The Feast of the Epiphany
Last Sunday was the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord. The word “epiphany” means manifestation. The Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of the Savior, Jesus Christ, to the gentiles (non-Jewish people) in the persons of the magi—the three wise men Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’ 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. … After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2 :1–3,9–11)
God began His work of the redemption of mankind with the Jewish people as seen in the Old Testament. For example, He gave the Jewish people the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses. He also spoke of the Savior’s coming through the Old Testament prophets until finally Jesus came into the world. The manifestation of Jesus to the three kings symbolizes that Jesus’ coming into the world has made reconciliation with God now open to the gentiles as well.
“All the nations you have made will come and worship before You, Lord; they will bring glory to Your name. 10 For You are great and do marvelous deeds; You alone are God.” Psalms 86:9–10
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him … .” Psalms 22:27
The gifts of the three kings: gold, frankincense, and myrrh also have special significance. The gift of gold signifies that Jesus is a King. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as “the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” The gift of frankincense signifies that Jesus is the High Priest and also God. In the Jewish tradition throughout the Old Testament, the high priest would offer incense to God in worship. For the same reason, the priest incenses the altar during the Holy Mass to honor the presence of God. The last gift, myrrh, seems at first, a strange gift for a newborn baby because myrrh was used as part of Jewish embalming and burial customs. This last gift signifies that Jesus has come into the world to die as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind in order to reconcile mankind with God.
How does the Epiphany apply to us today?
First of all, we can be thankful for our knowledge of the One True God, the loving Creator of all mankind who loves us so much that He sent His Son to reconcile us with Himself. Furthermore, because of this knowledge, we must make time and effort to worship God each day by attending the Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion every Sunday and as much as we can during the week, making time to adore Christ like the magi through Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as daily prayers such as the Most Holy Rosary.
Secondly, we must resolve to manifest Christ to others—to bring Christ to whomever we encounter by our words and actions. The light and love of Christ must shine through us, so that all those with whom we come into contact may be drawn to Jesus for the salvation of their eternal souls.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34–35
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14–16
In Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John is the beautiful account of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus and was so moved by the experience that she told everyone in her town.
“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward Him. … Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony … and because of His words many more became believers.” (John 4: 28, 29, 39–41)
The vision of Saint John in the Book of Revelation gives us a hopeful and triumphant image of a redeemed mankind.
“9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9
Like the three kings, may we earnestly seek Christ and His Kingdom! Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we manifest Him to others!