Under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars
The theme of the Feast of the Epiphany celebrated today is in direct continuity with that of Christmas. Indeed liturgically the Feast is even more ancient than Christmas itself and in some countries such as Spain and Hispanic areas it has retained its original status. It is still the most important day in the Greek and Russian Orthodox tradition.
The first reading for this solemnity is again a beautiful passage from the prophet Isaiah. This poem of Zion as its called, revolves round the restored community who are still awaiting salvation. The Lord is the chief speaker in this poem, and His saving act promised is now repeated.
The prophet says that the holy city of Jerusalem is the one bright spot in a dark world. Because of this it attracts the nations to itself. In the Old Testament light symbolises the presence of the Lord, and also the gift of salvation itself. The nations bring back with them the Israelites who were scattered. The wealth of the nations is brought to the Temple in Zion, which of course is Jerusalem. The nations come to pay tribute to the Lord and to worship him with sacrifice.
This is a very suitable backdrop for the light that issues from the Star of Bethlehem. Full and final redemption has dawned for God’s people and we now bask in the radiance of that revelation.
St. Paul in the second reading from Ephesians sums it up:
“The mystery that has now been revealed through the spirit to his Holy Apostles and Prophets was unknown to anyone in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance…”
St. Paul here captures the meaning of ‘Epiphany’. Jesus is a revelation of God, fulfilling all His promises of salvation and moreover he is presented to the nations outside Israel. Here the universalism of Isaiah is brought out. Christ is manifested to the world. The concept of Epiphany was originally linked to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord , which was also seen as a manifestation of Jesus Christ. A third manifestation highlighted by this feast was the sign performed by Jesus at Cana where he ‘manifested His glory”, in changing water into wine at the prompting of Mary his mother..
The Feast of the Epiphany then is a glorious opportunity for us to revitalise our Christian faith. God has revealed himself fully to us in his Son. Each year as we celebrate this day we are reminded how that bright star shed its light upon us.
Matthew in his gospel has brought all the Old Testament themes together. He brings his account to a climax when the three seekers or wise men from a foreign land come to the feet of the newborn King and fall to their knees in adoration. This scene has been one of the most popular subjects for Christian artists through the ages. The total generosity of the wise men urges us to look into the poverty of our own hearts, to try and find something to offer our King.
As we pray at the Offertory : “Lord, accept the offerings of your Church, not gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the sacrifice and food they symbolise: Jesus Christ.”
With Epiphany the sense of Christmas festivity seems to be coming to a close for another year.
Tadgh Tierney ocd