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Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Epiphany of the Lord

The Epiphany of the Lord

The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, or the Sunday between January 2 and 8th. Epiphany, which means in Greek “manifestation”, commemorates the manifestations of God to all peoples, symbolized by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus. Whereas in the Old Covenant, only the Jewish people received God’s promise, in the New Covenant all people are chosen and will participate in the promise of the Gospel message. There will be no distinction between Jew and Greek, slave or free, male or female.

In the Old Testament reading and responsorial Psalm from today’s Mass we hear a prediction that in a time of darkness, the glory of the Lord will shine over Jerusalem. “The riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephan; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.“ (Isaiah 60:5-6) Every nation on earth will adore the Lord, “all kings bow before him, all nations serve him.” (Psalms 72:11) It is the tradition of the Church that the story of the Magi from Matthew 2:1-11 is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy from chapter 60 and Psalm 72.

The ancient feast of the Epiphany actually celebrates and ties together three events in the life of Jesus: His birth and appearance as God to the Magi, the wedding at Cana where Jesus performs His first miracle, and the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. In each, Jesus manifests Himself as who He really is – the Messiah and God.

In some parishes it is tradition on Epiphany to bless water and chalk for parishioners to mark the doorway to their home, as a witness of their faith. This year 20C+B+M10 would be written. CBM stands for Christus bendicat mansionem or Christ blesses this house. (M11 for 2011, M 12 for 2012 and so on)

Matthew’s gospel does not name the “magi from the east” who followed “his star at its rising…to do him homage, ” offering “gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1-2, 11) Some credit the three letters, CBM, as the foundation for the names, others site different writings, and tradition has used a variety of names. But since the 8th century, “magi from the east” have been known as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.

They brought three significant gifts, gold for a king, frankincense to burn in honor of a god, and myrrh, a salve used to treat a body at burial. They may have seemed odd gifts for a baby, but not for this baby. All three gifts of the Magi are necessary to convey the true epiphany of who this Child is and what He was destined for. The babe in the manger given homage by the Magi is King, He is Lord God incarnate, and He came to die for us. What a great Epiphany!


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