epiphany posts, however, excerpt Lutheran pastors’ articles and sermons:

A Lutheran pastor reflects on the Epiphany

More Lutheran reflections on the Epiphany

Why the Epiphany is so important — a Lutheran perspective

A Lutheran perspective on the Magi

Twelfth Night is celebrated in certain countries with a special dinner. And, perhaps, you are fortunate to have a present to open for this last day of Christmas. If so, enjoy the day.

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