Feast of the Epiphany

01-07-2018Weekly Reflection

"Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

What a wonderful example the Magi give us in their visit to the infant Jesus. First of all, they demonstrate profound faith in God's word, spoken through the prophet Micah: "And you, Bethlehem ... from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel" (cf. 5:2). Embarking on a long and difficult journey, they trust that they will find this newborn king of the Jews in Bethlehem as the prophecy announced.

On their arrival at the home of the Holy Family, the Magi also give us an example of profound humility. These important men, to whom kings look for guidance and advice, do not hesitate to bow down, to "prostrate themselves" and give homage to a tiny babe. Putting their own position out of their minds, they reverently worship the infant Lord even as he sits on the lap of his mother.

The generosity of these three "kings" is also evident as they open their treasure boxes and give to the poor child the richest of gifts. Traditionally, we understand the gold to symbolize the earthly kingship of Christ, the frankincense to represent his divinity, and the myrrh to stand as a symbol of the anointing he will receive upon his death.

Finally, the wisdom of these men is evident in their decision to return to their country "by another way." Understanding the threat that King Herod posed to Jesus, they followed a plan that would help keep the divine child safe even though it meant inconvenience to themselves. Faith, humility, generosity, and wisdom. These gifts are the real legacy of the Three Kings. Today, let us ask God for the blessing of having these gifts in our lives.

Why do we do that? Catholic Traditions Explained

Question: Besides the Wise Men, what is significant about the Epiphany?

Epiphany means "manifestation," or public display. The feast is usually celebrated January 6. In the US, it is celebrated on the Sunday nearest to January 6th. It originates from a story unique to Matthew (2:1-12). Magi from the East come to offer homage tothe newborn King, presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

This part of Matthew's infancy narrative differs from Luke's account of the birth of Jesus. In Luke there are no Magi, star, nor gifts. Luke has Jesus being born in a stable after Mary and Joseph's long travel from Nazareth toBethlehem. Matthew seems to havethe family living in a house in Bethlehem, where the Magi find them.

Why these differences? They stem from the needs and concerns of the audience the authors were addressing, as well as the theological stance of each author. Knowing the original intention helps get at the correct interpretation of the text.

Since Matthew was writing primarily to a Jewish community, his concern was to show that Jesus did not come just for Jews, but for Gentiles as well. From his very birth, Jesus not only manifests himself to Jews, but also to Gentiles, who are prominently included in the manifestation, symbolized by the Magi and their journey. This is the most significant aspect of the feast of Epiphany. How doyou manifest Jesus to all with whom you come into contact?