This week, Deacon Marques Silva offers us two truths on which to reflect as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on Sunday.
By: Deacon Marques Silva, Director, Office of Child Protection and Safety
This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. For most Catholics in the United States, the Epiphany is significantly overshadowed by the celebration of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, the manifestation of the Word “in the flesh” should be quite festive. And yet, because of its emphasis, many times, even liturgically, we lose the theological beauty and grandeur of the Epiphany.
The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy explains that the Solemnity of the Epiphany is one of three saving manifestations of our Lord during the season of Christmastide (par. 106). The first, as previously mentioned: The Nativity (Mt 1:18 and Lk 2:1-20), in which our Lord reveals Himself first to Israel; second, the Epiphany (Mt 2:1-12), when our Lord reveals Himself to the Gentiles; and third, the Baptism of our Lord (Mt 3:13-17, Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22 and Jn 1:31-34), where at the “theophany at the river Jordan […] the Father declares that Jesus is His ‘well-beloved Son’ (Mt 3:17) at the outset of his messianic mission.” Why should the Epiphany matter so much to us? Because for the vast majority of us, we are Gentiles who have been grafted into the God’s family (Rm 11) through Baptism and become co-heirs (Rm 8:17) and partakers in the inheritance (Eph 3:6) of Christ Jesus our Lord. The Epiphany is the Word’s manifestation to us through the Magi.
This Solemnity also teaches us two truths I would submit for your consideration for this New Year, especially for those who have family and friends who have strayed from the faith. The first is that the Lord desires us to long and look for Him every day. The Magi began with astrology and yielded to Scripture and discovered the Messiah. Regardless of the road we are on, He has designed us with a longing only He may fill. And, to assist us, it seems our Lord chooses to manifest Himself through unassuming and unthreatening signs like “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). Or, how about a piece of bread that through consecration becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord? Our Lord is approachable and wants to be found – but in a way that does not violate our freedom.
The second take-away is that our Lord shows us what it will cost to follow Him. The Magi, also known as the three Kings or Wise Men, are always shown kneeling or bowing down their crowns and placing the tools of their trade before Him. It’s true, He is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev 19:16) and that “every knee shall bow” (Phil 2:10 and Rev 14:11) as is His right. But there is something more profound for us to consider as we push forward in this New Year. Whether we admit it or not, we like to rule our lives as if we have absolute dominion over them. But that is not what the disciple is called to do. St. Paul tells us in Romans 14:7-9:
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Like the Magi, it is not just a one-time commitment to the Lord but a daily yielding and invitation for Jesus to enter into our decisions, relationships, occupation, dreams and aspirations and, yes, even our recreation. For the Magi, this encounter with the Lord was life-altering. Everyone who encounters the Lord always goes back a different road from whence they came (Mt 2:12).
Christmas day may have ended but Christmastide is still upon us. There is more to be seen and experienced during this season. For this reason, the Ceremonial of Bishops (no. 240) encourages that additional candles be placed in the sanctuary to make it even brighter than Christmas because the Morning Star (Rev 2:26-28) has been given to us and the dawn from on high has broken upon us “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79).
Will you lay your crown (and not pick it back up) before the King in the manger?