Solemnity of the Epiphany

Although the traditional day for the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord is January 6, the celebration is now often moved to the Sunday closest to the day, which means the Catholic Church celebrates the Epiphany today.

I confess that the first use of the term “epiphany” that had any real significance to me was the secular use of the term by James Joyce to refer to a sudden flash of insight or perception. I remember spending lots of time in senior High School English class talking about epiphanies in Joyce’s Dubliners and others of his works.

The word “epiphany” comes from a Greek term meaning manifestation or appearance and in Christian terms refers to the revelation of God becoming human in the person of Jesus. St. Gregory the Great spoke of creation responding to the Incarnation: “When the king of heaven was born, the heavens knew that he was God because they immediately sent forth a star; the sea knew him because it allowed him to walk upon it; the earth knew him because it trembled when he died; the sun knew him because it hid the rays of its light.”

It is no accident that the Gospel reading for today is the visit to the Christ child by the Magi. “Magi from the east” made a long and hard journey to pay homage to the newborn king, having seen “his star at its rising.”

The visit of the Magi tells us that from the very beginning, Christ was manifest not only to the Isaelites, but to the whole world. The light of Christ is, in the words for the Preface in today’s Mass, “the light of all peoples.” The implication is that we, as Christ’s followers, are to be light to all as well.


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