Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On the Feast of the Epiphany


Isaias 60:1-6: "Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, 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, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.

"Lift up thy eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the. strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense: and shewing forth praise to the Lord."

The prophet Isaias in this epistle predicts that the light of the Lord, which is Christ, will rise over Jerusalem, the prototype of the Church, and that the Gentiles who knew nothing of the true God would come to walk in the light, which Christ by His doctrine and holy life, would cause to shine and that numberless nations from all parts of the world would assemble as her children who adore the one true God.

The fulfillment of this prophecy commenced with the adoration of the Magi, who are to be regarded as the first Christian converted of the Gentiles. The Church therefore very properly celebrates this day with great solemnity. We ought also to share in the joy of the Church because our ancestors were Gentiles and like the three wise men were called to the true Faith. Let us exclaim with Isaias (49:13) "Give praise, O ye heavens, and rejoice, O earth, ye mountains, give praise with jubilation: because the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy on his poor ones."


St. Matthew 2:1-11: "When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore Him. And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet:

"And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore Him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

"And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored Him; and opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

Why did the kings offer gold, frankincense and myrrh? Because it was the ancient eastern custom never to appear without gifts before a prince or king and the three kings, as the Holy Fathers universally teach, enlightened by the Holy Ghost desire by their presents to honour Christ as God, as King, and as man. Of this the Bede writes "the first of the kings, named Melchior, offered gold to Christ the Lord and King, the second Caspar, frankincense to the Divinity of Christ and the third Balthazar myrrh by which was expressed that Christ the Son of man must die."

How can we bring similar gifts to Christ? We offer gold to Him when we love Him with our whole heart and out of love to Him present Him our will by perfect obedience and continuous self denial as our will is our most precious treasure. We offer him gold when we assist the poor by alms given in His name. We offer Him frankincense when we devoutly and ardently pray to Him, especially when we meditate on His omnipotence, love, goodness, justice and mercy. We offer Him myrrh when we avoid carnal desires, mortify our evil inclinations and passions, and strive for purity of body and soul.

Why did Herod say he wished to adore the child? This he did out of wicked hypocrisy dissimulation. He had no other intention than to put Jesus to death, and therefore effected piety in order to find out the time and place of His birth. Thus do those murderers of soul who desire the fall of the innocent, they do not let their evil intentions be known at once, and so they put on sheep's clothing, feign piety and devotion, until they creep into the heart from which by flattery and irony about religion and virtue and by presents they expel shame and the fear of God and thus murder the soul.

Why did the kings return by another road to their own country? This they did by command of God. From the example of the three wise men, we should learn to obey God rather than man. That we must be obedient to His directions even if we do not understand them. So the three kings obeyed although they may not have understood why God commanded them to flee Herod. After we have found God, we should walk in the path of virtue, and not return to our old sinful ways.

"Our fatherland is paradise, heaven" writes St. Gregory. "We have departed from it by pride, disobedience, abuse of the senses. Therefore it is needed that we return by obedience, contempt of the world, and by taming the desires of the flesh. Thus we return to our own country by another road. By forbidden pleasure we have forfeited the joys of paradise, by penance we must regain them."


Give me O Divine Saviour, the faith of those eastern kings. Enlighten my understanding with the light which enlightened them, and move my heart that I may in future follow this light and sincerely seek Thee who has first sought me. Grant also that I may really find Thee, that with the wise men I may adore Thee in spirit and in truth and bring to Thee the gold of love, the frankincense of prayer and the myrrh of penance and mortification, that having here offered Thee the sacrifice of my faith, I may adore Thee in Thy eternal glory. Amen.

What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?

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