Special Message From Father John

Around this time of year my mother would always tell us it was Russian Christmas, and I wondered what the heck she was talking about. Anything Russian was seen as strange at that time, I grew up in the 80’s during what was called the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States --- as far as I knew the Russians were the enemy and they were all “commies.” What was her fixation with this Russian Christmas? When you talk to your parents you find out all kinds of things --- we are not only Slovakian on my mother’s side, my grandmother whom we called ‘Bubba’ was well known to me, the child of immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia – but in casual conversation my mom dropped a bomb one day that we were probably more Russian than Slovak because two of my great grandparents were Russian, one was Slovak and one was Lithuanian. How could this be? I had Russian blood in me all along and I didn’t find out until my 30’s? Living on the edge of our Nation’s Capital, when my sister and I went bed at night, we could see the Washington Monument, and I have Russian blood in me? “Those stinking commies!”
Well whatever my mom was talking about, this Russian Christmas, or Epiphany was important in her mind. I had to do some research and I found out that in much of the world, not only in Russia, but in many other European countries, even in some Hispanic countries, the Epiphany is “Little Christmas.” It is a day where they exchanged presents and celebrated the Christmas mystery because of the arrival of the wise men to the crib. This was certainly a frame shift to think about Christmas in these terms. Once I became ordained a priest I appreciated more this “Russian Christmas”; I could not be with my family on December 25, but usually could fly home afterwards. It would be the day we opened presents, January 6 or so --- it took the pressure off of having to get all my shopping done before December 25, and we could get the sales as well! Epiphany as a celebration is a great idea that should not be lost upon us – it is truly a Christian and Catholic celebration. While, it’s still traditionally celebrated in much of the world on January 6th, the United States Conference of Bishops moved its celebration in our country to the Sunday closest to that date so that most Americans who have busy lives and schedules would not miss this important celebration when it falls on a weekday. It’s important to commemorate when Jesus was revealed to all the gentiles of the world by the visit of the Magi who followed the star. Here in Louisiana, Epiphany, or King’s Day has traditions of its own. It is the official Opening of the Carnival Season in New Orleans, Jan 6 and is when the Phunny Phorty Phellows rent a streetcar and “open” the season by throwing beads from the streetcar and having a party on it as it rolls down the tracks. The King Cake season officially begins, the cake is in a shape of a crown to commemorate the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and the three kings who brought the gifts to Jesus. The plastic baby inside to be found is a symbol of the Christ Child who was found in the manger by the Wise Men that day long ago. Another great tradition of Epiphany is the blessing of homes for the new year. So, I’ve had bags with prayers made up and the blessed chalk to write above the door of the home, 20-C-M-B-18, signifying the epiphany blessing of the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2018. I hope you will take advantage of this blessing. Thank you, for making a good Christmas for your Pastor. Your generosity of Spirit has blessed me greatly this year. I appreciate your cards, your gifts and your hospitality. What a gift you each are to me! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!