January 1st is the last day of the Christmas Octave. What begins with the birth of Jesus, concludes with the celebration of his mother, Mary, the Holy Mother of God. During the Octave there were a number of feast days. The first three days after Christmas Day gave us three great feast days. In the Middle Ages these feast days, St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist and The Holy Innocents were given the name of “Comites Christi” (Companions of Christ). They were seen as a cortege or court of honour accompanying the Christ-child. It was also said that three forms of martyrdom are represented: voluntary and executed (Stephen), voluntary and not executed (John), and executed but not voluntary (The Holy Innocents).
In the week ahead, on Friday we celebrate ‘The Epiphany of the Lord’. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.528 speaks of what the Epiphany is:
“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee. In the magi, the representatives of the neighbouring pagan religions, the gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation”