WARWICK — Members of the local Latino community joined together at a Mass said in Spanish to celebrate the Epiphany at the Church of St. Stephen, the First Martyr, in Warwick, last Saturday evening, Jan. 9.
El Dia De Reyes, the Epiphany, is usually celebrated on Jan. 6 but the Mass in Spanish had been scheduled for Jan. 9.
The celebrant this year was the Rev. Lorenzo Laboy, the newly assigned Parochial Vicar at St Stephen’s who also happens to be fluent in Spanish.
The Epiphany reminds us of the time when the Three Wise Men, following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus.
In the Hispanic community, the 12 days of Christmas starts in December and continues until the Epiphany when in some Latin American countries the children also receive their gifts.
The Mass began with a procession of children in costumes who were dressed as Mary, carrying the baby Jesus, Joseph and the Three Wise Men.
Warwick resident Judy Battista, an advocate for the growing Latino community, provided the costumes and welcomed the community to the service.
During his homily, spoken in Spanish, Laboy explained the deeper meaning of the story of the magi. And he said that by following their hearts, they were among the first witnesses to the baby Jesus – in essence to celebrate the Epiphany.
Following the Mass, everyone assembled in the atrium for refreshments and breaking of the traditional “Rosca,” a sweet bread.
Battista explained that the Rosca is traditionally eaten during the celebration of “Día de Reyes” (literally “Kings’ Day”), which are attributed to the Three Wise Men.
A small figurine of the Christ Child, hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus after learning of King Herod’s order to murder all the children under two years old that could be the prophesied Messiah.
Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on Candle Mass Day (Día de la Candelaria).
In the Mexican culture, this person also has to throw a party and provide tamales and atoles (hot drinks) for the guests.
“I would like to thank St. Stephen’s and Father Jack and Father Lorenzo for opening the doors to the Latino community,” said Battista. “And I thank all the volunteers who have an integral part in helping with the Spanish Mass. Everyone is welcome to attend them on the first Saturday of each month. Come and meet your Spanish-speaking Catholic neighbors. Experience our culture and the wonderful traditions within the Spanish community.”
On Saturday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. the Hispanic community at St. Stephen’s will celebrate the Mass of the Candeleria (Candle Mass).
For more information, or to be a part of this ministry, call Battista at 987-4207.
– Roger Gavan
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