I had the pleasure of being present for a beautiful Liturgy of the Word held at Our Lady of Carmel Parish in Ponce, Puerto Rico. This is the Parish where our MSBT Sisters in Ponce worship. They told me “the Magi are coming at 11:00 AM!” I had no idea of the treat I was about to experience. Epiphany is celebrated on the traditional day January 6th in Puerto Rico and many other countries.
I entered the Church with the other sisters and found it overflowing with people of all ages and many families with young children. Everyone was on tiptoe straining to see. Traditional music of the shepherds and kings could be heard. A man dressed as a shepherd directed our attention to the entrance of the Church and soon I could see a tall, handsome, bearded man walking slowly down the aisle. He was richly dressed in robes and had a beautiful smile as the people reached out to touch him. As he approached the altar and bowed another man similarly dressed came down the aisle smiling in a friendly yet dignified way. Finally a third, even more magnificent man entered. He was even more handsome and beautifully dressed.
As the music played the Pastor and Deacon entered with a man in brown robes and a woman dressed in white and blue, holding a baby; the Holy Family. They walked in procession to the sanctuary. We listened to the scripture readings about Jesus’ birth and the Magi seeking the new born King.
After a short homily the Holy Family were seated in the front of the altar. One by one the Magi presented their gifts with a few words. (The baby playing Jesus looked at each Magi as he spoke.) Then all three prostrated themselves before the Infant Jesus. Everyone knelt and was silent for some moments. Then the Magi each held the child as the musicians played. The Liturgy of the Word concluded with a Blessing of first the Magi and then of all the congregation. The Magi slowly left the Church to be seated in a shady area where the children and their parents were invited to meet and talk with them. In Puerto Rico it is the Magi who bring the gifts on January 6th. The night of the January 5th the children leave shoeboxes filled with straw under their beds for the care of the Magi’s camels.
I have celebrated January 6th before with men or boys dressed as the Magi but I have never seen anything as splendid as this! Of course I googled it.
These Magi are from a small city in Puerto Rico, Juana Diaz, which has been celebrating in great and solemn style the Feast of Epiphany emphasizing the prayerful adoration of the Wise Men towards the Infant King. This began in 1884 with the local pastor Fr. Echevarría. The celebration became more and more popular. In 1985 the Council of the Magi Kings decided to share their manner of celebrating this feast by exporting their Magi. The men specially selected and trained as Magi go on a pilgrimage of the Island of Puerto Rico and beyond sharing their tradition with other Parishes and towns. This is a special kind of evangelization I think.
Pope Francis said “The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland. They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have let their hearts be anesthetized.
A holy longing for God wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present. A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom. That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.
Submitted by Sr. Barbara McIntyre, MSBT while in Ponce, Puerto Rico