The Epiphany of our Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The month of January is dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus: let us reverently pray His Holy Name and make reparation to our good Lord for the many times that His name is spoken with irreverence! This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. I share with you a reflection on the Epiphany. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: “The Epiphany of our Lord: Epiphany means manifestation. In today‟s Solemnity the Church commemorates the first manifestation of the Son of God made Man to the pagan world, which took place during the adoration of the Magi. This Feast proclaims the universal dimension of the mission of Christ. Christ came into the world to fulfill the promises made to Israel and to bring to fruition the salvation of all people. The Solemnity of the Epiphany was born in the first centuries of Christianity in the Orient at which time it was known as the Theophany or the Feast of the Illumination. It was made into a universal feast of the Church in the fourth century. The Feast has traditionally been celebrated on January 6. Corresponding to Grace: For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him. The star over Bethlehem shown down upon all mankind. Its brilliance could be perceived from every corner of the earth. From his first moments as a man, the new-born Jesus began to spread forth His light and His riches to the world, making use of a star in the heavens to draw men from distant lands to Himself (Communion Antiphon, cf. Matt. 2:2). Epiphany means „manifestation‟. On this Feast, one of the oldest Feasts in Christianity, we celebrate the universality of the Redemption. The people of Jerusalem who witnessed the arrival of the wise men from the East may well have recalled the prophecy of Isaiah which we find in today‟s First Reading of the Holy Mass: Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar… (Is. 60:1-6) The three wise men, the Magi, represent all the races and nations on earth. They have arrived at the end of their long journey. They are men with a thirst for God, a longing which has led them to put aside comforts, earthly goods and satisfactions so as to adore the Lord God. They have allowed themselves to be guided by an external sign, a star which shone with a special light. The star was in some sense clearer and more brilliant than the rest, so much so that it captured the attention of those who looked upon it. It seemed only logical that something so marvelous would have some special significance (St. Leo the Great, Sermons on the Epiphany, I, 1). These men were astronomers dedicated to the study of the heavens. They were accustomed to look for signs in the sky. Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east… Perhaps they had become aware of the coming of the Messiah through the Jewish people of the Diaspora, but we may also speculate that they had been inspired by an interior grace from God to follow the star. As St. Bernard has observed, He who was to show them the way to Bethlehem has already been their instructor for quite some time. He who led them by the help of a star, He it was who had been guiding them in the intimacy of their hearts (St. Bernard, On the Epiphany of the Lord, I, 5). The Feast of these holy men is a good opportunity to examine whether our lives are headed directly towards Jesus. Are we living up to the graces we receive from the Holy Spirit, especially that most important gift - that of our Christian vocation? We look upon the Child in the arms of Mary. We tell Him: My Lord Jesus, grant that I may feel Your grace and (grant) it in such a way that I empty my heart, so that You, my Friend, my Brother, my King, my God, my Love… may fill it (St. Jose Maria Escriva, The Forge, 913). The paths that lead to Christ: Upon their arrival in Jerusalem the wise men may have thought that they had come to the end of their travels. But they did not find the One born King of the Jews in this great religious capital. Since they were looking for a king, we might expect that they would have gone directly to the palace of King Herod. Yet the ways of men do not always correspond to the ways of God. The wise men were led to ask the people of Jerusalem: Where is He? When we really want to find Him, God shows us the way. He may even use means which seem least appropriate. Following the footsteps of the Wise Men in search of Christ, we ask ourselves where He could be. He cannot be present in the pride that separates us from God, nor in the lack of charity which cuts us off from others. Christ cannot be there. In that loveless state man is left alone (St. Jose Maria Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 31).
We need to find the true signs which will lead us to the Child-God. The wise men are representatives of all humanity, past, present and future. As we come closer to Christ by dint of our daily struggle we can certainly find something of ourselves in these men and their noble effort. St. Bonaventure has observed that the star which guides us is composed of three parts:
Holy Scripture, Our Blessed Mother and the grace which we receive from the Holy Spirit (St. Bonaventure, On the Epiphany of the Lord). Accompanied by this assistance, we will never lose the trail which leads to Bethlehem and the child Jesus.
The Lord has put into our hearts the longing to find Him: You did not choose Me, but I choose you (John 15:16). We will find our way to Him by reading the Holy Gospel, by living as good sons of Our Blessed Lady, by being faithful to our life of prayer and devotion to the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. Our Mother in Heaven beckons us to pick up the pace. Her Son is eagerly awaiting our arrival. At some moment in the future, perhaps not very far off, the star will come to shine perpetually upon us. We will at last find Jesus seated upon His throne at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus will be clothed in all the fullness of power and glory. Close by we will surely find His Mother. This indeed will be the perfect epiphany, the radiant manifestation of the Son of God.
Renewing our Apostolic Spirit: The Solemnity of the Epiphany should move us to renew the apostolic spirit which we received from the Lord. From the earliest days of Christianity this Feast has been considered the first manifestation of Christ to all mankind. With the birth of Jesus a star has been lit up in the sky. It is a most luminous vocation. It inspires caravans of people to take to the road (cf Is 60:1 ff). New paths have been opened up for mankind, paths which lead to Christ. Christ has become the heart for a new system of circulation which will last forever. By merit of being our Redeemer, Christ has become indispensable to us… Christ wants to be announced to the world… (St. Pope Paul VI, Homily, 6 January 1973) Today‟s Feast is yet another reminder that we have to bring Christ into the mainstream of our society. We can do this by means of our example and our conversation in family life, in hospitals, in shops, in the university, in our workplace… Lift up our eyes round about, and see… your sons shall come from afar… From afar, from every conceivable place and nation where men and women can be found. Our hearts resound with the invitation made by Our Lord: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… (Matt. 28:19) Our families, friends and colleagues may or may not be from afar in relation to the Lord. Yet the grace of God is all-powerful. With His help, they may come to join us one day in adoration of the child Jesus. On this feast day we cannot go to Jesus empty-handed. He does not need our gifts since He is the Creator of all things. But He wants us to be generous so that we may receive more graces and gifts from Him. Today we put at His disposal the gold of our charity. This is our desire to love Him more, to treat others with more love. We will present Him with the frankincense of our prayers and good works. We will give Him the myrrh of our sacrifices united to the Sacrifice of the Cross as renewed in the Holy Mass. In this way we become co-redeemers with Him. The Three Kings are in Heaven. They can certainly intercede for us. What, then, shall we ask of them? Surely we will not ask for gold, frankincense and myrrh? We can ask them to guide us along the path to finding Jesus, to help us not to lose heart along the way. When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy (Matt 2:9-10). Theirs was the incomparable joy of discovering God after a long and demanding search and effort. And going into the house they saw the Child with Mary, His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (Matt. 2:11). These gifts were highly valued at that time in the Orient. The same Christ who in Bethlehem, as a Child, accepted the gifts of the Magi Kings, is still the One to whom men and whole peoples ‘open their treasures.’ The gifts of the human spirit, in the act of this opening before God Incarnate, take on a special value (St. Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 24 January 1979). Everything takes on a new value when it is offered to God.” (From: In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, St. Columbkill, and the Three Magi, may God grant us the grace to be devoted to the Light of Christ given us through Scripture, our Blessed Mother and the Sacraments! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel