September 30, 2023

I greeted somebody “Merry Christmas” and he quickly remarked, “Padi, say belated merry Christmas!” I was taken aback. I had mixed emotions. Well, I simply remarked, “Aya? Anyway, big thanks.”
A youth leader who takes care of the music ministry messaged me with an inquiry. “Father Marcs, is it still okay to sing Christmas songs on the Solemnity of Epiphany?”
Some people feel awkward being greeted and greeting people merry Christmas and a happy New Year after Jan. 1, but the liturgical calendar says it well, Christmas season will end officially on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, immediately after the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
Here is a quick and pastoral answer to the inquiry and to address people who are not yet aware of the liturgical seasons.
The Advent starts with the first Sunday of Advent. This is our new year in the church calendar. Advent has four Sundays, signaled by the Advent wreath with three violet candles and one pink called Gaudete candle for Gaudete Sunday.
Advent requires advent songs for the liturgical celebrations. In the middle of the Advent is the celebration of the aguinaldo masses. It is a novena mass starting Dec. 16 and ending on the dawn of Dec. 24. The simbang gabi starts on the evening of Dec. 15 and ends on the eve of the 23rd.
Aguinaldo masses are anticipated Christmas masses. Hence, the “Glory to God” hymn and Christmas songs are sung and the priest wears white stole. Unlike in the four weeks and Sundays of Advent, Glory to God and Christmas songs are suppressed.
Christmas season begins on the evening before Christmas Day. Glory to God is sung jubilantly. Christmas songs are sung especially as processionals for entrance song, presentation of the gifts or offertory song, communion song, and final song.
The Christmas Octave, which starts on Dec. 25 and ends on Jan. 1, has the dignity of Christmas Day. It means eight days immediately after December Christmas. Hence, the hierarchy of liturgical music requires the singing of complete liturgical songs. Christmas Octave includes the Feast of St. Stephen, the First Christian Martyr, St. John the Evangelist, The Holy Innocents, Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, and the Divine Motherhood of Mary celebrated on New Year’s Day.
The Christmas season ends officially on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord after the Solemnity of Epiphany. For practical tips, immediately after the Feast of the Baptism of Lord, it is the proper time to stop singing Christmas songs and to remove Christmas decors in the church or at home. For other places, they still observe Christmas season until the solemnity of the presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2.
When I was younger, I often greet people “Happy Three Kings” on Jan. 6. I also often hear thoughtful people doing the same greeting. Now, I realize that it is more integral and holistic to greet people with “Happy Epiphany” because Epiphany includes the Three Kings.
It was in the seminary that my understanding about the feast of Three Kings started to broaden.
What is the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord?
Epiphany means manifestation. What is being manifested? The Glory of the Lord is being manifested. God manifested his tremendous glory in his Son, Jesus Christ. Christmas is the birth of Jesus. It is the day where the Word became flesh and became one of us, except sin.
God manifested His glory using beautiful realities. He made use of the star to lead the Magi to his Son. He made use of the angels to proclaim the birth of Jesus. He made use of music to sing the Glory of God.
Hence, the first song ever sung on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was “Glory to God in the Highest.” The music aims to manifest the Glory of God, to praise Him, and to give joy to the world.
God made use of the shepherds to symbolize loving service. The shepherds serve the Holy Family.
God made use of the Three Magi or Three Kings to symbolize good and responsible governance. Kingship is not lording over, commanding, and demanding, but public servant-leadership. Pope Francis will tell us again, we must walk, journey, and work with our people. It is not enough to talk and command. Governance is “synodal,” to mean walking with.
In my homily, I asked the people, “How many kings were mentioned in the Nativity Story of Jesus?” Some said, three, some four, and a smart little boy said five. AoasNgagan answered right and I let him identify them. He answered right: Melchor, Gaspar, Baltazar, Herod, and Jesus.
New Year’s surprises
God is indeed a God of happy surprises.
Every end of the year, the Baguio Midland Courier has a list of nominations. I am grateful for the nomination. It adds inspiration to my priestly life and in effect it allows my best to do and work more in my priestly ministry.
I learned about the nomination when people sent me text messages. Here are some of them:
“Fr. Marcs, good afternoon. Congratulations! Kunana datoy Baguio Midland Courier, Priests of the Year: Marcs Castañeda and Melvin Odsey. God bless, apo Pachie!” – Mr. Raffy Marzan;
“Congratulations, ading ko for being priest of the year together with Melvin Odsey.”–Mr. Ferdinand Castañeda;
“Happy Epiphany, Fr. Marcs! Thank you so much for the spiritual enhancement you have done particularly to the women senior citizens of Sagada. The Sagada Federated Senior Citizens love you and your ways of inspiring them spiritually. You are a blessing to everybody that you’ve been touched. You have touched our hearts to come closer to Jesus. Stay healthy to walk the talk, Father Marcs.” – Mrs. Mary Daoas;
“Joyful Wednesday night, Fr. Marcs. I am so touched with your column last Sunday. With your 17 years of doing what God taught you. Your vocation of sincere service and love for mankind. You deserve the sweetest smile from a friend.” – Unknown inspiration, 0921-388-0919; and
“Thanks, father Marcs, really blessed ako imitating the Lord. Please continue and keep on shinning and touching our lives with your goodness, music, writings, arts, and best homilies ever.” – Ms. Irene Gabol
It is also very inspiring to receive a personally crafted Christmas card from a religious sister. The card reads:
“Dear Father Marcs, belated 17th anniversary as a priest of God on Dec. 3. We pray you continue to be a good and holy priest of God. Congratulations too for your La Voce Del Popolo column on Dec. 1. Please continue contributing to the Midland Courier. Rest assured we here at Fatima Covent enjoy reading good writings such as your article and more in the next issues. Thank you and keep up the good work. Yes, our mission here as aged and retired, is to pray for active sisters and priests in the Cordillera, so you are included. May the good, merciful, and loving God bless you abundantly. Your loving and caring sisters, Sr. Aurora Codiam, SIHM.”
With all the soul-lifting messages, I am inspired and truly felt the blessings of God. Year 2020 started with evident blessings and surely will end again with blessings. I grab this chance to thank all the people who loved me despite my lapses and weaknesses.
In special way, I thank my family for the big loving support. I always believe that friends and colleagues can leave you, especially when in trouble, but the family will never forsake you for the family is God’s presence in the world.
Reach me at [email protected] or at 0905-165-3669.