The Epiphany of the Lord
On this day we celebrate the holy Epiphany of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, when he made himself known to the wise men from the East. It is the adoration of these Magi which constitutes the main object of this festival. In his homily of January 6, 2021, Pope Francis drew our attention to this very capital spiritual exercise for Christian life: the Magi saw the child with Mary his mother, bowed down and worshiped him” (Mt 2, 11). Worshiping the Lord is not easy. It requires a certain spiritual maturity, being the point of arrival of an interior journey. The attitude of worshiping God is not spontaneous to us. Human beings need to worship, but they risk worshiping the wrong goal. Indeed, if one does not worship God, one will worship idols. There is no half measure, either God or idols. Or, to use an expression of a French writer: “The one who adores not God, adores the devil” (Léon Bloy)—and instead of being a believer, becomes an idolater”.
The word Epiphany comes from the Greek epiphainein: “to appear or shine.” The Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah. In Greece, the feast is called Θεοφάνια: the theophany is the manifestation of God (Θέος, Theos) who became man in Jesus. The birth of Jesus is told in two Gospels: Matthew and Luke. According to Luke, it is shepherds who come to pay homage to Jesus. According to Matthew, they are magi. The biblical text uses the term magus, from the Greek μάγος. In general, a magus originally referred to a priest of the Persians or Medes (that is, originally from Babylon). They were renowned for their knowledge of astronomy and astrology. The Greek term was also used in a pejorative sense, referring to a magician. This term is at the origin of “magic,” magicians and what is magical. In this sense, we also celebrate the presentation of Jesus to the Three Kings. It is also called the Day of Kings.
Epiphany is the feast of light. Isaiah speaks of shining, glory, clarity, and dawn. Paul, meanwhile, tells us about the mystery now revealed. The evangelist Matthew tells us how the star of the Magi shines brighter than that of the scribes in Herod's pay.
To celebrate the Lord's Epiphany is to learn to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. We live in a time when there is too much turmoil and change. It is sometimes difficult to find the Lord's Star again because of the clouds and the noises we make all day long. Today's readings invite us to go to the school of the Magi. Like them, we want to bow down and worship the Lord. Worship him seriously--and not as Herod said he would do.
Fr. Pierre Luhata, SJ