The Good News of Epiphany

By Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

The Epiphany of the Lord
January 8, 2011

The Epiphany gospel is a continuation of the Christmas story in Matthew’s prologue to his gospel (chapters 1-2). The prologue is a theological masterpiece in narrative form through which Matthew anticipates the major historical events he will present in his gospel to explain the significance of Jesus for us.

The names of Jesus are revealed: Messiah, King, Son of David, Son of Abraham, Emmanuel (God with us). As Son of Abraham, Jesus fulfills the divine promise that in Abraham’s seed “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Gn 22: 18 and Mt 28: 10). The miracle of the virginal conception heralds the beginning of the climactic end-time of sacred history. The gentile nations as foretold by the prophet Isaiah come to the New Zion with their treasures to praise the Lord. Jesus will be rejected by many, will suffer persecution and death, but will ultimately triumph through the Father’s providential care in the resurrection.

In today’s gospel reading, Matthew tells us that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem looking for the newborn king of the Jews so that they might do him homage. When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and asked the magi to bring him word of the child’s whereabouts so that he too could pay him homage. When the magi found the child with Mary his mother, they did him homage and offered him their gifts. Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

Life Implications

The good news of Epiphany is that Jesus is the revelation of God as one who offers himself to us in love. Jesus is the epiphany of the invisible God in all the events of his life: as a helpless child lying in a manger, as a young man dying on the cross — the ultimate revelation that God’s glory is love. This feast reminds us that each Sunday’s liturgy with its gospel reading is an epiphany of the Lord to be reflected upon in the quiet of faith.

As in every offering of love, the Lord awaits the response of our heart. Will it be that of Herod who perceives it as a threat to his own autonomy and power? Will it be that of the magi who perceive this offering of love as the fulfillment of the human quest? Epiphany is the revelation of the purpose of the Incarnation: that God and we, God’s creatures, might enjoy each other in the embrace of love. Who could be afraid of a God like that?

The church anticipates the good news that the mutual exchange of divine and human love is the deepest meaning of the Incarnation by giving us a reading from the Song of Songs at an Advent Mass a few days before Christmas. This “greatest of songs” is a love poem describing the wonder and excitement of the divine-human exchange of love in beautiful erotic images. The poem can help us realize a bit of the astonishing mystery we celebrate. The Lord says to each of us: “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come” (Song 2: 10). One is also reminded of Christina Rossetti’s lovely epiphany poem “In the Bleak Mid-Winter.”

What can I give him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring him a lamb; If I were a wise man I would do my part; Yet what I can I give him Give my heart.

The epiphany of the Lord is actualized in every celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus reveals himself and identifies himself as the bread of life. One could not imagine a more powerful sacrament or symbol to reveal that the ultimate meaning of Jesus is to give himself to us in love. Bread has no meaning by existing for itself. Bread exists in order to give life to those who receive it as food. The prayer after communion for the Mass of Epiphany expresses this mystery of faith: “Help us to recognize Christ in this Eucharist and welcome him with love.”|201201

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 8, 2012

The Epiphany Revealed!
Caspar, Balthasar, Melchior. These “three kings of Orient are” found, complete with crowns and camels, in every nativity scene.

Yet if you look closely at the gospel account of the Magi (Mat 2:1-12), you won’t find these names. Actually there is no mention of how many Magi there were or that they were kings riding camel-back.

Solemnity of the Epiphany: The Journey
Who were they, these three men we call magi? Were they kings? Popular tradition refers to them as the three kings, and maybe they were. Certainly, their gifts were those one king would offer to another. The title “king” was used rather loosely in the ancient East. They may have been more similar to the medieval counts or dukes. The Hebrew prophets, particularly Isaiah, had foretold that kings would flock to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. So, it would be acceptable to consider them as kings.

The Name of Jesus Makes a Contemplative Man
My favorite representative of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus is the delightfully eccentric and utterly incandescent Richard Rolle, a mystic of fourteenth century England. Richard Rolle associated the Name of Jesus with three things: calor, heat; dulcor, sweetness; and canor, song. Listen to his teaching:

Christ and the Confidence that Comes from the Holy Spirit
Christ baptizes in the power of the Holy Spirit and his fire animates the Christian life with hope. The Holy Spirit who moved over the waters of creation, who overshadowed the Virgin Mary, who descended on Christ at his Baptism, who carried the Crucified’s last wordless cry for our sake from the depths of his heart and into the Heart of the Father, who animates the Risen Body of Christ and who burns in the hearts of the apostles and the martyrs; He is the source of a hope so great no power in the heavens above or on the earth below can overcome it.

Epiphany: The Light of the World
Rome is known as the Eternal City for good reason. One of the city’s ancient marvels is the Egyptian obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square, a block of marble as tall as a tree that weighs 330 tons. Erected as a monument to Pharaoh in 1850 BC, it stood watch over the whole of Egyptian history, the world’s longest-reigning empire. The obelisk existed there when Abraham was called and when Moses led the Israelites from slavery into freedom, thousands of years ago.

What Did Christ Look Like?
Go here for the full version of the above video. This was originally broadcast on December 24, 1968 on the CBS show Sixty Minutes. An artifact demonstrating how greatly our culture has changed for the worse in four decades. I believe that Harry Reasoner who narrates the video was not a Christian, but the power of the image and reality of Christ shines through the video nonetheless.

Free Will and Predestination
If God is not love but only knowledge, then it is difficult or impossible to see how human free will and divine predestination can both be true. But if God is love, there is a way.

Holy Serotonin
Q. So you don’t believe that the Holy Spirit manifests itself?

Don’t even kid about that; if He didn’t, we’d all be doomed. You know that supernatural, “actual” grace that allows us to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil and perform any good action whatsoever?

Q. Not really.

Well that comes from the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Church believes that the Holy Spirit is the active, ongoing factor in each of our lives that leads us closer to God. The Father remains transcendent; the Son comes to us primarily through the Eucharist; but the Holy Spirit moves through all the sacraments. Furthermore, He pervades the ups and downs of ordinary life, gently attracting us to goodness and repelling us from evil. He serves as the “still small voice” of conscience, and the return address for all the consolations that make life meaningful or even barely tolerable. The Church has identified the “gifts” that come from the Holy Spirit which bring us closer to God:

The 15 Promises of the Rosary as Given by Our Lady
1. Whosoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.

Signal Graces are those special and unique Graces to help sanctify us in our state in life. See the remaining promises for an explanation for which these will consist. St. Louis de Montfort states emphatically that the best and fastest way to union with Our Lord is via Our Lady [True Devotion to Mary, chapter four].

The Ancient Origins of the Nativity Scene – Part 1
One of the most ancient iconographic traditions in the depiction of Christ’s Nativity is the placement of an ox and an ass near the manger in which He was laid by His Mother. No such animals are mentioned in the Gospel, and yet they consistently appear in the scene from very early times; indeed, some early images of the Nativity show only the Christ Child in the manger, with the ox and the ass nearby, leaving out Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, the star and even the stable. The presence of the two animals was evidently enough to indicate which event of the life of Christ was being depicted, leaving the viewer to supply the rest of the story for himself. (Such highly succinct and simplified images are typical of much early Christian art.)

The Tough Work of Virtue
My grandfather was a hardworking man. Growing up in frontier country, he started his career as a carpenter building barns; then travelled the West as an itinerant farm laborer. In World War I, he enlisted in the Marines and fought in Europe, including the Battle of Belleau Wood and the Battle of Chateau Thierry. He earned a purple heart and after the war became a gold miner in the Dakotas. When the mines shut down, granddad returned to the carpentry of his youth.

There are times — extremely frustrating times — when our religion is a leap of faith and a walk into the yawning darkness. There are times when our daily prayer crumbles into daily mantra, and we feel guilty of every charge the new atheist brings against us; we are brain-washed, we are ignorant, we were fools ever to believe. There are times of dryness. There are times when God really seems dead. And then there is Every Time Else.

And Every Time Else – with apologies paid to saints experiencing the dark night of the soul, and secularists pursuing the same – is where it’s at.

Keeping the Faith Amid Suffering
One survivor of clergy sexual abuse reflects on her pilgrimage from despair to hope and a faith-filled meeting with the Pope.

My life has been a test of faith and strength. Like countless other individuals who have survived the trauma of abuse, I have fought through hard times and found myself waging a battle that often seemed unwinnable. At age 15, while working as a secretary in a parish rectory, I endured months of sexual abuse at the hands of the now-laicized Father Kelvin Iguabita.

Nothing could ever fully express the suffering, anguish and betrayal a victim feels. Only someone who has experienced abuse can fully understand the powerful manipulation of an abuser.

The Nature of Forgiveness — Humanly Possible?
The exalted nature of forgiveness is attested to by the fact that it presupposes a number of other virtues. Consider three virtues in particular: justice, clemency, and mercy.

Justice has the nature of an equation: Borrowing 10 dollars requires returning 10 dollars. When justice is violated, punishment or restitution of some kind is required. Herein is the timeless significance of bringing the scales of justice back into balance. Injustice demands a counterbalancing repayment. Clemency goes beyond justice, to some extent ignoring the need for precise balancing, and reduces the payment. For example, clemency may be used to reduce a 60-day sentence to 15 days. Mercy goes beyond both justice and clemency to wipe away the need for punishment. It does not turn a blind eye to the offense committed, but it does pardon the offender.

Msgr. Pope: The Church Has Been Targeted
Monsignor Charles Pope is warning Catholics that they are under attack and that “the threat to religious liberty is both real and growing,” according to the Archdiocese of Washington website.

Msgr. Pope wrote that while Catholics aren’t the only people who should be concerned by the threat to religious liberty “the Catholic Church is particularly targeted and threatened because we have stood so vocally and firmly in opposition to many cultural problems in America such as Abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell research, the Gay rights agenda, Gay “marriage,” and so forth.”

Three Wise Men and Three Stooges
Epiphany–in my opinion–has always had the edge on Christmas. Sure, I like the Christ child and the manger and the ox and ass and St Joseph, and the Blessed Virgin, and the angels and shepherds and, “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.”

But I think I like the wise men better. I like their humble wisdom, and the way they outfoxed that old fox Herod. I like the way they set out to follow the star not really knowing where they were going, and I like the poem by that other wise man T.S. Eliot, who mused, “A cold coming they had of it, the worst time of the year for a journey–the ways deep and the weather sharp.” I like the fact that the three wise men left their foreign philosophies and opened their hearts and minds in wonder at the miraculous child of Bethlehem.

Sharing The Eucharist At Home With Family
One of the things I dislike the most in life is having to eat by myself, but luckily I don’t have to do that very often. A meal should be shared and enjoyed with others. It’s not just the food itself that is most important in this, but the company of others that sit with you while eating.

Quite often we read in scripture instances where meals are eaten together. In Genesis we see Abram instructing Sara to prepare a meal for the strangers that arrived at their tent and Abram sat with them as they ate. In Exodus, the people are told to prepare a lamb the night before their deliverance in the Passover and to share what they have with others. Of course, in the New Testament we read –

Tomb of Apostle Philip Found
At about the same time as the July/August 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review was hitting the newsstands, containing an article about St. Philip’s Martyrium,* author and excavation director Francesco D’Andria was making an exciting new discovery in the field at Hierapolis, one of the most significant sites in Christian Turkey. A month later he announced it: They had finally found the tomb of the martyred apostle Philip.

Episcopalians Have a New Home in the Catholic Church
A historic moment occurred yesterday morning at Our Lady of Walsingham Church here in Houston where Cardinal DiNardo, representing Cardinal Wuerl who headed the implementation of an Anglican Ordinariate in the U.S., announced that Father Jeffrey Steenson will be the new Ordinary, ie, head, of the U.S. Anglican Ordinariate. All of which means that Episcopalians, called Anglicans everywhere else outside of the U.S., can join the Catholic Church while retaining their Anglican patrimony. An ordinariate represents a special framework similar to a diocese but national in scope, in this instance, covering the geographic area of the United States.

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