The Glorious Epiphany of our Lord

14-Baptism of our Lord2Welcome to 2017!

I pray that you have had a good break in which you have  refreshed yourselves ready for the New Year. This week we begin a new season in our Maronite Church, the Glorious Epiphany of our Lord. The Feast of the Epiphany was first celebrated in the Eastern Church in the third century and eventually adopted in the Western Church. This feast is also known as the Theophany.

Epiphany is a Greek word which means a “manifestation” or an “apparition”. In Syriac, this word is “Denho”. Theophany means “an
appearance of God”. Epiphany because on this day we celebrate the appearance or manifestation of Christ among us as God’s son and Theophany because for the first time in the Bible, the Holy Trinity was revealed, Father, Son and Holy Spirit at the Baptism of the Son.

The Epiphany water is blessed with a lighted charcoal which signifies the fire of the Spirit who entered the Jordan River at Christ’s Baptism. In our Maronite liturgy, this is the meaning of the ritual of immersing the inflamed  charcoal in the water.  It is like mixing fire and water, the fire represents divinity and the water represents our life or the material world. Symbolically, when our Lord went into the water to be baptized by Saint John the Baptist, he sanctified the water, the essential element of life. The water symbolises
the origin of creation and of every  creature which is in need of sanctification through the Holy Spirit.

This water is then sprinkled on the congregation by the priest reminding them of their own baptism in which they put on a  robe of Christ and were cleansed from their original sin. The water is also taken home and can be sprinkled or consumed so that the Holy Spirit may sanctify us and our material world submitting everything to the will of God.

This year we truly relived the baptismal rite by the renunciation of Satan and the profession of faith in the Epiphany rite on the eve of the Epiphany. Our beloved mothers and fathers also kept the Maronite tradition of the Epiphany pastries, Zlaabyi and Awamet,
alive in the parish. For three days, they worked on preparing these sweets and savory’s.  The dough which is dunked in the oil represents Christs’ descent into the Jordan River. May the Divine presence of God be “Deyim, Deyim” in our lives forever.

Last weekend I was very fortunate to attend the annual family retreat between Christmas and New Year. Sixteen families attended the retreat this year and lived the theme “Inflamed with the love of God”. Over the four days, the families had the opportunity to be inflamed with the love of God through many spiritual, social and educational activities. Thank you to all who organised this retreat.

Also, last Friday our youth celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with an outdoor party in the church car park. It was a great night and  everyone enjoyed it. Thank you to our MYO team for organising it.

Finally, I ask you to pray for our Bishop and all the clergy this week as we embark on our annual retreat. The theme for our retreat this year is “The Maronite Spirituality in the Liturgy”. As such there will only be one Mass celebrated between Monday and Friday at 6pm.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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