Sunday, January 4, 2015

Homily for the Epiphany

Homily for the Solemnity
of the Epiphany
Jan. 4, 2015
Prayer over the Offerings
Ursulines, Willow Drive, New Rochelle

“Look with favor on these gifts of your Church, in which are offered now not gold or frankincense or myrrh, but he who by them is proclaimed, sacrificed and received, Jesus Christ” (Prayer over Offerings).

Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico
Well, that prayer that we’ll pray over the offerings in a little while is pretty awkward grammatically, and it certainly wouldn’t win a Hemingway prize for directness or clarity.  It is, however, theologically rich.

1st recalling today’s Gospel, it refers to the gifts of the magi to make a contrast with the gifts that we present here today as our offering to the Divinity—to the Father, not to the newborn King of the Jews.  These are our gifts, the Church’s gifts; we ask the Father to “look with favor” upon them.

That word “look” is intuére in the Latin text, which means—according to a fine commentary on the new presidential prayers—“to gaze into.” [1]  We pray the Father to look into the inner reality of these gifts and not just their surface, and to find favor with that deeper reality.

The gifts right now—as we make the prayer—are just bread and wine.  But bread and wine are not what we’re about to offer to the Father, are they?  They’ll become the body and blood of his beloved Son Jesus, on whom his favor rests—the one who by the gifts transubstantiated in our sacred mysteries “is proclaimed, sacrificed and received.”

Now the Father can hardly help seeing the body and blood of his beloved Son when we offer it to him, and we would suppose can hardly help gazing upon the Son with favor.  So what are we praying for?  According to the commentary to which I referred, that the Father see us as well.  The bread and wine will become the body and blood of Christ.  Are we not the body of Christ?  We pray that the Father will see us joined to Christ and look favorably upon us too, us who form part of the “whole Christ.”  We pray that when the Father sees the gifts, he see also us who present them, and when he sees us gathered here, that he see his Son in or with us.  After all, the offering of our Eucharist is really Christ’s offering, Christ’s sacrifice, isn’t it?

Our prayer says that by these gifts of God’s Church Jesus Christ is “proclaimed, sacrificed and received.”

Celebrating the Eucharist, we proclaim the death and the resurrection of Christ until he comes again.  We proclaim that he is what the gold, frankincense, and myrrh signify:  our king, our God, and our redeemer thru his cross.  We pray the Father to keep all that before him, to be mindful of it, as he looks upon our gifts, and us united with his Son in this offering of the Son.

As we celebrate the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is made present—not re-enacted, for Christ offered himself once, for all.  But thru the sacred mystery the sacrifice of Jesus is re-presented, made present—not again but still; thru the sacred mystery “the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present” (CCC 1364).  As the Father was pleased with Christ’s self-offering on Calvary in time, in 30 A.D. (or whatever the year was), he is eternally pleased with that sacrifice, which we join Christ now in offering, making his self-offering our own—and offering ourselves alongside Christ.

In these gifts Jesus Christ is received.  After we proclaim him, after we offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus, Jesus gives us himself in the Eucharist, cementing our union with him.  We become what we eat—and we pray that it may truly be so, that we become perfect images of Christ.  If our union is truly one of hearts, one of commitment to the Father’s will like Jesus’ own commitment, the Father can only look with favor on the gifts we offer:  not only Jesus Christ, but ourselves in Jesus and Jesus in ourselves.

                [1] Daniel J. Merz and Marcel Rooney, OSB, Essential Presidential Prayers and Texts (Chicago: LTP, 2011), p. 28.

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