Epiphany

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany.  The word “epiphany” literally means “a manifestation.”  Throughout salvation history, God has manifested Himself in many and various ways.  The entire Old Testament is a record of God’s repeated attempt to reach out to His chosen people.

In the beginning, God created man and woman in His own image and likeness.  We were created for friendship with God; we were created for union with God.  Through the exercise of their free will, Adam and Eve chose to turn their backs on God and disobey Him; as a result they lost God’s friendship, not just for themselves but for all of their progeny.  Even though our First Parents disobeyed God and sinned, God did not abandon us to our fallen state.  Immediately after the Fall God promised to send us a Redeemer.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament we hear of how God renewed His Covenant with His people.  God established a Covenant with Noah and his family after the Flood.  God entered into a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob.  From the tribe of Abraham, the Chosen People grew into twelve tribes: the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then, under King David, the Chosen People became a mighty nation and the Covenant grew as the Chosen People flourished and multiplied.

Even though the Chosen People grew quite populous under the reign of King David and under his son Solomon, God’s Covenant never went beyond the Chosen People: the Gentiles, or non-Jewish people were not a part of God’s Covenant.  Today we celebrate Epiphany: today we remember how the magi from the east came to worship the newborn King.  These magi were not members of the Chosen People.  These magi were the first to come and worship God in the flesh.  The adoration of the magi is seen as the prefigurement of the fact that the new and eternal Covenant, which Jesus Christ would establish in His own Blood, would extend beyond the Chosen People: the Covenant that Jesus Christ instituted is extended unto all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God to us.  Jesus Christ is God made man, in Him we see the image of the invisible God.  Through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father.  Today we celebrate with joy this access to God that we have through Christ.  Today we rejoice in the fact that Our God was made manifest in the flesh in Jesus Christ and that He has extended His Covenant to all mankind if only we will come and adore Him as did the magi of old.

When the magi found the Child, they prostrated themselves before Him and offered Him three gifts, the Gospel tells us: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Those three gifts were themselves prophetic: Gold was a gift given to a king, and of course Jesus is the King of kings; incense is what was offered to God in the Temple, and Jesus Christ is God become man and He is the High Priest Who will offer the Perfect Sacrifice; finally, in those days myrrh was used to anoint dead bodies, which prophetically showed that Jesus was truly man and thus capable of dying on the Cross for our sins.

The gifts of the magi can also be seen to have reference to us and to the gifts that we are to bring to Our Newborn King.  We do not bring gold, frankincense and myrrh as the magi of old, but we can see in those gifts a type or a prefigurement of what we can and ought to bring.  In the gold we can see the foreshadowing of our hearts: our hearts are to be pure.  Gold is most precious when it is unmixed with other things, when it is pure.  So, too, our hearts are to be unmixed: we are called to love God above all things; we are called to cast sin out of our hearts in order that God may reign in our hearts completely.  If we want to offer a gift to Our Lord, the gift that will please Him most is the gift of a pure, undivided heart.

The gift of frankincense, like the incense that we use at solemn Masses, is representative of our prayers ascending to Heaven.  Offering our prayers to God is certainly a pleasing offering to Him and our prayers help us to draw nearer to Him and obtain that purity of heart that we are to offer.  When we pray, we deepen our relationship with God.  Our relationship with God is like our other relationships, in many ways.  We have to spend time talking to God and listening to Him in order to grow in our spiritual lives.  We cannot have a relationship with someone we never speak with.  The gift of our time, spent in prayer, is always a pleasing gift that we can offer to Our Lord.

Furthermore, Saint Paul tells us that we are to pray without ceasing.  When we pray, we are to offer not only our vocal prayers, but we can make an offering of everything to God: we can offer everything to God.  We can offer to God our whole day; we can offer our work and our leisure.  We can offer to God our joys and our sorrows.  We can make of our daily hardships and trials an offering to God.  The myrrh offered by the magi can be for us a reminder that Jesus Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Let us make a gift of ourselves to the Lord.  Let us offer to Him everything that we are and everything that we have.  Let us offer ourselves as a pleasing sacrifice to Him knowing that He will never be outdone in generosity.  When we give ourselves wholly to Him, He will unite Himself completely to us and union with our God is the purpose for which we were created.  Only when our hearts are in union with God will we find our hearts deepest longing: our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

 

Advertisements