January 5, 2014

Second Sunday After Christmas

Journeying through my twenty-second Christmas season since my baptism, I find myself celebrating a liturgical day for the first time, namely the Second Sunday after Christmas. In the U.S.A. the second Sunday after Christmas is Epiphany, but here in Italy--so as not to offend the Befana, I'm sure, such that she brings you coal instead of candy--Epiphany remains on its traditional date of January 6. Last year, my first Christmas in Italy, January 6 fell on a Sunday.

So I was very curious to experience the Mass of this day which I had not known until now.

I heard the readings as rich with that which--depending on where you stand with regard to faith--is either the great mystical wonder of Christianity that nourishes and drives the believer, or the great stumbling block that renders it a preposterous religion, namely the eternal become the historical, the transcendent become the particular.

The first reading from Sirach (24: 1-2,8-12) speaks of the divine Wisdom who is with God and yet is assigned to make her dwelling and put down her roots "in Jacob." Lady Wisdom, the Word of God, the only-begotten of the unbegotten Source, enters history by making her home with God's chosen people, in the Israel of history.

The second reading is the canticle and prayer from the first chapter of Ephesians (1: 3-6, 15-18) in which the Pauline author sings of the "every spiritual blessing" with which the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) has been blessed in Christ, and makes the astounding claim that those who have received, receive, and will receive these blessings were chosen in Christ "before the foundation of the world." Just as the Word that was to take on our flesh in the fullness of time was born from the Father before all ages, so, in a certain but very real sense, are all those who have come to reborn as members of the Body of Christ. Our rebirth in baptism is thus a rebirth that has been from eternity, but which we have received in time.

Finally, the Second Sunday after Christmas reiterates the Gospel from the Mass of Christmas Day, the prologue of the Gospel of John (1:18), which announces with sublime simplicity the mystery and scandal of this blessed intersection of eternal and historical:

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.

No comments: