Feast of the Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany is observed annually on January 6.  The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word meaning “to show forth” or “to Magimake manifest.”  The Feast celebrates Christ’s manifestation to the world in the person of the three Magi who visit bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  St. Matthew explains this in chapter 2.  The “wise men” or Magi, who come from the East, meaning outside Israel, and perhaps are coming from Persia, are the scholars and the astrologers of their time.  The fact that the Magi come bearing gifts and worship of the Lord is explaining that the membership of the Church is determined by faith and not by ethnic lineage.

The star in Matthew’s Gospel guides the Magi to Jesus, being a point of reference for the Magi to use.  But the star served also as a heavenly sign that overshadowed a birth of extraordinary importance.  This star signified the divinity of the infant Jesus.  In St. Luke’s Gospel the grand appearance of the angel and the heavenly radiance of the glory of the Lord underscore the divine event that is taking place: the birth of the eternal Son of God in His human nature.  St. Matthew composed his Gospel primarily for Jewish Christians.  He explains that it was the Gentiles, who are represented by the Magi, to be the first to acknowledge the deity of Jesus and worship Him as God incarnate.  St. Luke, in his infancy narrative of Jesus (Luke 2), who was writing to Gentile Christians, notes that among the first worshippers of Jesus were the Jewish poor, the shepherds from surrounding fields.

The Magi come bearing gifts for the Christ child.  The gold represents that this Child born is a King; the frankincense is incense burned for prayers to God, and the third gift is myrrh, which is ointment to anoint the body of a man who has suffered and died.  These three gifts speak to the purpose and mission of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus the Messiah comes to bring peace and goodwill to all souls.  Jesus is the incarnate love of God, reconciling man to God and people to one another.

When the wise men see Jesus lying below the star, divine assistance lets them recognize Jesus as the bright and Morning Star!  (Rev 22:16).

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