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MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD January 1st.

A great deal of thought has been put into preparing the Marian section of EWTN's presentation of "The Catholic Faith." This is because the Church's teaching concerning Mary and great devotion to her is very often misunderstood and even attacked by non-Catholic Christians, and is sometimes poorly understood even by Catholics. It may seem to some that a disproportionate amount of space has been devoted to Marian doctrine. However, in an attempt to give a clear exposition of Catholic teaching and to answer common objections to it, it is essential that no confusion be left as to what the Catholic Church teaches about the Mother of God, and what grounds there are for this teaching.

The Catholic Church teaches that by a free decision of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary was elevated to become the Mother of His Son Jesus Christ and Jesus' worthy associate in redeeming mankind. She was prepared for this role by being preserved by God's grace from all sin, original and personal, throughout her entire life, and was rewarded at the end of her life for her cooperation with God's plan by being taken up, body and soul, into Heaven, where she reigns with her Son as Queen of the Universe, and whence she distributes to men all the graces which, with, through and under her Son, she helped to merit on Calvary.

However, Catholics do not at all make Mary equal to her Son, for He is true God, and she, though the most exalted of all creatures, is still only that-a creature. Only Jesus Christ, because he is both God and man, can be the perfect Mediator between God and men, and could offer to the Father a sacrifice of infinite value on behalf of the human race of which he was fully a member. The sacrifice which He offered was completely sufficient to redeem mankind; Mary's cooperation was added not out of any necessity, but completely out of the marvelous generosity of our heavenly Father, His great love for us and for her. Finally, only Jesus Christ is Redeemer and Mediator by his own power. In all things, Mary works with, through, and under to her Son, completely dependent on Him.

Mary's subordination to her Son, and her dependence upon Him, is expressed in various places and in various ways in the files found in this section. If it is not repeated at every step, this is because for Catholics, this subordination is so clear, so obvious, that it does not need to be repeated at every turn. Catholics' great joy at the privileges granted to Mary rests ultimately in wonder that God could, and did, raised a mere creature to such heights.

In order to understand the grounds for the Church's teaching on Mary, it is necessary to understand the Church's teaching on Sacred Tradition. Those who believe that the Bible is the only source of divine revelation will certainly have trouble understanding where Catholic teaching on Mary has come from. Eventually, "The Catholic Faith" will add a section explaining what the Church believes about divine revelation, including Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Although files by Fr. William G. Most are used throughout "The Catholic Faith," special thanks are due to Father Most for his writings on Mary. The present section is largely, thought not entirely, the result of his years of tireless effort in defending and elucidating Catholic truth concerning the Mother of God.

 

EPIPHANY, January 3rd.

There are several traditions and names for celebrating the Epiphany, but what is it?

The Epiphany is celebrated each January 6 and is a day dedicated to the birth of Christ, which includes a nod toward the three Kings who came to visit Him.

According to Dictionary.com, the word "epiphany" means "an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity."

Appearance is correct, as Christ revealed himself in the form of a newborn babe to the Three Wise Men, who traveled from their countries to pay tribute to the Son of God.

It is also a reference to the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. The six Sundays following Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation. 

The Gospel of Matthew describes three Wise Men, named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, who were told of Christ's birth and set off, following the Star of Bethlehem, to meet the baby Jesus.

Each king brought with him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to represent Jesus' elevated position, divine birth and mortality respectively.

Historically, Christmas was celebrated each day from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany, with January 6 being as large a celebration as December 25.

Though Protestant churches celebrate a season of Epiphany from January 6 to Ash Wednesday, the Catholic Church observes Epiphany as a single day, with some in America celebrating the Epiphany feast the Sunday following January 6.

In Spain, children believe their Christmas presents are delivered by the Three Wise Men on January 6, while in Venice, children believe "La Befana," an imaginary old woman in Italian folklore, brings gifts to them on the Epiphany Day.

An old Catholic tradition is the Star Singers, which are groups of people who dress as the Wise Men and carry a wooden star who go door-to-door to sing and collect donations for the poor. 

In Germany, if the Star Singers (Sternsinger) come to your door, they offer a blessing for your home. If you accept, they write 20 * C + M + B + 21 in chalk above your doorway. The numbers represent the year and the letters represent the phrase Chrustus mansionem benedictat, meaning "God bless this house."

 

BAPTISM OF THE LORD, January 10th.

The mystery of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan by St John, the Precursor, proposes the contemplation of an already adult Jesus. This mystery is infinitely linked to the Solemnities of the Lord’s birth and the Epiphany.  

At Christmas we have contemplated the human birth of the Word incarnate by the Virgin Mary. In the 4th century, the Fathers of the Church deepened the understanding of the faith with regard to the Christmas mystery in the light of Jesus’ Humanity. They spoke of the Incarnation of the Word already working like the ‘Christification’ of that humanity that he had assumed from His mother. Or put in simpler terms: Jesus is the Christ from the first instant of conception in Mary’s spotless womb because He Himself, with His Divine Power, consecrated, anointed and ‘Christified’ that human nature with which He became incarnate.

In the mystery of the Epiphany, we then meditated on Christ’s manifestation to all nations that was represented by the Magi, the wise men from the East, who came to adore the Child.

Now, in the mystery of Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River, we again encounter and represent the truth of the Lord’s incarnation and His manifestation as the Christ. Jesus’ Baptism is in fact His definitive manifestation as the Messiah or Christ to Israel, and as the Son of the Father to the entire world. Here we find the dimension of the Epiphany which was His manifestation to all nations. The Father’s voice from heaven shows that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows the Trinitarian nature of the Christian God. The true and unique God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shows Himself in Christ, through Him, with Him and in Him.

The Baptism in the Jordan returns to the great Christmas theme of ‘Christification,’ Jesus of Nazareth's spiritual anointing, His presentation as the Anointed One par excellence, the Messiah or the One sent by the Father for the salvation of mankind. The Spirit that descended on Jesus shows and seals in an incontrovertible way the ‘Christification’ of Jesus’ humanity that the Word had already fulfilled from the first moment of His miraculous conception by Mary. Jesus, from the very beginning, was always the Lord’s Christ, He was always God. Yet, His one, true humanity, that which is perfect in every way, as the Gospel records, constantly grew in natural and supernatural perfection. ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with men’ (Lk2:52). In Israel at 30 years of age, one reached full maturity and therefore could become a master. Jesus came of age and the Spirit, descending and remaining on Him, definitively consecrated His whole being as the Christ.

The same Spirit, that descended on the water of the River Jordan wafted over the waters during the first creation (Gen 1:2). Therefore, the Baptism in the Jordan presents yet another truth: that Jesus has started a new creation. He is the second man (1 Cor 15:47) or the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), that comes to repair the first Adam’s guilt. He does this as the Lamb of God that takes away our sins.

 

DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE UNBORN, January 22nd.

“In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion. The liturgical celebrations for this day may be the Mass “For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life” From USCCB

This is the designated day because it is the anniversary of “Roe vs. Wade,” the case which made abortion legal in the United States.