Feast of Epiphany

 

Epiphany is the Christian feast that celebrates the Incarnation and in particular the revelation to mankind that God took on human form. It is curious then that in the West we typically associate January 6th with the three wise men. It is true that these men from the East represent man's discovery of the Messiah, but they weren't looking for the Son of God. In fact, the Jewish people had been waiting nearly 2000 years for their savior but they were only expecting a great king, prophet, or priest. It is somewhat ironic that the Magi traveled so great a distance on faith yet they failed to see the greatest mystery before their eyes. Simeon and the prophetess Anna also realized that the prophecies were being fulfilled and that the Messiah had been born when they saw Jesus in the temple, but the full revelation was not made known to them.

The word Epiphany is very vague and implies only “manifestation”. In the early Church, particularly in the East, this feast commemorated the Magi, but it also included other events of manifestation such as the Nativity, the Wedding at Cana and, in particular, the Baptism in the Jordan. It is in this last feast that Jesus' Divinity is revealed.

In Genesis 22:1-8 God tests Abraham by asking him to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. As Abraham and his son are walking up the mountain, Isaac asks his father where the sacrificial lamb is. Abraham replied, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” After God spares Isaac they find, instead of a lamb, a ram caught in the bushes. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament the Hebrew people are looking for this promised lamb. There are many times when they think they have found the lamb, but it is not found until John the Baptist is baptizing in the Jordan. When he see Jesus approach he proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! . . . I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29, 34).

January 6 marks a truly momentous event, as described in the Epiphany homily by Pope John Paul January, 2002:

On [the] Solemnity of the Epiphany . . . we are struck by the theme of the light. The Messiah who showed himself in Bethlehem to the lowly shepherds of the region continues to reveal himself as the light of every people of every time and place. To the Magi, coming from the East to adore him, the light of the one 'who has been born king of the Jews' (Mt 2:2) appears in the form of a heavenly body, so bright as to attract their attention and guide them to Jerusalem.

Thus he sets them on the trail of the ancient messianic prophecies: 'a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise from Israel' (Nm 24:17).”

 

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