The Adoration of the Magi is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach, N.Y. The feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, also known as Three Kings’ Day, is observed Jan. 3 in the U.S. in 2021. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Source & Summit: The Epiphany of the Lord
(The faithful) taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, offer the Divine Victim to God, and themselves along with it.
-The Second Vatican Council fathers in Lumen Gentium, #11
Source & Summit is a feature of The Western Kentucky Catholic online, celebrating the National Eucharistic Revival: Year of Parish Revival. Intended to help Catholics of our parishes to probe the riches of our liturgical year and celebrate the liturgy well, the column will always start with the Bible readings for the Mass of the Day to help us reflect on, and help to “unpack” and expand our experiences at liturgy into the domestic church (the home) and the workplace.
Sunday reflections will be based on the Lord’s Day, the Liturgy, the Eucharist, and, occasionally, community.
Sunday, January 7, 2024:
The Epiphany of the Lord
Psalm 72:1—2, 7—8, 10—13
Ephesians 3, 2—3a, 5—6
Matthew 2: 1—12
After the Easter Triduum, Epiphany is one of the oldest of Christian feasts – its observance pre-dates even the celebration of Christmas! The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word used to name this important feast – “epiphany”– as “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something” and “an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking.” What the Feast of the Epiphany, then, made visible through such ordinary things as a bright star and foreign visitors was the presence of God on this earth. With this understanding, our Eastern Christian ancestors began celebrating the event as the “Theophany” or manifestation of God in Jesus, but the reality was too vast to confine to a single day’s celebration. Hence, Christians have long celebrated the Theophany of God on three consecutive Sundays: the Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus (the reason this feast was traditionally a primary day of Christian baptism), and the Wedding Feast of Cana, with Jesus’ first miracle in John’s Gospel. The intimate connection of these three Sundays remains visible today in such hymns as “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise,” where each of the three verses celebrates one of these three “theophanies.”
Although the shortest day of the year occurs at the winter solstice in December, experts say that the latest sunrise (at least for most of the Northern Hemisphere) does not occur until around January 6, thus a fitting day to observe the manifestation of the true light of the world, Jesus. But who were those first people to recognize this truth? Probably based on a sixth-century Greek manuscript from Alexandria, since the eighth century the ancient astronomers we call “magi” have been named Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior, though Matthew’s Gospel does not specify either the names or the number of the visitors. As Far Eastern astronomers who sought truth in the heavens, they followed a mysterious star that led them to “the king of the Jews.” Western Christianity has seen in their arrival to visit the Child the universality of the Christian gospel, and Herod’s murderous attempt on the child Jesus’ life a foreshadowing of his Passion and death. To convey this universality, artists began to portray them in two different ways: as a young, mature, and old man; and as an African, Asian, and European man. Later in the Middle Ages, they became “kings” from these continents as a perceived fulfillment of Isaiah 60:1–6 and Psalm 72:11. While Isaiah foresaw that the “kings” would bring gifts of gold (for a king symbolizing royalty) and frankincense (for a priest symbolizing holiness), what the Christian gospel adds is the unthinkable gift of myrrh (symbolizing human death); Christian Epiphany thus reveals that God is present not only on royal thrones or in sacred Temples but in human death, as Jesus’ own Passion will later manifest. In our worship space as the Christmas season draws toward its conclusion, may our eyes and hearts recognize not only the gold of our Communion vessels or the incense of our prayer but also the “myrrh” of the sacramental Bread and Wine that is the memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the “myrrh” of our own self-emptying “death” as we move from selfishness to the inclusive and forgiving love of Jesus. The “myrrh” of all our daily dyings anoints us for our graced transformation of “ego” into other Christs.
As we participate in this ancient feast, perhaps we might ask ourselves how we might serve as a “star,” leading others to God in our midst—God present in the Eucharist celebrated in our churches, in the Blessed Sacrament, in each other, and in the poor and marginalized. Perhaps we might also reflect on what gifts we might bring to God-in-Christ: not gold, frankincense, or myrrh but hearts full of love, humility, and peace… hearts warm with love for one another.
– Sr. Cheryl Clemons, OSU
To learn more about the Diocese of Owensboro’s celebration of the National Eucharistic Revival, visit https://owensborodiocese.org/eucharistic-revival/.