The Epiphany

The 12 days of Christmas culminates with the Feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the three wise men.  The gifts of the wise men manifests the divinity and royalty of Christ, even pointing to his death, as well. Christ is truly the newborn King, who is indeed God. Here is a meditation on the Feast of the Epiphany from Fr. Prosper Gueranger:

The Feast of the Epiphany is the continuation of the mystery of Christmas; but it appears on the Calendar of the Church with its own special character. Its very name, which signifies Manifestation, implies that it celebrates the apparition of God to His creatures.

For several centuries, the Nativity of our Lord was kept on this day; and when, in the year 376, the decree of the Holy See obliged all Churches to keep the Nativity on the 25th December, as Rome did–the Sixth of January was not robbed of all its ancient glory. It was still to be called the Epiphany, and the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ was also commemorated on this same Feast, which Tradition had marked as the day on which that Baptism took place. Lastly, this Feast is called, in many countries, King’s Feast: it is, of course, an allusion to the Magi, whose journey to Bethlehem is so continually mentioned in today’s Office.

The Epiphany shares with the Feasts of Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, the honor of being called, in the Canon of the Mass, a Day most holy. It is also one of the cardinal Feasts, that is, one of those on which the arrangement of the Christian Year is based; for, as we have Sundays after Easter, and Sundays after Pentecost, so also we count six Sundays after the Epiphany.

The Epiphany is indeed a great Feast, and the joy caused us by the Birth of our Jesus must be renewed on it, for, as though it were a second Christmas Day, it shows us our Incarnate God in a new light. It leaves us all the sweetness of the dear Babe of Bethlehem, who hath appeared to us already in love; but to this it adds its own grand manifestation of the divinity of our Jesus. At Christmas, it was a few Shepherds that were invited by the Angels to go and recognize The Word Made Flesh; but now, at the Epiphany, the voice of God Himself calls the whole world to adore this Jesus, and hear Him.

The mystery of the Epiphany brings upon us three magnificent rays of the Sun of Justice, our Savior. In the calendar of pagan Rome, this sixth day of January was devoted to the celebration of a triple triumph of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire: but when Jesus, our Prince of peace, whose empire knows no limits, had secured victory to His Church by the blood of the Martyrs–then did this His Church decree, that a triple triumph of the Immortal King should be substituted, in the Christian Calendar, for those other three triumphs which had been won by the adopted son of Caesar.

The Sixth of January, therefore, restored the celebration of our Lord’s Birth to the Twenty-Fifth of December; but, in return, there were united in the one same Epiphany, three manifestations of Jesus’ glory: the mystery of the Magi coming from the East, under the guidance of a star, and adoring the Infant of Bethlehem as the divine King; the mystery of the Baptism of Christ, who, whilst standing in the waters of the Jordan, was proclaimed by the Eternal Father as Son of God; and thirdly, the mystery of the divine power of this same Jesus, when He changed the water into wine at the marriage-feast of Cana.

We propose to treat of the three mysteries, united in this great Solemnity, in the following order. Today, we will unite with the Church in honoring all three; during the Octave, we will contemplate the Mystery of the Magi coming to Bethlehem; we will celebrate the Baptism of our Savior on the Octave Day; and we will venerate the Mystery of the Marriage of Cana on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, which is the day appropriately chosen by the Church for the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

Let us, then, open our hearts to the joy of this grand Day; and on this Feast of the Theophany, of the Holy Lights, of the Three Kings, let us look with love at the dazzling beauty of our Divine Sun, who, as the Psalmist expresses it, runs his course as a Giant, and pours out upon us floods of a welcome and yet most vivid light. The Shepherds, who were called by the Angels to be the first worshippers, have been joined by the Prince of Martyrs, the Beloved Disciple, the dear troop of Innocents, our glorious Thomas of Canterbury, and Sylvester the patriarch of Peace; and now, today, these Saints open their ranks to let the Kings of the East come to the Babe in His crib, bearing with them the prayers and adorations of the whole human race. The humble stable is too little for such a gathering as this, and Bethlehem seems to be worth all the world besides. Mary, the Throne of the divine Wisdom, welcomes all the members of this court with her gracious smile of Mother and Queen; she offers her Son to man, for His adoration, and to God, that He may be well pleased. God manifests Himself to men, because He is great; but He manifests Himself by Mary, because He is full of mercy.

But let us return to the triumph of our sweet Savior and King. His magnificence is manifested to us so brightly on this Feast! Our mother, the Church, is going to initiate us into the mysteries we are to celebrate. Let us imitate the faith and obedience of the Magi: let us adore, with the holy Baptist, the divine Lamb, over whom the heavens open: let us take our place at the mystic feast of Cana, where our dear King is present, thrice manifested, thrice glorified. In the last two mysteries, let us not lose sight of the Babe of Bethlehem; and in the Babe of Bethlehem let us cease not to recognize the Great God, (in whom the Father was well-pleased,) and the supreme Ruler and Creator of all things.

Psalm 116

O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For His mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth forever.

 

The holy Church–after having thus celebrated the power given to the Divine Babe over kings, whom He shall break, in the day of His wrath; His covenant with the Gentiles, whom He will give as an inheritance to His Church; the light that is risen up in darkness; His Name blessed from the rising to the setting of the sun; and after having, on this the day of the Vocation of the Gentiles, invited all nations, and all people, to praise the eternal mercy and truth of God;–addresses herself to Jerusalem, the figure of the Church, and conjures her, by the Prophet Isaias, to take advantage of the Light, which has this day risen upon the whole human race.
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