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Archbishop joins in Quincy ecumenical Epiphany celebration


Men portray the Magi — with their symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh — in the Jan. 8 Quincy-area ecumenical Epiphany celebration held at Sacred Heart Church. Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

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QUINCY — Just as the three kings traveled from different cultures and backgrounds to honor the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, so too did worshippers from the different Christian churches of Quincy come to worship the one aspect that binds them — Jesus Christ — at the 30th annual Epiphany Celebration, held at Sacred Heart Parish Jan. 8.

 

The annual festival of lights was inaugurated by the Inter-Church Council of Wollaston and North Quincy under the direction of Rev. William Underhill, to enrich ecumenism in Quincy.

The festival brought together clergy from over a dozen churches, including Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, and hundreds of attendees. Beginning the service, clergy members processed into the church, which was still decorated for Christmas with poinsettias and garland adorned with white lights, as the Quincy Choral Society sang “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

One highlight of the service, which included Gospel readings proclaimed by members of the various congregations present, was the procession of the three kings, dressed in robes and each wearing a crown, to the altar as the choir sang “We Three Kings.” As each king arrived at the altar, he lit a candle and placed it in a candelabra.

The passage of the Gospel in which Christ sends out the Twelve Apostles to announce the Good News was then proclaimed by Rev. Fred Fullerton of Wollaston, Church of the Nazarene. As Rev. Fullerton read the names of each apostle, a man wearing a sack-cloth robe — like one would imagine an apostle wearing — came forward and lit a candle from one the candles at the altar. After all 12 names were read, members of the clergy likewise lit their own candles and then began lighting the candles of those in the congregation until the whole church, which had been dimmed, sparkled with candlelight.

Following another Gospel reading and hymn, Archbishop O’Malley gave a homily on the Magi’s quest for Christ.

“When we want to find God, He shows us the way,” the archbishop stated. “At Epiphany, God is revealing Himself and showing us the way.”

Archbishop O’Malley recalled the last World Youth Day, when the youth of the Church traveled to Cologne, Germany, where relics of the Magi are held in the cathedral, for a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

“A million young people responded to come and see Christ and, like the Magi, to adore Him,” he said.

The archbishop told of how in the Middle Ages the three kings were portrayed as having different ethnicities, Caucasian, Black and Asian, in order to represent the different nations on earth.

“The Magi represent men and women from everywhere who have a hunger for Christ and whose life becomes a quest to find Him,” said the archbishop, who also noted that there are Herod’s in the world who feel threatened by God. “The Magi were the intelligent of their day, but their humility allowed them to worship God … but for the Herod’s of this world it is an intrusion. Pride prevents them from seeing the truth.”

“Jesus didn’t cling to His divinity. He took the form of a baby,” Archbishop O’Malley continued. “Our God loves us so much that He manifests Himself in the face of a baby because His love never grows old, never gets tired of forgiving us.”

Among the clergy participating in the service was the Rev. Diane Kessler, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.

Rev. Kessler told The Pilot that events like the Epiphany celebration help to put a face to the ecumenical movement. “Ours is an incarnate faith, and one of the ways we come to understand God is by experiencing God through each other,” she said. “When we come together we experience this unity that our Lord prayed for and are given a vision of what we are called to be.”

“As Archbishop O’Malley said tonight, when we evidence our unity, the Gospel is clearer because the Gospel is a reconciling message,” Rev. Kessler continued. “If we show others that reconciling spirit it’s more eloquent than all the words we could speak.”

Quincy Mayor William Phelan attended the Epiphany service for the first time. “It was an honor for Quincy to host the archbishop,” said Phelan, who normally attends St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Quincy. “I believe everyone here received his message warmly and I’m sure they will bring it home with them.”

Even a non-Christian, Rhoda Silverstein, who is Jewish and came to see her friend perform in the Quincy Choral Society, was touched by the service. “It was beautiful,” she exclaimed. “Very solemn and inspiring. It was an honor to hear Archbishop O’Malley, who is a prominent figure in Boston.”

Sacred Heart Church parishioner, Anne Donovan, agreed that the archbishop’s homily was motivational. “By bringing everyone together to celebrate the birth of Christ, which is common to all Christians, we highlight our similarities rather than our differences,” she said.

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