Epiphany – Year C

Readings:

Following the Star by Bishop Barron

  • Tension between spirituality & the Faith.
  • Eckhart Tolle = particular religions unncessary – a basic set of spiritual intuitions underlie all of them. “spiritual” vs. “religious”. Joseph Campbell = follow fundamental spiritual intuition behind religions.
  • Most people today would rather be called spiritual rather than religious.
  • God does indeed dwell in all things & can be found by those who search.
  • But, in none of these spiritualities is one addressed by the personal & living God – all the other approaches – we do the seeking & God is discovered at the end of this long journey. It’s almost desirable for us to turn God into this distant force – no personal appeal or demand. Although there is legitimacy to the god of spirituality – he is found by us and by our terms — they never reach into God’s mind & purposes.
  • God is revelation – gives direction to the spiritual longing of the race – spirituality must give way to something higher, deeper, better.
  • This is the background to the Magi story – part of a star-gazing culture – purpose to measure planets & stars – discern in them the will of God. so on their own terms with own skills – sought out the will of God. admire their dedication, tenacity, – they symbolize the best of the spiritual religions – searchers for God – symbols of spiritual quest – seeking God – they don’t know where to go until they meet the reps of the Jews. – these people chosen to be the unique bearers for all the seekers of the world – theres the paradox – Israels chosen for the seekers – once the wise men know where to go – they go! – and find what they have been looking for – but they wouldn’t have found it w/o specificity of Israelite revelation
  • So it is today with all who want to find God – you wont find God apart from the great people of Israel – cultivate all your spiritual powers – learn as much as you can – seek with all your heart – learn the spiritual wisdom of all the great traditions – realize finally that all remains incomplete unless it draws you to the God of Israel revealed in a baby – Jesus Christ – manifestation of divine love – who seeks us out with the passion of a father – we are sought by a God who hunts us down – breaks open his own heart for us – we must give way to be found.

Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year (pp. 4–5). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Tylenda, J. N. (2003). 

  • Today’s feast derives its name from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means a manifestation or revealing, and though this feast continues the mystery of Christmas, it presents Christ, the God-Man, in a new light. In Bethlehem, Christ’s first visitors were shepherds from the fields, but now he reveals or manifests himself to non-Jews or Gentiles, in the persons of the Magi, who had come from the East. Today’s Gospel (Matt. 2:1–12) describes this event. Having seen and followed his star, the Magi arrive in Jerusalem and inquire: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” for they have come to do him homage. When told that the place would be Bethlehem, they continue on their way, following the star until it rests directly above where the child lays. On seeing him, they kneel and adore him, and offer him three gifts. By gold, the Magi acknowledge that the Christ Child is of royal heritage; the gift of frankincense is offered because they recognize him as God; and myrrh is given because they affirm his humanity. By commemorating Christ’s manifestation of himself to the Gentile world, this feast, then, proclaims that his is a universal mission and that he is the Savior of all. The feast was first established in the East, but by the fourth century it was also commonly celebrated in the West. Although the prayers of today’s Mass only speak of the Magi’s visit, the Liturgy of the Hours (at Vespers) also refers to Christ’s divinity being made manifest at his baptism in the Jordan and at Cana, when he changed water into wine, his first miracle.

CCC 528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.213 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs,” and acquires Israelitica dignitas (are made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”). (439; 711–716; 122)

Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., pp. 133–134). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

A King to Behold: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

  • An “epiphany” is an appearance. In today’s readings, with their rising stars, splendorous lights and mysteries revealed, the face of the child born on Christmas day appears.
  • Herod, in today’s Gospel, asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. The answer Matthew puts on their lips says much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise – one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting “a ruler of Israel” who will “shepherd his flock” and whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (see Micah 5:1-3).

    Those promises of Israel’s king ruling the nations resound also in today’s Psalm. The psalm celebrates David’s son, Solomon. His kingdom, we sing, will stretch “to the ends of the earth,” and the world’s kings will pay Him homage. That’s the scene too in today’s First Reading, as nations stream from the East, bearing “gold and frankincense” for Israel’s king.

    The Magi’s pilgrimage in today’s Gospel marks the fulfillment of God’s promises. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, are following the star that Balaam predicted would rise along with the ruler’s staff over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17).

    Laden with gold and spices, their journey evokes those made to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba and the “kings of the earth” (see 1 Kings 10:2,25; 2 Chronicles 9:24). Interestingly, the only other places where frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together are in songs about Solomon (see Song of Songs 3:6, 4:6,14).

    One greater than Solomon is here (see Luke 11:31). He has come to reveal that all peoples are “co-heirs” of the royal family of Israel, as today’s Epistle teaches.

    His manifestation forces us to choose: Will we follow the signs that lead to Him as the wise Magi did? Or will we be like those priests and the scribes who let God’s words of promise become dead letters on an ancient page?

Following in the Footsteps of Jesus: Meditations on the Gospels for Year C. (R. Luciani, Ed., V. de Souza, Trans.) (pp. 40–41). Miami, FL: Convivium Press. Pagola, J. A. (2012). 

  • We have grown too accustomed to hearing this story. Today, however, no one has the time to stop and contemplate the stars. It is not only a matter of time. We belong to an age when it is easier to see the darkness of the night than the bright spots that shine in the midst of any darkness.
  • It is still touching to remember that old Christian writer who, while developing the midrashic story of the Magi, imagined them following the small light of a star in the middle of the night. The narrative evokes the profound conviction of the first believers after the resurrection. The words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Jesus: «The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned».
  • It would be naïve not to think that we are living in especially dark, tragic, and distressing times. However, is not this very darkness, frustration, and helplessness, which we are experiencing at this time, one of the features that almost always accompanies human beings on their journey over the earth?
  • In response to that question, it is enough to open the pages of history. Undoubtedly, we find times of light in which great achievements are celebrated, great freedoms sought, new worlds glimpsed, and new horizons opened for a more humane world. What happens next? Revolutions that create new forms of slavery, achievements that bring new problems, ideals leading to half-baked solutions, and noble struggles ending in mediocre compromises. It becomes darkness all over again.
  • It is not surprising, we are told, that to be a human being is often a frustrating experience. But that is not the whole truth. Despite all the failures and frustrations, human beings do recover, find hope again, and begin to move toward something indeterminate. Time and again, something within the human being summons him or her to life and hope once more. A new star always begins to shine again.
  • For believers that star unfailingly leads to Christ. Christians do not believe in any kind of new Messianism. So they are not prone to any disappointment. The world is not «a desperate case». It is not in complete darkness. The world is not only evil and thus needs to change; the world is reconciled to God and can change. One day, God will be the end of exile and darkness, and there will be total light. Today, however, we see him only in a humble star leading us to Bethlehem.

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