Epiphany - God Manifested to the world.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” ... And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
This weekend the Church will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (meaning "manifestation"), the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus. The passage above has some very interesting details:
there is no number of travellers indicated, but we always say there were three
they were not royalty but were in fact magicians (better rendered as "sorcerers"), but we are used to calling them "kings"
they are not named, but we have come to know them as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar
Nativity scenes always place the traveller at the manger, but the passage says that they entered "the house"
the gifts offered by the Magi have important symbolism:
for a king,
used by priests in worship rituals, and
(an expensive spice often used for embalming) in anticipation of his death and burial thirty-three years later
While not belittling the poetic embellishments that popular tradition has given to them, these Magi do indicate an important development in salvation history. Foreigners and pagans, they represent the beginning of the inclusion of people outside of Judaism directly into God's plan. The Gospel uses this event as the "first-fruits" of God's presentation to all the world, to those who would welcome the Good News of salvation through the Incarnation.
However, this had to be an active and conscious decision on the part of these foreigners. The Magi's coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews recognized their understanding that what they sought was in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming to see the child Jesus means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. Indeed, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) indicates:
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. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards 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 (is made "worthy of the heritage of Israel") (CCC 528).
Since more modern-day Christians come from non-Jewish lineages than otherwise, this is very good news for most of us!
For the Epiphany, many traditions revolve around putting a chalk equation on the door of the family home. The equation is written to be the first two digits of the year, followed by the initials C, M, and B, followed by the last two digits of the year. Each portion is split by plus signs. For this year, the equation would be written as
20 + C + M + B + 19
The chalking holds two meanings. The C, M, and B, refer to the traditional names of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The letters also stand for the Latin phrase
Christus Mansionem Benedicat
which means “May Christ bless the house.” The plus signs represent the Cross, and the 20 and 19 refer to the year.
Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body. As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.
St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
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God With Us
He was born in humble obscurity, yet His family had to flee to save Him from a jealous ruler. He forgave sins, healed the sick and gave hope to the downhearted and oppressed, yet He was despised and rejected by many. He spoke the truth even when it was dangerous to do so. He willingly laid down His life and then rose again, conquering the power of death! From The Voice of the Martyrs comes God with Us, formerly called Jesus: He Lived Among Us. With newly enhanced animation, it is the dramatic retelling of the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of the last surviving apostle, John. Journey with Jesus and encounter His miracles, His astonishing teaching and His unsurpassed bravery. Discover the power and love of Jesus Christ and see why His followers risked all to carry His message to the ends of the earth. Children and adults alike will be captivated by this account of Jesus’ life, featuring vivid storytelling and high impact animation. This powerful presentation will encourage and inspire viewers to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Recommended for ages 7 and up.
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on Friday, January 4 at 3:00PM