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Showing vulnerability builds bonds and grows trust. While our culture tends to deem it a weakness, experts frequently site it as the “key” to close relationships and a sign of strength.
I joined the staff fresh out of college in 2001. I was not Catholic, and knew very little about Catholic traditions, but I thought helping with the Block Party sounded like a great opportunity.
It wasn’t long before I realized this wasn’t going to be a typical “job” and The Basilica wasn’t a typical church community. Months after my first Block Party, as I was putting away the last of the supplies, I remember walking into the office and seeing a group of staff members huddled around a television. It was September 11, 2001, and the second plane just had hit the World Trade Center. By the afternoon, the staff had planned a community prayer service, where thousands would come together to mourn. It was then I discovered the extraordinary depth of compassion and engagement in our community, and I knew The Basilica would be more than just a job.
Sixteen years later, I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to witness the collaboration of thousands of diverse members, in times of grief and joy. The broad spectrum of perspectives and backgrounds combines with the common threads that unite us to create a beautiful tapestry. It is a community led by creative and intelligent hearts and minds.
The Basilica staff works tirelessly to inspire, educate, and promote social justice. They dedicate themselves to creating environments to inspire adults in liturgies and children in faith formation. They work passionately for social justice, and serve strangers who knock at the Rectory door. I love seeing the feasts they create for eyes, ears, and hearts in music and art. Their work is done generously with love and grace, giving back from the talents they were given.
I’ve enjoyed the privilege of getting to know people who choose to support our community. In our time together, a common theme usually emerges: gratitude. People share their personal stories, reflecting on their lives and work, taking little credit for their success. They return to the idea of giving generously, because they had been given so much. Their humility is inspiring.
I have also met many members of our community who are in need, unafraid to show imperfections, who have courageously chosen to share their experiences. I believe these vulnerabilities are the reason our parish continues to grow and brings our community closer together. Even in their struggles, many people still return to gratitude, asking how they can give back to The Basilica.
When I reflect on my time as a staff member at The Basilica, undoubtedly, I know it is the members, staff, and volunteers that unite to make it so special. Unafraid to show vulnerability, this community pours itself into passion.
Your generosity makes all of the good that happens at The Basilica possible. I’m grateful for the wonderful support I’ve witnessed and I hope you will continue to support the parish, our outreach ministries, and The Basilica Landmark. I invite you to continue your support of The Basilica Landmark through our annual fund and The Basilica Landmark Ball. This year’s Fund-A-Need is designated to improving the accessibility of the historic structure. The project encompasses exterior and interior improvements, including adding automatic door openers to the center east doors, to make The Basilica accessible, and ensuring our community is welcoming to all.
As my time as a Basilica staff member comes to an end this spring, I leave my position knowing my heart is forever changed. I’m so grateful to have spent such a formative time of my life as a staff member, and look forward to continuing to share this Basilica journey with my family as a parish member in the years to come.
In the year 2000 Saint John Paul II designated the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. He did this at the canonization of Sister Faustina Kowalska, a Polish visionary whose mission it was to proclaim God’s mercy toward every human being. Two years later, during his last visit to Poland in 2002, he said: “How much the world is in need of the mercy of God today!” He then entrusted the world to Divine Mercy expressing his “burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love…may reach all the inhabitants of the earth and fill their hearts with hope.”
As I was writing these words I learned that two Coptic Churches in Egypt were bombed during Palm Sunday services. The extremists of DAESH claimed responsibility. As is the case with the bombings we learn about almost every day, the death toll, physical harm and spiritual suffering were staggering.
Unable to continue my writing I went into our St. Joseph Chapel where our beautiful Icon of the Divine Mercy resides. I walked up to the Icon and looked Jesus square in the face and waited. I waited for an answer to all the evil in our world. Yet, Jesus remained silent. Somewhat frustrated I left the chapel. As I returned to my office the link to a homily by Pope Francis popped up on my phone. One passage caught my eye: “Jesus does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs... No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own… Jesus is in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.” Feeling duly chastised by the Pope and grateful for Jesus’ unexpected answer to my questions I returned to my column on Divine Mercy.
Jesus, who is known as the Divine Mercy is the very incarnation of God’s mercy. In Jesus, God embodied mercy as he went about forgiving sins, healing the sick, siding with the outcast. By these very actions Jesus affirmed that God’s mercy is present in the world, even and most especially in those places where God’s mercy seems lacking.
The specifics of God’s mercy have been described in many different ways. The three languages that are important in the history of the Bible: Hebrew, Greek and Latin offer slightly different insights.
- The Hebrew Bible uses two words for mercy: hesed and rachamim. Hesed is the kind of mercy that is strong, committed and steadfast. Rachamim which has the same root as rechem or womb conveys gentleness, love and compassion.
- The Greek word for mercy, eleos is related to elaion meaning oil thus suggesting that mercy is poured out like oil and has the healing qualities of oil.
- The Latin word for mercy, misericordia is derived from miserari, "to pity", and cor, "heart". It suggests that our loving God is moved to compassion.
God’s mercy thus is strong and steadfast, loving and compassionate, healing and soothing. These are the divine qualities of mercy that are to be ours also since we are to be the embodiment of Gods mercy in our time. Wherever the Church is present, the mercy of God must be evident and everyone should find an oasis of mercy there.
As we contemplate our beautiful Icon of the Divine Mercy on Divine Mercy Sunday and as we look one another in the eye, friend and stranger alike, let us give thanks for the mercy God has shown us. And in turn let us show mercy to one another for the world indeed is in dire need of mercy, both human and divine. Mercy given and mercy received, that is the motto of all Christians.
The experience of death and resurrection is universal. It occurs in every person and every community. Sometimes the “deaths” we experience are real and actual. More often, though, the “deaths” we experience aren’t actual deaths; rather they are death-like experiences, e.g. the loss of a job; the end of a relationship; the experience of physical limitations; the loss of a sense of security or belonging. In either case, though, they are painful, difficult to bear, and often take time to move through.
Sometimes the deaths we experience just happen. They aren’t our fault. We still need to acknowledge them, though, mourn them, and then begin anew. On the other hand, sometimes the deaths we experience are our fault. We screw up and a mess ensues. In that case, we need to acknowledge our fault, repent, dust ourselves off, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and try to fix what we messed up.
What happens, though, when we don’t think we have it in us to try to begin anew after a death-like experience? What do we do when we can’t easily fix things or make them better? In these cases, we need to honestly acknowledge our situation, accept the fact that there will be times when there is no good explanation as to why something happened, and move forward in faith.
How, though, do we move forward in faith after an experience that feels like death? Well, I believe we start with prayer. In and through our prayer we can experience God’s presence and love. In and through our prayer we can discover that we are not alone, that God is with us. And in and through our prayer we can open ourselves to God’s healing and strengthening grace. Now in saying this, we need to be clear that prayer may not change the situation, but it can and does change us. It can help us see things from a different perspective or in a new way.
Once we have experienced God’s grace then we need to
- hang on (coping & hoping)
- and continue to believe that a new dawn will come eventually—even when or even though it may not be the dawn we were planning on.
The Feast of Easter calls us to remember that our God is always offering us new life and hope in the midst of the sadness, sorrows, hurts, disappointments, trials, and pains we experience—the actual deaths, as well as the “little deaths” of this life. This new life enables us to continue when the way seems dark and uncertain. It allows us to live with the loss of our dreams. It gives us the ability to accept our human frailties and weaknesses and those of others. And it helps us to believe that after each death, the dawning of a new and glorious morning will occur. In essence this is the Paschal Mystery—that because of Jesus Christ—out of death comes new life and new hope. This is the message; this is the hope of Easter.
As we enter into the week of remembrance of the passion and death of Jesus, we come to a crossroads. Jesus, at the end of his ministry, proceeds towards Jerusalem where he will be confronted by the systemic evil of the day—the Roman Empire’s cooperation with the religious authorities to oppress the people of Palestine. Jesus preached and taught the message of forgiveness, love, and tenderness, often in opposition to the Law. The Pharisees were indeed upset with him. After witnessing Jesus’ miracles, his preaching in the Temple, and his large following, the Pharisees and Romans became threatened by his presence, his actions, and his message. Despite the fact that they wanted to kill him, Jesus knowingly continued on his journey to Jerusalem. This sealed his fate.
During this holy week we must decide to either go with him to Jerusalem or remain where we are in our comfort zones. The systemic evil of our day is prolific. On a global level, we don’t have to look very far to be aware of what is taking place in so many countries today. The towns and cities where the pointless slaughtering of men, women, children, and entire families has been carried out. It is beyond heartless and inhumane. In many cases we know that this has caused widespread famine and flight to other countries. It has left the most vulnerable, our children, without parents and families to care for them.
Jesus confronted the lack of forgiveness and love, the injustice, the oppression of the most vulnerable, throughout his life, right up until his death on the cross. He spoke against it. He acted in such a way that those who needed his love and forgiveness, were counted among those who received his compassion. He taught us by example. He told us that we would be blessed if we but remember with love those who are most in need.
If we are to walk this holiest of weeks along with Jesus, that means we must always be Jerusalem bound, just as he was. Sometimes it is a very long walk and it takes us places we don’t want to go. Sometimes it leads us right into the midst of power, not to become powerful, but to stand tall and speak truth to power. We walk along with Jesus to Jerusalem, to confront the systemic evils around us: war, poverty, hunger, homelessness, inequality.
If we call ourselves Christian, then we must walk with Jesus wherever that takes us. We need to have our eyes and hearts open wide to hear the call of being this kind of a disciple. We need not be fearful or bewildered. We will be part of the Body of Christ to which we belong. We will never be alone. We will walk side by side with each other following in the footsteps of the One who promised to be with us to give us strength and hope. We will get to announce the Kingdom of God along with Jesus and a new world without unrest, control, war, oppression, violence and hatred. For this is what we all seek as children of God and heirs to heaven.
Our building is big and our parish is large. It might feel overwhelming to know how to connect. It’s easy to come to Mass and leave without really getting to know anyone. Some parishioners have shared that they just don’t know how to get involved, or who to call. Are you wondering how to find your way in our parish?
Please know, there is a place for you at the Basilica and we’d love to help you make connections within our parish community. Your involvement and engagement make it possible for The Basilica to carry out its mission and to seek the well-being of the city.
Many people tell us once they got involved as a volunteer, they started to meet people and see them at church. Their initial involvement led to exploring other interests and opportunities, and making new friends. Some described it as a “snowball” effect. Once they got involved, it wasn’t long before The Basilica started to feel like their spiritual home.
The first step? Simply let us know you might be interested in getting involved:
- Contact Ashley Wyatt, our Volunteer Coordinator or if you know what you’d like to do, reach out directly to our staff.
- Check out ways to get involved online at mary.org/volunteer, or pickup a newsletter at church. You can look for current openings that fit your schedule, interests and availability.
If you want to get involved, but aren’t sure what you’d like to try, consider meeting with a volunteer from our Gifts Leadership Team. Their volunteer commitment is to meet with new members and help connect them to opportunities to get involved. You’ll get to know another parishioner, and learn more about the many ways to get involved tailored to your interests and availability.
Want to volunteer for a one time activity? Events and activities come up all year. You don’t have to make an ongoing commitment. We’ll advertise one time opportunities, like decorating for Advent and Christmas, the Parish Picnic, Basilica Block Party, Community Service Sundays and more. All you have to do is sign up when you are free to help. One time events are a great way to meet new people, and for families or groups of friends who want to volunteer together.
Coming to Mass on the weekend, and want to include volunteering in one trip? It takes hundreds of people to make our Liturgies happen. Often, commitments are once a month and happen at Mass or after. You’ll serve with a wonderful team of people and training is provided. Whether it’s helping greet people as they arrive at Mass, serving as a Eucharistic Minister, or helping serve donuts and coffee after Mass, there’s a place for you.
Consider joining one of our many Outreach Ministries, Refugee Committee or delivering Meals on Wheels. We need people to teach our children and adults about their faith, greet visitors at the Rectory, or join a choir. One volunteer team cooks and serves Sunday brunch monthly for our new members. Music lovers enjoy serving as concert ushers. Other volunteers take photos, write articles, and help with graphic design. Groups of volunteers help garden and mow the lawn.
All these opportunities and many more are critical to carrying our mission in the city. Just let us know your interests, and we’ll work with you to help find a fit for your availability, gifts and skills.
In December 2015, The Basilica community whole-heartedly agreed to co-sponsor a refugee family with Lutheran Social Services (LSS). In preparation for their arrival, we held a second collection to gather funds needed for housing and other basic needs. We developed a team of dedicated, talented, and compassionate volunteers to organize the efforts and work with the family. We worked with LSS to set up their apartment and collected various household items to make their transition as easy as possible.
The Family Has Arrived!
On February 21, 2016, a group of Basilica parishioners were excited to gather at the airport to welcome the refugee family to Minnesota. Prepared with welcome signs, U.S. and Somali flags, new winter coats and gloves, and open hearts, Basilica parishioners greeted the family and began a journey of support and solidarity.
The family is originally from Somalia. Two parents, two teenage daughters and two sons in their early 20s arrived on February 21. Several older children immigrated separately a few years ago.
After two days of settling in, The Basilica mentoring team joined LSS in a meeting with the family. They began to share stories with one another and build relationships. Through a translator, one of the young men said he knew this transition would be a very difficult move, and he didn’t know if they would be able to make it. However, after meeting the people here to help them, he knows it will work. It was a humbling and sacred meeting.
The Basilica team began to learn how to help the family in their transition. All of their goals involve education and work. The family is deeply grateful for the opportunity to be in Minnesota and said they are committed to “Doing their very best.”
Basilica volunteers are excited to work with LSS to help them reach their goals. We invite our whole community to hold the family in prayer over the months ahead.
The Family’s Journey
During the violent civil war and famine in Somalia, this family left their homeland in 1992 and settled into the newly established Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya. The United Nations set up Dadaab in one of the harshest terrains in the Kenyan desert in 1991, housing 90,000 refugees escaping Somalia’s civil war. Today, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world, home to close to 500,000 people.
The children in the family that arrived in Minnesota on February 21 were born in the Dadaab Refugee camp. Even with lives beginning and ending, Dadaab remains purely temporary living. No permanent features of community life can officially be established: housing, employment, schooling, or commerce. While canvas tents are provided by the United Nations, they deteriorate in the sun after several years. Houses are then fortified with twigs and occasional tin roofs. Most homes stand less than six feet tall. While people are protected from civil war, security requires little opportunity to leave the camp. To learn more about the refugee camp, visit dadaabstories.org.
Several years ago, after living in the Dadaab Refugee Camp over twenty years, the family was transferred to the Kakuma Refugee Camp to prepare to immigrate to the United States. They have been awaiting the transition for a long time. They arrived tired, yet glad to be in the United States.
How to Get Involved:
During this Year of Mercy, there are many ways to get involved in this ministry. There are several committees established to coordinate these opportunities:
- Mentoring Team: to work closely with the family
- Collections: opportunities to collect and package supplies for refugee families
- Education and advocacy: to provide forums to learn more about refugees and immigration
- Communication: to share information with The Basilica community throughout this partnership
LSS will resettle about 625 individuals in the Metro and St. Cloud areas in 2016. Because they arrive in the U.S. with few belongings, there is an immediate need to provide them with basic personal and household items. In the coming months, we will organize several events to give our Basilica community an opportunity to collect and package the most-needed items.
On a Sunday afternoon in early April, The Basilica and Masjid An-Nur will co-sponsor an event on Islamophobia in our community. Our speaker will be Dr. Todd Green, author of the book The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West and Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. This is a timely and important discussion for our community.
The Basilica is already making plans to sponsor another family later in the Spring.
According to the United Nations, there are currently 43 million uprooted victims of conflict and persecution worldwide. Rooted in love and faith, The Basilica community is committed to a compassionate response in whatever ways possible. Look for upcoming announcements about how you can help this effort!
Have you ever thought about how many volunteers it takes to make ministry happen at The Basilica? There are many options for getting involved. Volunteer for a one time opportunity, or make a recurring commitment and join a small group for a chance to meet some new people. If you have children at home, you may be looking for volunteer opportunities for your family. Please know there is a place to put your skills and talents to work within our parish, or outside the parish with our community partners.
We are grateful for our cadre of volunteers that flows in and out at The Basilica on weekdays and weekends, but make no mistake, there are plenty of opportunities available now and we welcome your help.
Helping with weekend liturgies is a way to celebrate Mass and volunteer in one trip to The Basilica and be inspired for the week ahead. Volunteers serve as Ministers of Hospitality greeting people as they arrive at Mass and we need more people to help at all of our Masses. Often people join a team to get to know other parishioners, and generally, this is a once a month commitment. Everywhere you look at Masses, you’ll see volunteers in our choirs and serving Eucharistic Ministers. After Masses, we need help staffing our Welcome and Information Desk, and we also need volunteers to serve coffee and donuts and welcome all who join us. These are great opportunities for all ages, including families with children.
On weekends, volunteer catechists teach children and youth about our faith and serve in our Sunday Nursery. Weekdays, volunteers staff our reception desk, greet visitors at our doors, and welcome the hungry with coffee and a sandwich. Volunteer drivers deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors in the downtown area. Some take on a regular shift, while others serve as a backup drivers.
On Thursday evenings, volunteers facilitate our Pathways program to help people working to change and stabilize their lives. A meal is provided, and there is critical need for volunteers to assist with childcare once a month, or once a quarter. Other volunteers serve as mentors to college students who are homeless and enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Still others participate in our St. Vincent de Paul outreach to those most in need in our community. Volunteer job coaches help the unemployed, and others help build awareness about mental health issues and resources.
Are you good at planning logistics, or do you have a background in sales? You can support all our parish ministries by helping put on fundraising events, or calling on our members and asking for donations. In the summer, we have volunteer gardeners and teams that will help build a new Habitat for Humanity home.
One of the biggest challenges we face is finding volunteers to step into ministry leadership. Day by day, and week by week, volunteers in partnership with staff organize and make our liturgies happen, teach children and adults about their faith and traditions, insure that outreach is available to those in need, involve us in defending others from injustice, and keep parish operations running.
Recently, a group of volunteers and staff met together to explore leadership at The Basilica. We offer this is opportunity about every 18 months. This group got to know each other, and together explored how The Basilica is organized, got to know our staff directors and our pastor, learned about our mission, and our baptismal call.
Please, consider if you are called to get involved. Consider one time opportunities like decorating the church for Easter, or helping the day of the parish picnic, or, if you are looking for a reccurring commitment, join one of our many ministry volunteer teams.
Saint Teresa of Avila put the challenge to us in these words: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.”
How are we going to answer this call to be God's hands and feet in the world?
If you are interested in getting involved, or considering leadership opportunities, reach out to Ashley Wyatt our Volunteer Coordinator.
The Basilica of Saint Mary is on the threshold of making a huge difference in our community. We are on the verge of doing something great. Working together, we have an opportunity to effectively put our faith into action—leaving the world a better place for future generations.
What are we doing? What is so grand and effectual? Beginning in early May, when you throw away garbage at the Basilica, you will have three options: Is it recycling? Is it organics? Is it trash? Your choice to sort waste accurately will help change the culture of The Basilica, and save our world. This simple choice can speak boldly and prophetically to our community.
Is this hyperbole? Well, perhaps. But I suggest that this very simple gesture, multiplied over and over every day, can indeed change our world. This focused attention to the waste stream we create, individually and collectively as a parish community, can make a significant difference in our world.
We can too easily minimize the impact of small, individual efforts in a big world. Yet, we are invited to consider the impact of our collective actions, working together as the Body of Christ, advocating and acting on behalf of the most vulnerable. All it takes is a desire to engage—a willingness to care and act.
Currently, The Basilica sends at least two-thirds of our waste stream into trash, with less than a third recycled. Over and over we put materials that have value into the trash—adding to landfills or incinerator use. Hennepin County was considering enlarging the incinerator just north of The Basilica due to over use. A large proportion of what is being burned has value, and they have refocused their efforts to increase composting. We can help in this effort. As we all help to sort our waste, we will drastically reduce what The Basilica puts into the landfills and incinerators. The goal for The Basilica is to move to 10% trash.
One big change for The Basilica is to begin to collect organics that can be easily composted into rich soil. Did you know that 40% of the waste stream created by each of us every day is organics? Food waste, non-recyclable paper, flowers and plant waste, and other organic items add up to almost half of our garbage. When organics are placed in a landfill, they create methane gas, which is 70 times worse a greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide. If we divert even 15% of the organics from our landfills, we would realize a reduction of methane gas equal to taking over 23,500 cars off the road. We can make a huge difference. All it takes is a choice: place all organics into the correct waste bin.
Recycling can seem mundane or old-school. Yet, when we choose recycling, we allow our waste to be reconstituted and reused. Some things, like aluminum cans and glass bottles/jars, have no limit on the number of times they can be recycled. They don’t lose their quality when recycled over and over.
Materials like paper do not have an infinite life. The number of times paper can get recycled into new paper is limited. Normal copy paper can go through the recycling process five to seven times. After that, the paper fibers will become too short. Newspaper is already of lower quality. It can be turned into egg cartons.
Our habits are often ingrained in our culture and can easily be dismissed. We are a society that measures our productivity by how much we purchase. We often clear out by throwing away. Our faith calls us to calibrate our lives and actions differently. Our invitation is to take these choices seriously.
The exciting part of this initiative is that it involves each of us. We will have success if we all do our part. Yet, the hard part of this initiative is that success depends on each one of us. Let us, together, find ways to energize our imaginations and engage.
Look for new bins, in sets of three, all around The Basilica campus. Help us be successful in our work to leave the world in a better place for future generations.
Basilica volunteers are leading the way again by helping us evaluate and reduce waste at our parish.
The Basilica is located in Hennepin County, and they set new goals as part of a “Zero Waste” initiative to reduce waste and increase recycling next year. They hope to achieve this waste reduction by increasing recycling rates to 45% and to 6% for organics (which include food and non-recyclable paper.)
We want to do our part at The Basilica. Thanks to the leadership of volunteers Donna Krisch and Dennis Dillon and staff members Janice Andersen and Dave Laurent, we are in the process of evaluating how to reduce waste and increase recycling. We are also considering starting an organics recovery program at The Basilica.
To help organizations like The Basilica, Hennepin County provides funding and assistance to businesses and institutions to start or improve programs to divert recyclables and organics. Grants of up to $10,000 are available from Hennepin County to fund things like the purchase of containers, equipment, hauling service charges, start up funds for new programs, compostable plastic bags and more. These grants are available to for-profit and non-profit businesses, organizations and institutions, including multi-family housing. Grants can be used to start or improve recycling programs at facilities located within Hennepin County.
Larger grants of up to $50,000 are also available for businesses. The county estimates that half of the waste generated in the county comes from businesses and nearly two-thirds of that waste is recyclable. If you’d like to learn more, contact www.hennepin.us/businessrecycling.
Parish volunteer leaders, our staff and Aspen, our current trash/recycling vendor, are working in partnership to examine our past recycling levels, and they are looking at ways to increase these efforts. This work helps both our environment and our financial bottom line.
The idea of starting an organics program at The Basilica is being researched. According to Hennepin County Public Works, almost 30% of waste is food and food-soiled paper. The next Hennepin County grant deadline is October 15, and we are working to submit a grant request at that time.
The Basilica’s volunteer Eco Team is also looking at how to increase the visibility and effectiveness of recycling on our parish campus. How can we improve the location of containers for recycling trash and organics composting? What signage and practical approaches would help all of us understand how we can each participate and help increase our recycling efforts on The Basilica campus?
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and thus the Christmas season comes to an end. This would probably come as a surprise to many people as Christmas outside the church has been forcibly erased from our memories with the red and green of Christmas gradually being replaced by the red-only of the next commercial holiday, St. Valentine. In the church, though, the evergreens still stand and the poinsettias, though visibly tired persist.
The two main liturgical celebrations of the church: Christmas and Easter have a time of preparation, respectively Advent and Lent and a time of celebration, respectively Christmastide and Eastertide. The Christmas season is punctuated by a number of liturgical celebrations, in chronological succession: the feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year unless January 1st falls on a Sunday when it is celebrated on December 30th; the solemnity of the Mother of God on January 1st; the solemnity of the Epiphany mostly observed on the Sunday between January 2 and 8; and the feast of the Baptism of the Lord celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany unless Epiphany falls on January 7 or 8 when the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the next day.
The more ancient of these celebrations, namely Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord, together with the Birth of the Lord were originally celebrated as one big celebration of the Epiphany of God in Jesus Christ on January 6. This unified feast predates the separate celebration of Christmas on December 25. There is evidence of the celebration of the Epiphany by the end of the second century, while the earliest known reference to Christmas is no older than 354 AD.
The word Epiphany is the English transliteration of the Greek Epiphaneia, meaning appearance, revelation, and manifestation. The feast of the epiphany is thus the feast of the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God. It was also known as the Theophany or Theophaneia in Greek, meaning the revelation or appearance of God.
The original feast of the Epiphany celebrated the four major epiphanic moments in the life of Jesus all bundled in one. The first epiphany being the revelation of Jesus as God to Israel symbolized by the announcement to the shepherds which we now celebrate on Christmas. The second is the revelation of Jesus as God to the gentiles symbolized by the Magi which is celebrated on Epiphany in the churches of the west. The third is the revelation of God as the Trinity which is now celebrated on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The fourth major revelation is God’s desire to make all things new which happened at Cana when Jesus changed water into wine. Though not accorded its own feast, the reading recounting this event is now read on the Sunday after Baptism of the Lord during year C, thus in close proximity to the other three celebrations.
The main theological reason why these epiphanic moments are now spread out over several celebrations is due to the importance of each one of them in its own right. The goal of each celebration is twofold: first we celebrate each epiphany so we come to know God better and second we celebrate each epiphany so we may in turn lead lives that reveal God to the world.
As we conclude the rich celebration of the Christmas season let us re-commit ourselves to reveal to the world in deed and in word what has been revealed to us. May each epiphany of God inspire us to become ourselves an epiphany of God to the world in turn.