Tag Archives: Epiphany

The Star of Christmas

January 5, 2018


Christmas StarThe star is an important Christmas symbol. It is traditional to crown the top branch of the Christmas tree with a star. Star-shaped ornaments are common. Some manger scenes have a star on or above the roof of the stable.

The Christmas star is mentioned in Matthew’s Infancy Narrative. A star appeared in the night sky when Jesus was born, and it was seen in faraway Persia by a number of magi, highly esteemed scholars (Mt 2:2,7). It was a common ancient belief that when a great ruler was born, a new star would appear. When the Christmas star appeared the magi were convinced that a birth of epic proportions had taken place, they rejoiced at its sight, and they decided to follow the star wherever it went, and it finally stopped over the place where Jesus was (Mt 2:9,10).

The usual Christmas star has five points. This star, when it has a single point up, two to the side, and two pointed down, roughly resembles the limbs of a human person. The five-pointed star is also the Star of Balaam. In the Fourth Oracle of Balaam, he predicted that “a star shall advance from Jacob” (Nm 24:17), which is a metaphorical way to say that one of Jacob’s descendants would be a great king, and we believe that Jesus is both the star and the king. The five-pointed star also represents Jesus, the morning star (Rv 22:16).

The light of the star pierced the darkness of the night sky. It was beaming bright. A radiant star is a beautiful symbol for Jesus who is the true light that was coming into the world (Jn 1:9; 12:46). He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12), the light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:5).

When the Christmas star appeared, it was one of countless stars that dotted the night sky, but it shined more brightly than the rest. The magi could tell the difference between the star of Jesus and the other stars, and they chose to follow his star rather than any of the lesser ones.

We are confronted with the same dilemma. There are many bright lights competing for our attention. There are movie stars, dancing stars, and star athletes. There are pulsating lights on the front of theater marquees, search lights above car dealerships, flood lights on storefronts, and glittering lights in front of casinos and night clubs. Of all these lights, the Christmas star and its light shine more brightly than the rest. The lesser stars are competing for our attention, but we must not be misled. If we follow the example of the magi, we will choose the Christmas star over all other stars, and we will follow Jesus who is our Light.

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The Epiphany of the Lord

January 4, 2017


The Magi versus the Chief Priests and the Scribes

magiThe visit of the magi to Jesus in Bethlehem reveals a deeply disturbing fact:  the chief priests and the scribes did not go to visit Jesus like the magi.  In fact, they conspired with King Herod who wanted to destroy the child.  The chief priests and the scribes were quite unlike the magi, and they are a remarkable study in contrast.

The magi were pagans, Gentiles, non-believers; from Persia, a foreign country to the east; scholars and experts on secular subjects such as medicine, philosophy, and astronomy; belonged to an upper priestly caste; practiced as fortune tellers and magicians; and were ridiculed by ordinary Jews as superstitious, misinformed, and misguided.

On the other hand, the chief priests and scribes were Jews, members of God’s Chosen People; from Israel, the Promised Land; scholars and experts on spiritual subjects such as Scripture, the Law, and the prophets; served as the priests and elders of the Temple; despised fortune telling and magic; and were widely respected by ordinary Jews as holy, devout, and well-informed.

The reaction and response of the magi to the birth of Jesus is shockingly different from the chief priests and the scribes.  When the star appeared in the night sky, the magi noticed the star, were excited about the star, made a clear decision to seek the newborn king of the Jews, followed the star, traveled hundreds of miles, spent weeks or months on the journey, used a portion of their life’s savings to make the trip, brought expensive gifts, consulted with others for additional guidance, and once they found Jesus, they were filled with joy, prostrated themselves before him, paid him homage, and offered him expensive gifts.

On the other hand, the chief priests and the scribes failed to notice the star.  When they learned about the birth of the newborn king of the Jews, they were not excited, they had no desire to go and see the child, they were unwilling to travel five or six miles or to set aside part of a day to make the trip to nearby Bethlehem, spent none of their resources on traveling or gifts, failed to take heed of their own Scriptures regarding the birth of the Messiah, were flat and unaffected, gave Jesus no honor or worship, and presented him with no gifts.

This is a supreme irony.  A positive response to Jesus should have been forthcoming from the religious leaders of Israel, not from pagans from a faraway country.  The outsiders responded and believed.  The insiders were complacent and resisted.

Not only is this contrast shocking, and the response of the chief priests and scribes disappointing, even appalling, it should serve as a warning to us.  Practicing Catholics and regular church-goers would classify themselves as “religious” or “devout.”  This is the same way that the chief priests and scribes described themselves.  Even though they had the advantage of a religious upbringing, knew Scripture, and worshiped regularly, they did not respond to Jesus.  We must avoid their pitfall.  It is important for us to watch for Jesus, pursue him with all our hearts, expend whatever time and energy is needed to go to him, examine the Scriptures for guidance, prostrate ourselves in praise and worship before him, and offer him our finest gifts.

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Tasty fish an ‘Epiphany’ at Coon Rapids parish

March 2, 2016



“It wasn’t long before the throwback silly putty-colored tray was laden with a hearty supper,” writes Fish Daddy of his Feb. 26 fish fry dinner at Epiphany in Coon Rapids. Courtesy Fish Daddy

Catholic Hotdish offers another review from Fish Daddy, who visits some of the hot spots in the Twin Cities for Lenten fish fries. He’s looking at more than the fish — it’s the fellowship, the friendliness and faith that makes this Catholic Lenten tradition shine.

From the minute Fish Daddy approached the church hall door, and later took the tray from the PTO volunteer, whiffs of both tasty fish and parochial school upbringing hung in the air. It wasn’t long before the throwback silly putty-colored tray was laden with a hearty supper. Pink lemonade in a Styrofoam cup and a side of applesauce had me captivated. But that wasn’t all. With the size of the tray, it was unlikely anyone would need seconds.


Epiphany served up two Guinness-battered fish and the craic to go with it. The optional baked fish or non-Guinness-battered was also excellent, so I heard, as well as the choice of tater tots, straight-up cabbagey slaw, breadstick or roll, dessert tray selection and beverage. Fish Daddy’s guests found the potato a bit underdone. Epiphany’s cooks fire up a curveball, too. Cheese pizza is on the menu, specially for the 10 and under crowd. (2 fish)


Students' artwork welcomed guests to Epiphany's fish fry Feb. 26. Courtesy Fish Daddy

Students’ artwork welcomed guests to Epiphany’s fish fry Feb. 26. Courtesy Fish Daddy

Two lines made the hungry dinner crowd at ease, and plenty of PTO help from serving to cleaning to offering refills on coffee, water, or lemonade made the meal go down smoothly. Pleasant young ladies and gents came by several times. Sixteen half cafeteria-length tables with two overflow rooms made for ample comfort, with well over a hundred guests seated during my stay. (3 fish)

Fishers of men

Epiphany’s Stations of the Cross were scheduled following dinner at 7 p.m., and their adoration chapel is advertised as 24/7. There were several Lenten devotion notices well placed either in the church hall or on the website. The 3-day Parish Mission with Fr. Mike Schmitz is scheduled for March 7-9, and the Easter Cantata is on 7 p.m. March 18 and 1 p.m. March 19. And that’s just Lent. Father Thomas Dufner and his parish team offer plenty of opportunities for you to get involved and spiritually nourished (4 fish).


A thrifty $10 gets you in the door, with youth and seniors paying $6, and under 5 free (3 fish).

Epiphany parishioners are clearly proud of their youth. From the many pictures on the website to pint-sized helpers to young artists who created many personalized colored placemats with fish themes, this parish rings out with parochial spirit.

And if you didn’t hear the national buzz around the snow altar built on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with the help of some of the young adults of Epiphany, then check out the Jan. 23 Catholic Spirit article. Now that’s a catch!

Epiphany 1900 111th Ave NW, Coon Rapids. http://www.epiphanymn.org. 763-755-1020.

Want Fish Daddy to visit your parish? Email CatholicSpirit@archspm.org.


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What the Magi’s gifts mean and how we can give them too

January 6, 2012


Photo/Catedrales e Iglesias, Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca Licensed under Creative Commons

I can think of more practical gifts for a baby born in a stable than gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some blankets, maybe?  A layette or some diapers? How about a house the Holy Family wouldn’t have to share with animals?  But the wise men were wise enough to see the bigger picture.

To discover the meaning of their expensive gifts, it’s a good idea to learn about the men who gave them. The Western Church has recognized the Magi as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar since the seventh century. St. Bede most likely wrote this description of them:

The Magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard … who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, Caspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned … honored Him as God by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, named Balthasar … by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die.

St Irenaeus wrote that the gifts of the Magi were given to Christ for his offices associated with redemption. The gold was for Christ as King, the frankincense as a symbol of His Deity and the myrrh burial ointment as a symbol of death for the Suffering Redeemer. On another level, St. Irenaeus said the gold signifies virtue; the frankincense, prayer; and the myrrh, suffering.

Church Father Origen wrote of the gifts: “gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God.”

In the ancient world it was protocol to bring gifts to a king or to the object of worship. In 243 BC, a Syrian king offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to the god Apollo. The queen of Sheba brought Solomon gold, spices and precious stones in I Kings 10:2, and Ps. 72 and Is. 60 also speak of bringing gifts to a king.

The gifts were appropriate not just for a king but for God, wrote St. John Chrysostom, comparing them to the traditional Jewish animal offerings. For this reason, the saint believed that the wise men worshiped Jesus as God.

Others assert that the gifts were just Oriental custom and may not have had special meaning. While some say there were three gifts because there were three Magi, Dr. Peter Kreeft finds significance in the number three:

Three wise men, three gifts, three offices (prophet, priest and king), three parts of the human soul (intellect, heart and will) because the Inventor and Designer of man is three. The medieval mind saw Trinitarian echoes everywhere, for a very good reason: Everything is made by the Trinity, and what is made must reflect its Maker.

It is the season for gift-giving, so I considered what gifts I’m bringing to the Baby Jesus. Gold is pretty much out of the question, although I can offer a little cash. Frankincense apparently is in short supply worldwide as the trees the resin is derived from are dying in Ethiopia. I don’t think myrrh would be very easy to come by, either.

A Russian Orthodox church offered some ideas for preparing our own gifts of “gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

  • While gold is the most precious metal, King David said that God’s Word is more precious and desirable. So if we study the bible and meditate on it, we give God a gift more precious than gold.
  • The fragrance of frankincense rises to God, serving as a gift of thanksgiving pleasing to God. If we bring God our gift of thanksgiving, as it says in the Psalms, it would please God more than frankincense.
  • Myrrh is oil containing the aromatic sap of a tree with which kings and high priests were anointed. The word myrrh means bitterness or sorrow. We can bring our own myrrh–sorrow and remorse for our sins–to the Lord.

St. Basil the Great also suggested following the Magi’s lead by offering gifts to God: “Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race.”


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