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December 27: Memorial of John the Apostle
"St John the Evangelist, like Shakespeare, has something about him which irresistibly attracts the crank, and probably more books have been written and more wildly fantastic theories advanced about his writings and their authorship than about any other writer who ever lived." [CIN]

December 28: Memorial Feast of the Holy Innocents
"The account of the martyrdom of these children is given in the gospel of today. The Church justly honors them as martyrs, since they confessed Christ, if not by the mouth, yet by their death, which they suffered by reason of Herod's hatred against Christ." [Catholic Forum]

December 29: Memorial of St. Thomas Becket
"Pray for us that our faith fail not in tribulation and that we may safely say with the Apostle that neither death nor life nor angels nor any creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which has subjected us to affliction until He come Who will come, and will do with us according to his mercy..." [EWTN]

January 1: Memorial of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Pope Paul VI: "The purpose of the celebration is to honor the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to �the Holy Mother� through whom we have been given the gift of the Author of life.� This same solemnity also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the newborn Prince..." [Fr. Hardon Archives]

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I repeat to you the Redeemer's words: "Duc in altum!". Do not be afraid of the darkness of the world, because the one who is calling you is "the light of the world" (Jn 8,12), "the bright morning star" (Apoc 22,16).

Gospel for Sunday, January 2, 2005
The Epiphany of the Lord (Solemnity)
Matthew 2: 1-12

"Lumen gentium ... Christus", "Christ is the light of the nations" (Lumen gentium, n. 1).

The theme of light dominates the Solemnities of Christmas and Epiphany that in the first centuries�and still today in the East�were celebrated together in a single great "feast of lights". The light appears in the warm intimacy of the Holy Night of Christmas Eve; Christ, the Light of humanity, is born. He is the "sun that shall dawn upon us from on high" (Lk 1,78). He is the sun that came into the world to dispel the darkness of evil and flood it with the splendour of divine love. John the Evangelist writes: "The true light that enlightens every man came into the world" (Jn 1,9).

"Deus lux estGod is light", St John reminds us, summing up not a gnostic theory but "the message that we received from him" (1 Jn 1,5), from Jesus. In his Gospel he quotes the words on the lips of the Teacher: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn 8,12).

In becoming flesh, the Son of God was manifested as light. He is not just an external light in the history of the world, but a light within the human person, in his personal history. He became one of us, giving infinite meaning and immortality to our earthly existence. Thus, with full respect for human freedom, Christ became "lux mundi�the light of the world". He is the light that shines in the darkness (cf. Jn 1,5).

On today's Solemnity of the "Epiphany", a word for "manifestation", we are struck by the theme of the light. The Messiah who showed himself in Bethlehem to the lowly shepherds of the region continues to reveal himself as the light of every people of every time and place. To the Magi, coming from the East to adore him, the light of the one "who has been born king of the Jews" (Mt 2,2) appears in the form of a heavenly body, so bright as to attract their attention and guide them to Jerusalem. Thus he sets them on the trail of the ancient messianic prophecies: "a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise from Israel..." (Nm 24,17).

How striking is the symbol of the star that recurs in all the images of Christmas and Epiphany! It still gives rise to deep feelings although, as with so many other sacred signs, it risks becoming common place because of its commercial overuse. Restored to its original context, the star we contemplate over the crib also speaks to the mind and heart of the man of the third millennium. It speaks to secularized man, awakening in him the nostalgia of his condition as pilgrim in search of the truth with a deep desire for the absolute. The etymology of the word "desire" reminds us of the experience of sailors who find their way at night by observing the stars called in Latin the "sidera".

Who does not feel the need for a "star" to guide him on his earthly journey? Individuals and nations both feel the need. To satisfy the universal yearning for salvation, the Lord himself chose a people to be the guiding star for "all the families of the earth" (Gn 12,3). With the Incarnation of his Son, God then expanded his choice to every people, no matter what their race or culture. Thus the Church came into being, formed of men and women who, "united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for all men" (Gaudium et spes, n. 1).

The oracle of the Prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading rings out for the entire ecclesial community: "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.... And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Is 60,1.3).

... I repeat to you the Redeemer's words: "Duc in altum!". Do not be afraid of the darkness of the world, because the one who is calling you is "the light of the world" (Jn 8,12), "the bright morning star" (Apoc 22,16).

Jesus, one day you said to your disciples: "You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,14); may you grant that the Gospel witness of these Brothers of ours may shine out for the people of our time. Make their mission effective, so that all whom I have entrusted to their pastoral care may always glorify our Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt 5,16).

Mother of the Incarnate Word, faithful Virgin, may you keep these new bishops under your constant protection so that they may be courageous missionaries of the Gospel, for you are the faithful reflection of the love of Christ, who is the light of humanity and the hope of the world.

December 27, 2004

Excerpted from Pope John Paul II, SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, Sunday, 6 January 2002.

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