Epiphany Journey

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The word Epiphany, a derivative from the Greek language, can be translated in Latin by Manifestation. On this day, therefore, the Redeemer of all nations, being re-
vealed to all nations, occasioned this solemn feast. A very few days ago we celebrated His Nativity; today we celebrate His Manifestation. The tradition is that our Lord Jesus Christ
was adored by the Magi on this day, thirteen days after His birth. The Gospel truthfully states that this event took place, and the universal acceptance of this glorious feast
attests that it happened on this day. For it has seemed just, and it really is just, that, since the Magi were the first of the Gentiles to know Christ the Lord and since they, not
yet influenced by His speech, followed the star which appeared to them and, like a tongue from heaven, distinctly spoke to them in behalf of the Speechless Word, then, I
repeat, it is just that the Gentiles should recognize this day as the occasion of salvation for their first-fruits and that, with solemn observance, they should consecrate it to Christ the
Lord in a spirit of thanksgiving. To be sure, the first-fruits of the Jews unto faith in the revelation of Christ were the shepherds who, approaching from nearby, saw Him on the
very day of His birth. To them angels made the announcement; a star did this for the Magi. To the shepherds ‘Glory to God in the highest’ 1 was said; in the case of the Magi,
the Psalmist’s words, The heavens show forth the glory of God,’were fulfilled. Both groups, as if they were the beginnings of two walls coming from different directions, that is,
of circumcision and of uncircumcision, hurried on to the cornerstone so that He might be their peace, making both one.

Now, the shepherds praised God because they had seen Christ; the Magi, however, adored Christ when they saw Him. In the Jews, thanksgiving took precedence, whereas
humility was more marked in the Magi. Perhaps the shepherds, less conscious of guilt, rejoiced more readily in the thought of salvation, whereas the Gentiles, burdened with
many sins, sought pardon with greater submissiveness. This is the humility which sacred Scripture commends as more pronounced in those who belonged to the Gentiles than in
the Jews. For from the Gentiles came the centurion who, although he had accepted the Lord with all his heart, said that he was unworthy to have Him enter into his house,
desiring the Lord not to see his servant, but merely to command that he be healed. Thus he cherished deep within his heart the presence of Him from whose actual presence within
his house he recoiled in all reverence. Then it was that the Lord said: C I have not found such great faith in Israel.’ The Canaanite woman, too, was a Gentile, who, when she
heard the Lord liken her to a dog unworthy of having the bread of the children cast to her, nevertheless demanded the scraps destined for the dogs, and merited not to be consid-
ered unworthy because she did not deny her true status. For she herself heard the Master say: O woman, great is thy faith.’ Humility had made her faith great because she had
made herself small.

Therefore, the shepherds come from nearby to see; the Magi come from afar to adore. This is the humility on account of which the wild olive merited to be engrafted upon
the olive tree and to bear olives contrary to its nature, because it merited to change its nature through grace. For, although the whole world through the influence of the wild
olive was becoming wild and bitter, enriched by the grace of the grafting it has become resplendent. Now people are coming from the ends of the earth, saying in the words of

Jeremias: ‘Surely our fathers have possessed lies.’ And they come, not from one part of the world only, but, as the holy Gospel according to Luke says: ‘from the east and from the
west, from the north and from the south’ 8 to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. So, by the grace of the Blessed Trinity, the whole earth from
its four comers is called to the faith. According to this reckoning, when four is taken three times, the apostolic number, twelve, is consecrated as symbolizing the salvation
of the whole world from its four corners in the grace of the Trinity. This number was also indicated by the vessel full of all kinds of animals, as it were of all nations, shown to
Peter, For this vessel, let down from the heavens by the four corners, was lowered and taken up three different times, so that the four became twelve. On that account,
perhaps, when twelve days had elapsed after the birth of Christ, the Magi, the first-fruits of the Gentiles, came to see and to adore Christ and thus merited not only to insure
their own salvation but also to prefigure that of all Gentiles.
Let us, therefore, celebrate this day most devoutly and let us adore the Lord Jesus now dwelling in heaven, as those first-fruits of our race adored Him lying in the inn. They
reverenced in Him what He would later be; we reverence what He has become. They, the first-fruits of the Gentiles, adored Him at the breast of His Mother; we, the Gentiles of
today, adore Him sitting at the right hand of God.

Saint Augustine, Sermon 203

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6 Comments

  1. Archaeologists have unearth the city of one of the Three Kings, Gaspar, finding a crock of coins with his name and face on them. A reliquary holding the ashes of the Three Magi was taken from the Holy Land during the Crusades and brought to the Vatican from where I believe it was kidnapped by Frederick Barbarossa. From what I know or do not know, the ashes of the Three Magi are still in Germany.
    “The Shrine of the Three Kings is a reliquary said to contain their bones. It is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus placed above the high altar of Cologne Cathedral.” Google

  2. Mary, I enjoyed your comment. My great-grandfather’s middle name was Casper; so named in honor of his Alsatian French uncles who were known to the family as the Three Kings since each had a middle name of a Wise Man. Although he was deceased by the time I was born, I was given his surname as a middle name.
    The Epiphany was real not myth and a lovely feast for us Gentiles.Two newish books: Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men by Dwight Longenecker and Three Kings, Ten Mysteries: The Secrets of Christmas and Epiphany by Grzegorz Gorny. Both authors are priests; Longenecker, Anglican to Roman Catholic and Gorny, Polish Roman Catholic.

  3. A tradition of blessing the rectory and office of the mission on JAN 6th was started by our priest when he arrived 5 years ago. This year at 3 pm we were outside enjoying hot mulled cider and singing Christmas hymns. The K of C in their hats and cloaks was the color guard. On the steps of the rectory father read the words of the blessing and then above the front door wrote in chalk:
    “B+C+M+” and below that the Roman numerals for 2019. Father proceeded to dip a holly branch in holy water blessing the exterior and interior rooms of the buildings. The Open House with food and beverages lasted ’til 6 pm. A nice event.

  4. Cam: Thank You. We in our household wrote the names of three Kings on the door frame with the year wishing each person who entered into the house wisdom, grace, logic and clarity. Peace always followed.

  5. I regret that Ephiphany is not observed in the US as it is in traditionally Catholic nations. Our Bishops shoved it off to a Sunday long ago. Except for the Feast of the Presentation, Christmas has come to an end. Belated Happy New Year to all.

  6. PF, True. The Wise Men are considered a myth by many in this country. Father wouldn’t allow the first representation of the Magi for the cake. He said the picture was cartoonish. He picked a picture of adult looking Magi on camels following yonder star. “Not a myth. Real men adoring the baby (toddler?) Messiah”.
    Thank you, Mary, will do so next year. A
    One’s home can be blessed at any time. I advise my friends to ask their priest to do so followed by a nice home cooked dinner.

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