Sunday, January 4, 2009

Feast of the Epiphany

Dear All,

The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated within the twelve days of Christmas but separately in the Western Church, while the Eastern Rite celebrates both events together, the birth of Jesus and the homage by the foreign kings.  Epiphany in Greek means the sudden realization or comprehension of the essence or meaning of something.  While many homilists translate Epiphany with “manifestation”, I do believe that the vernacular gist of “comprehension of the essence of something” applies very well to Matthew’s Gospel story of today.  It is an ‘Aha’ moment in history, Three Wise Men from afar realized that something very special had just happened.  And that is why they joined the shepherds at the manger and presented high value gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the holy family.  Interesting to note that the first spoken words in the Gospel of Matthew are from the Magi, when they ask King Herod “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”  As we know, Matthew writes for the Jews, and for him to utter the first spoken words by foreign dignitaries sets an additional accent to the importance of what is about to be told.  The newborn king of the Jews is recognized from afar and will rule over far more than the Jewish nation.  Would the author have guessed way back then that two thousand years later there would be 2.1 billion people around the globe recognizing themselves as Christians?  In the Hispanic world the Three Kings bring the presents to the children, as opposed to Santa Claus.  We were in Mallorca a couple of years ago and stood by the Three King Parade in the city of Palma, a huge popular event with thousands of families on the streets along the route of the parade.   While the scriptures do not tell us more than the Gospel passage we read today, a very rich legend developed during the early Church days about the Three Wise Men.  One legend tells about all three dying on the same day somewhere in Persia and a long journey about their remains over the centuries.  Today we can find their relics in the Cathedral of Cologne in, which were given to the sitting archbishop in 1165 by Emperor Barbarossa, who had taken them from Milan as spoils of war after he conquered the city. The archbishop had a shrine built for them.  While we lived in Germany we visited the beautiful golden shrine and the museum under the cathedral.

The First Reading from Isaiah, of the same period we have been reading during Advent, after the Babylonian Captivity, talks about light that has come.  The distinction between darkness covering the earth and the glory of the Lord shining upon Israel and the predictions of wealth of nations be brought to them, encourages the people back then to rebuild the temple and the city from the ruins.  Rebuilding our temples and our lives in hope of eternal riches is an encouragement to us, particularly in moments when we are overwhelmed by darkness in our hearts.

Paul tells the Ephesians in his letter of our Second Reading that the Gentiles are coheirs and members of the same body.  We can read the passage as written personally to us in this time.  The newborn king of the Jews, that Herod despised, is king for all of our hearts, independently of our ethnic heritage.

A complete text of the readings at:

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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