6 Jan 2014

6th January 2014 - Feast of the Epiphany (Nollaig na mBan)


Arise, shine out, Jerusalem; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
Isaiah 60:1-6

Today in Ireland we celebrate Epiphany which is feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. On this feast, Western Christians commemorate principally the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, i.e., his manifestation to the Gentiles; Eastern Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. It is also called Theophany, especially by Eastern Christians.





St Matthew tells us (2:1-12) that Wise Men came from out of the east seeking the new born child as the Messiah of the whole world not just for the people of Israel. Their homage to him upon locating him in Bethleham is representative of the whole world who adore the Holy Child and recognise his Divine Kingship, he who is the Light of the World.
"They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
The feast of the Epiphany in the latin tradition focuses on the manifestation or showing of the Child Jesus to the Magi or Wise men who have come to seek the new King of the Jews. The three wisdom seekers represent the gentiles; those outside the covenanted community of Israel to whom the Messiah will also come. Where the shepherds represented the Chosen People, the three magi represent all those who truly search and seek for God in our world even if from out side our community and experiences. The questions this familiar part of the Christmas narrative can pose to us include:
  • What "star" do I follow in my life? Do I follow the Morning Star which is Christ or do I have other things I follow?
  • Am I open to seeing the Divine in others even if they are different from me?
  • Like the Wise men, am I willing to trust in God and go where She leads me, even if it means travelling far (literally or metaphorically), believing that God will be "my staff and my shield"?
But like the shepherds, the three magi did not stay in Bethleham, they had to go back out into the world, back to their homes and families and daily lives; just like we have to. But they took the message of what they had seen and heard with them.Epiphany demands that like these kings we should return to our own countries a different way, carrying to all those we meet the light of Christ. "For behold, darkness shall cover the earth," says the Epistle of the Epiphany Mass, "and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon Thee, and His glory shall be seen upon Thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in Thy light..." These words may be applied to us, upon whom the light of Christ has indeed risen, and who have the responsibility to radiate that light in the darkness of our own world. It is clear how much the feast of Epiphany must mean to all who are engaged in the apostolate and are striving to extend the kingdom of Christ.


 

We join with the psalmist (Psalm 44) and the Magi and all the Heavenly Court in praising the Prince of Peace:
 
My heart overflows with noble words.
To the king I must speak the song I have made,
my tongue as nimble as the pen of a scribe.
You are the fairest of the people on earth
and graciousness is poured upon your lips,
because God has blest you for evermore.
Your throne, O God, shall endure for ever.
A scepter of justice is the scepter of your kingdom,
Your love is for justice, your hatred for eil.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above other kings;
your robes are fragrant with aloes and myrrh.
From the ivory palace you are greeted with music.
The daughters of kings are among your loved ones.
On your right stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

From Rome:


(Vatican Radio) Pope Epiphany Mass: Follow the light that leads to Christ
Against the majestic surroundings of St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the feast of the Epiphany. On this the day when the Church remembers the revelation of Jesus to humanity in the face of a child, the Pope began the celebration by kissing a statue of the Baby Jesus which was put pride of place in front of the alter.
At the heart of the Holy Father’s Homily, was the message that we must never be blinded by the forces of darkness but instead be transformed by the light of Christ. 
The Pope was referring to the journey the Magi made, whose path was illuminated by a star which brings them in search of the great light of the Lord Jesus.
 
These three wise men, continued Pope Francis were able to overcome the darkness of King Herod, and his fear of a fragile child’s birth because they believed in the scriptures.
The Holy Father also noted that we as Christians need to be spiritually astute just like the Magi were. They, he said were able to use a light of awareness to avoid the danger of Herod’s dark palace on their way back from visiting the Christ child. 
The Pope then went on to underline the importance of what we can learn from these three Kings saying, “ they teach us how to defend ourselves against the darkness that seeks to envelope our lives”, they also teach us not to settle for “a mediocre life”, but aim for a life that is fascinated by good, truth, and beauty.
Concluding his Homily, Pope Francis urged Christians to follow the example of the Magi and search for the great light of Christ with our little lights
You can read full homily HERE 

(Vatican Radio)  Pope’s Angelus: “Jesus is the Epiphany”, the Lord does not proselytize but loves
Pope Francis greeted tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered on a bright crisp day in St. Peter’s Square Monday for the recitation of the Angelus Prayer and to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany with the Holy Father. In his address, the Pope referred to Pope Benedict Emeritus’s book, “Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives” which he said “magnificently” recounts the biblical coming of the Maji from the East to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Christ Child. The Epiphany, Pope Francis said, marks the first “manifestation” of Christ to the people and as a consequence, points to the universal salvation brought by Jesus.

In today’s feast, we see a “dual movement,” the Pope noted: of God who comes “towards the world, towards humanity” and of men who seek closeness to God: “the religions, the search for truth, the way of people towards peace, justice, liberty.”

For his part, God loves us: “we are His children; He loves us and He wants to liberate us from evil, from sickness, from death, and take us to His home in His Kingdom.” We too, the Pope said, are attracted by “goodness, truth, life and happiness and beauty.”

And as the two sides attract, Jesus, the Pope stressed, is our point of encounter with the Lord as His love incarnate.

Had the Maji not seen the Star pointing them to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, they would never have left, the Pope mused. “Light precedes us, the truth precedes us, beauty precedes us. God precedes us: it is grace; and this grace appears in Jesus. He is the Epiphany, the manifestation of God’s love.”

Departing from his prepared remarks, the Pope appealed “sincerely” and “respectfully” to those who “feel far from God and from the Church” and to “those who are fearful and indifferent: the Lord is calling you too.” The Lord is calling you to be a part of His people and He does it with great respect and love.”

“The Lord does not proselytize; He gives love,” reaffirmed the Pope. “And this love seeks you and waits for you, you who at this moment do not believe or are far away. And this is the love of God.”

Pope Francis prayed that “all the Church” may be steeped in “the joy of evangelizing” invoking the aid of the Virgin Mary so that “we can all be disciple-missionaries, small stars that reflect His light.”

Following the recital of the Angelus, Pope Francis gave greetings to the Churches of the East who tomorrow will celebrate Christmas. He prayed that all will be “reinforced in faith, hope and charity” and the Lord will “give comfort” to Christian communities and to the Churches undergoing “trial.”

The Pope recalled that the Epiphany is the missionary Day for children organized by the Pontifical office for Holy Childhood and thanked young people and children whose “gestures of solidarity” towards other children “widen the horizons of their fraternity.”

Reflections and thoughts for the feast:


 
Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory talks about whether or not the magi were "prototypical scientists."

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