By Father Woods
The Epiphany of the Lord, which we celebrate today, is a feast older than Christmas. In many countries, this day (not Christmas) is the day for gift-giving in honor of the gifts received by the Christ Child. Why is this ancient feast so important in the life of the Church when most of society has already put Christmas behind them?
Epiphany is a triple feast. Meaning ” manifestation”, the day celebrates the revelation of Jesus as God: at the adoration of the Magi, at the Baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan, and at the first miracle worked at the Wedding Feast at Cana. To remove all doubt, God the Father uses these three instances to confirm the divine identity of this human Child. The Wise Men are Gentile (non-Jews) who travel from the East by following the light of an extraordinary star. They are not awaiting the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy about the Messiah, yet even they are called to faith. They believe that special stars appear at the birth of someone remarkable. This faith leads them to the Child in the house at Bethlehem. Instead of being disappointed or unimpressed upon finding a Baby and His Mother, they experience something profound and fall down in adoration of the Christ Child. They offer gifts of gold (that He is a King), frankincense (that He is God) and myrrh (that He will one day die). Not only do they see or feel or experience something that touches them, they respond! Almost immediately they put their faith into action. The Wise Men are great guides to follow, believe, and respond.
Likewise, at the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan, the Baptist identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” John admonishes his followers that Jesus is the one he has foretold and that they should follow Him. God the Father confirms this faith with His own Voice: “This is my Son, my Beloved; listen to Him!” The same is true when Jesus works His first miracle at the wedding at Cana. The Blessed Mother approaches Jesus with a very practical problem: they have no more wine. The Lord even takes on this mundane concern as important and turns it into an opportunity to confirm the faith of His Immaculate Mother and the stewards who have been told to “do whatever He tells you.” By turning water into wine, Jesus displays His divinity in a way that ordinary people can understand and be lead to deeper faith.
The Christmas Season provides us with the greatest and clearest Epiphany; the keenest demonstration that Jesus is God. However, these epiphanies come about through ordinary circumstances: a starry sky, a visit to the riverside, at a wedding banquet. The great lesson we should learn from Christmas is to be on the lookout for the many epiphanies that happen every day – the many ways God displays His presence throughout the year and throughout our lives. Epiphany is easy to celebrate when the trees are all lit and the manger still intact. It’s a little more challenging but much more exciting to be on the lookout for these manifestations each day. The star still shines brightly. It still leads and guides. All it takes is the eyes of faith to see it!