Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Roll Out the Fiddle... and Surpass the Stars

Its observance might be transferred to Sunday in much of the global church... but lest it slipped any minds, today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas -- the Epiphany (also known as "Three Kings Day," Theophany, Orthodox Christmas Eve, etc.).

(To this day, though, try explaining the "Sunday between the 2nd and the 8th" bit to Italian folk and they'll look at you like you're from another planet.)

Whatever one calls it, as promised by his MC in late Advent, the Pope donned a classic-style "Roman" or "fiddle-back" chasuble for this morning's liturgy in St Peter's. And that's not all; come Sunday's feast of the Baptism of the Lord, B16 will once again celebrate the traditional Sistine Chapel Mass (featuring the baptism of infants) using the venue's antique fixed altar and ergo, in the ad orientem stance -- or, as it's often dubbed in the vernacular, with his "back to the people."

From this morning's homily:
[T]he Feast that celebrates the Magi’s coming to the manger in Bethlehem led by a star, is the sign of a “cosmological revolution caused by the arrival into the world of the Son of God. [. . .] Divine love, incarnate in Christ, is the fundamental and universal law of creation.”

Benedict XVI’ s homily in today’s Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is an appeal to scientists to acknowledge in their studies the reality of “The love which moves the sun and the other stars” as Dante put it to define God in the last verse of the Divine Comedy.

“The stars, the planets, the universe as a whole are not governed by a blind force; they do not obey the dynamics of matter alone,” the Pope said. “They are not therefore cosmic elements that must be deified; on the contrary, in all and above all there is a personal will, the Spirit of God, that was revealed in Christ as love.”

The Pontiff’s appeal is even more significant this year because 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first telescopic observations, a year the United Nations has designated as the International Year of Astronomy.

The Pontiff said that the Magi “were probably astronomers” who through their observations “saw a new start appear” and “interpreted” the event “as the annunciation of the birth of a king.”

Even in our age, Benedict XVI noted, “quite a few scientists like Galileo have not given up on reason or faith, giving instead the utmost value to both as they nourish each other.”

The “cosmological revolution” brings freedom to man. As Saint Paul said in his Letter to the Colossians: “See to it that no one captivate[s] you [. . .] according to the elemental powers of the world” (cf Col, 2:8). Man is free and able to relate to God’s creative freedom. He is at the origin of and rules everything, not as a cold and anonymous engine, but as Father, Spouse, Friend, and Brother; as Logos, ‘Word-Reason’, that united our mortal flesh once and for all and fully shared our condition, showing the overflowing power of his grace.”

“Christian thinking compares the cosmos to a ‘book’ as Galileo put it himself, considering it as the work of an author who expresses himself through the ‘symphony’ of creation,” the Pope said. “At a certain point in this symphony one finds what in music is called a ‘solo’, a subject assigned to a single instrument or voice. And it is so important that the meaning of the whole work depends upon it. This ‘solo’ is Jesus . . . . The Son of man sums up in himself earth and sky, creation and Creator, flesh and Spirit. He is the centre of the cosmos and history because in Him Author and work are united without merging.”

Thanks to Christ’s dominion over creation and history, as confirmed by the Resurrection, the Church marches assured in history.

“There is no shadow, however dark, that can dim the light of Christ. For this reason believers in Christ never lose hope vis-à-vis the great social and economic crisis troubling humanity today, the destructive hatred and violence that continue to shed blood in many regions of the world and man’s selfishness and pretensions to be his own god, which leads sometimes to dangerous distortions of God’s design about life and the human dignity in matter of the family and the harmony of creation. As I wrote in the already mentioned Spe salvi Encyclical, our efforts to free human life and the world from poisons and pollution that could destroy the present and the future retains its value and meaning, ‘even if we outwardly achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces,’ because ‘it is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad’(n. 35).”...

After urging the faithful to be nourished by the Word of God, the Pontiff concluded saying: “Of the Word of life we are but servants. This is how Paul saw himself and his ministry, a service to the Gospel, when he said: ‘All this I do for the sake of the gospel’ (1 Cor, 9:23). This is also what the Church and every ecclesial community, bishop and presbytery ought to say: All this I do for the sake of the gospel.”
PHOTO: Reuters(1); AFP/Getty(2)