The Epiphany of the Lord (B)


THE EPHIFANY OF THE LORD (C) Matt 2: 1-12 - Jan 07, 2018

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

A big deal of fantasy and imagination has been developed in the course of the centuries to tell us of this important aspect of the nativity scene that we celebrate today. On one hand, there is a biblical and theological revelation; on the other hand, there is much legend. Let us start with the second one. The magi are portrayed by all artists as three kings. The kinghood status was given in the sixth century. Their names as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar started in the ninth century. The reason they are believed to be three is because Matthew speaks of three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The monk Venerable Bede gave us the symbolism of these three gifts: the gold means Baby Jesus´ royal hierarchy, the frankincense is only given to God, and Myrrh predicts his passion. Even in the magnificent cathedral of Cologne, they show the three silver sarcophaguses with the Three Kings´ relics.

Theologically and biblically, Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of the invisible God, in the flesh for the salvation of all humankind. The word in Greek means manifestation, revelation. Matthew tells us a beautiful story of some astrologers walking from the Orient to a dark landscape in Bethlehem guided by a star until they finally got to the place where the infant lay. These picturesque and glamorous characters represent the pagan people Christ intended to make one people with the Jews. The Jewish nation was God´s chosen people, but God always intended to include others in his plan of salvation, and make them co-hers of his kingdom; and this is what Epiphany means. 

This is the biblical story we read from Matthew, “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 (…) After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen (…) 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.”

With Epiphany we continue celebrating the Christmas story, but with a new dimension. Jesus is not only a Jewish king, the one King Herod was afraid of; Christ the King came for the whole world. In the reading from Isaiah, Jerusalem is called “to rise up in splendor (…) for upon you the Lord shines;” God´s people is returning. Those caravans of camels and dromedaries coming from afar represent nations from all parts of the earth.

Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians discloses the hidden mystery: in God´s plan Jew and Gentile are equal. Matthew puts this theological message in a story style. The Jews had first the opportunity to believe in Jesus and accept the prophecies given to them through the Holy Scriptures, “but his own people did not accept him.” It was the foreigners who moved in faith came to worship him.

Often times we experience epiphanies in our life, a person we meet, a place we visit, a dream we have, a prayer we meditate, a story we hear, a book we read. Still with simple and everyday matters we go through epiphanies. Sometimes epiphanies come unexpectedly, like being in a garden, in a sunrise, or in the middle of a storm. Other times, it is something we look for, like a meditation or the words of the Holy Scripture.

As we celebrate today the Epiphany of the Lord, we realize that more than a child imaginative story, it has a theological message: God is always present in our world and ready to reveal himself to us; our Father is a God of Epiphany.

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