Epiphany of the Lord

In 13 Today's Church on 2015/01/04 at 12:00 AM
  • In the Church’s calendar there are two feasts that are so solemn and so important that we cannot limit their celebration to just one day. These two feasts, of course, are Christmas and Easter.
  • Indeed, these two feast days of the Church are so important and the mysteries that they recall are so sublime that we celebrate these two feasts for an octave: 8 days.
  • The number 8 is significant because it symbolizes the 8th day of creation, the day of re- creation, which brings perfection to the original 7 days of creation. Thus, the number 8 is a symbol of perfection, of rebirth, resurrection and eternity.
  • During the octave we celebrate each day as a feast day! Each Mass during this time is required to include the Gloria, and for those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we recite the Te Deum, a prayer that is normally reserved for Sundays and feast days.
  • Because Christmas and Easter are related to other important feasts, the Church continues her celebrations of these feasts even beyond the 8 days of the octave with the celebration of an entire liturgical season.
  • Just as Easter is related to the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost, and thus the Easter Season continues long enough to include all of these feasts, Christmas is related to the Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord, and so the Christmas Season perdures through the celebration of these feasts.
  • So while most of the world has taken down their Christmas trees and poinsettias, and Christmas music has disappeared from the radio stations, the Catholic Church continues to celebrate the Christmas Season this Sunday and even next Sunday!
  • Today, of course, is the feast of the Epiphany, which is the manifestation or shining forth of Christ – the Word made flesh – to the entire world.
  • Thus we have the famous story of the three wise men from the East who follow the star in search of the newborn king of the Jews. We hear of their liaison with King Herod, and how they saw through his evil intentions.
  • And we hear of how they presented the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Christ, an act commemorated in one of our beautiful stained glass windows.
  • Perhaps we may see this as a rather strange event in the life of Christ, but theologically it’s very important to us. In the Epiphany we celebrate the fact that Christ came not just for the Jewish people to whom He owed His human heritage, but that He came for us all.
  • We see this in the fact that the magi who come to do homage to the newborn King of the Jews were not Jews, but were gentiles from the East – astrologers by trade.
  • The magi came not just because Jesus was the long-prophesied King of the Jews, the promised Messiah, and because they saw a mighty star. They came because Jesus is Truth Incarnate!
  • Jesus is truth, and Truth has a very magnetic quality for people of good will. It has a power to attract people, to make itself known – even when people try to hide it. For people who earnestly and humbly seek it, Truth reveals itself.
  • Being men of good will, the magi would have had this natural attraction for Truth, and so it is no wonder that they traveled so far to see the Truth Incarnate.
  • Yet today’s Gospel story is not so much about them seeking the Truth as it is about God manifesting the Truth to the world. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the light of the whole world!
  • But even more so, Epiphany celebrates the fact that Christ and His Church shine forth like a beacon of light in our dark world to guide us on our path to salvation.
  • Our first reading from Isaiah reminds us that the darkness of sin covers the earth. While it is true that we are inherently good because we are made in Christ’s image and likeness, it is also true that we are born with original sin, and therefore we are subject to sin and spiritual blindness.
  • Left to our own devices, man – in his woundedness – has a tendency to turn toward darkness and sin. And so we are in need of guidance to know and follow Truth.
  • We are so blessed to belong to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, who provides this guidance, and to whom has been entrusted the fullness of the revelation of Truth, which has been enshrined in our teachings, beliefs, traditions, and liturgy.
  • But it is not enough for us to be content with the fact that God’s truth is entrusted to the Church in these ways. We, the children of Holy Mother Church, must manifest the Light of Christ – the Light of Truth – to the world by the way we live, by all that we say and do.
  • The Gospel is good news, and it is our duty and responsibility to spread that good news.
  • It is becoming more and more apparent that our world is becoming a darker place. We arenow living in a time when natural law – the law written by God on the hearts of all men – isno longer recognized or valued, and moral relativism has stepped into its place.
  • With the loss of natural law and the rise of relativism has come a loss of consensus on whatis right and wrong, leading to the formation of unjust and morally reprehensible laws and therepeal of good laws that have held together the moral fabric of our society.
  • As our society begins to call good that which our Lord and His Church have revealed to be evil, our society loses its moral compass, and souls are lost. And if we continue down thispath of moral degradation, our country as we know it will cease to exist.
  • Yet we must not lose hope! Darkness is covering the earth and thick clouds are covering thepeople, but upon us the LORD shines! The light of faith is here for us. And we mustmanifest this light to the world so that more souls are not lost.
  • You see, my friends, the Epiphany is not simply a call to meditate on the Incarnation andGod’s goodness in becoming man. It is not simply the call to go to Jesus, to adore Him, todo Him homage, and ultimately to be obedient to Him.
  • The Epiphany calls us, who bear Christ’s holy name on our souls through baptism, tomanifest the light of His love, His power, and most especially His mercy to our dark world.
  • We do this by living our Catholic faith with joy! Through constant prayer, cheerfulobedience to Church teaching, performance of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and frequent recourse to the sacraments, Christ’s light shines through us and souls are drawn to Him.
  • St. John tells us in the Prologue of His Gospel that the Word – Jesus – is the light of the human race, a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
  • Believing in hope and trusting in faith that Jesus is indeed the light of the world, let us dedicate ourselves this new year to ensuring that Christ’s light shines through us.
  • May we, as members of Christ’s Body, bear the light of grace in this dark world of ours, so that others, too, may come to the light and be saved. May God bless us all this coming year.

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