Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord ~ Sunday 2 January 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass (Mass during the day). I. Isaiah 60: 1-16; Responsorial: Psalm 72; II: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
This first Sunday of the new year, 2022, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Our liturgy brings our focus upon the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem to worship the newborn King. In the early centuries of the Church, this feast had precedence over the Nativity. It then grew to become a significant part of the broader celebration of Christmas. As time progressed this great feast also grew in the various traditions with which they are associated.
There is no clear indication as to how many magi or kings there were. The assumption of three kings was affirmed for many with the popular carol “We Three Kings” that carol and the three gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh provide some evidence for the assumption.
Another popular image, courtesy of Christmas cards and sacred art is that the three kings traveled along through the night with only the star for company. Again the reality is likely far different. They very probably traveled by caravan due to their status and the wealth of their gifts. Their journey from ‘the east” to Bethlehem covered from 400 to 700 miles as they crossed the fertile crescent to the City of David. Their pilgrimage would have taken at least three to five weeks even traveling by camel.
When they reached Bethlehem they very likely did not find the Holy Family living still in the stable. The Gospel of Matthew states they came to Mary and the infant upon “entering the house where they were staying”. With other historical contexts linked to the Slaughter of the Innocents, it is likely Jesus was several months to possibly even three years old at their visitation.
But what do all these things matter? They are important as they provide encouragement for our faith from the historical and cultural context of the time. And even more significant the message of the Epiphany teaches and reminds us of our own holy quest to seek our Lord and to allow His Presence and power to be manifest in and through our lives. We are reminded we are called to be a people of the Epiphany, of God, revealed.
Our lives as followers of Jesus are meant to be ongoing quests of Epiphany, of Jesus being revealed, manifested to, and through us. Regardless of our age, status, health, or wealth God calls us to…seek Him who came to seek us.
Our Epiphany Quest is a journey of faith, of a growing maturing…changing faith. The Magi began their journey with the faith and knowledge from where they were in their lives. The stars, astrology were an integral part of the faith and science of the people of the east. And as it was with them so it is with each of us. God comes to us, begins with us where we are in our life. Then as we follow God’s grace will bring us to grow in His Word just as the Magi heard and heeded the Word of God in Jerusalem. God would continue to guide their faith to Christ to their great epiphany. But it was essential for them, and for us to allow our faith to grow, mature even change as we encounter the lessons God brings in our lives.
The Epiphany Quest is also a path of humility. It is rather unlikely that the Magi, upon setting out on their holy regal quest expected to be led to a borrowed house of a rather poor couple. They were seeking a King. Surely their gifts, their attention, they were worthy of a palace of beauty and power. That is probably why they went to Herod in Jerusalem. How often do we proceed in our lives fully thinking we know where, how to what and whom God is leading us? It is easy in the silly palaces of our minds to seek to discover Jesus according to our expectations, understanding, and hopes. But He whom our heart seeks would smile and say, “No, faithful little seeker. I have someplace far better and more regal than you could ever imagine. It is really simple, it is these two pieces of wood”. As we allow the Holy Spirit to better lead us on our Epiphany quest we learn the freedom and joy of discovering Christ, Emmanuel, in places of holy surprise and love.
These steps of humble faith in our journey are also distinct from worldly endeavors in another essential way. The path to Epiphany brings us to keep our focus heavenward. The shepherds who came to the stable on Christmas night were called on their quest by the angels, in heaven giving glory to God. The Magi come from the deserts of Persia were led to Bethlehem of Judea by a star. We must keep learning that while we walk on this earth, with the rocks and hazards on our path to which we must pay heed we also must keep our hearts focused on the call to God. We are created not just for early or temporal matters of each day. We are created and called by Jesus to belong with Him for eternity. This empowers us to learn that we must heed His eternal, heavenly Word. We must grow to be skilled listeners of God, in Scripture, prayer, eternity, and His creation. We are called to realize that there is an heavenly feast to which we should come to receive the Body and Blood of He who conquered sin and death in His holy incarnation.
Where will our Epiphany Quest bring us this new year? Will our faith grow deeper and stronger? Will it help us change as we encounter Jesus in new and holy places? Or will we be content with the images with which we are comfortable and unbothered? Jesus of Bethlehem seeks to reveal His glory and love more in our lives. Christ calls us on our Epiphany Quest to be a people of growing faith, humble love, and whose hearts are set Heavenward as we draw closer to Him who came for us.