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The Epiphany of the Lord
The Epiphany of the Lord
Epiphany means manifestation, revelation, showing forth. In the prayers and readings of the Masses and of the Divine Office over the next few days three historical events in which Our Saviour is revealed are emphasised, the Visit of the Wise Men, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the first miracle, the Wedding feast at Cana. The Benedictus antiphon at Morning Prayer for the Epiphany sums it up with great skill:
"This day the Church is joined to her heavenly spouse, for Christ has cleansed away her crimes in the Jordan; with gifts the wise men hasten to the royal wedding and the guests are gladdened with wine made from water. Alleluia".
Symbols is today's feast
In baptism each of us are joined to Christ and our unity with him is celebrated in the Eucharist, the wedding feast of the Lamb, symbolised by the miracle at Cana. Between our baptism and our Eucharist is the journey of our life, which we offer as a gift, as the wise men offered gifts.
Symbolism is everywhere in today's feast. The light of the star is the light of faith which calls us to undertake the journey which begins at baptism. The wise men from far off countries stand for us, the people of the nations who have recognised Christ. To offer gold is to proclaim that Christ is King, to offer incense is to adore him as God, to offer myrrh is to acknowledge his humanity, his suffering and his death.
Our gifts today
Indeed the giving of the gift symbolises the one to whom it is given. The child to who these gifts are given is pure gift. He gives himself to us, true God, true man, in Holy Communion. As we pray over the gifts today Look with favour Lord on these gifts of your church which are offered now. Not Gold or Frankincense or Mhyrr but he who by them is proclaimed, sacrificed and received, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns for ever. You see how in the offertory procession we bring up bread and wine, and unite our lives with that offering, and that bead and wine becomes Our Lord, becomes Jesus, true God and true man and so too in a sense do our own lives which we have offered with the bread and wine. And in becoming Jesus, our simple and inadequate offering becomes part of the great mystery. The offering which washes us clean, takes away our sin, unites us with Christ and promises eternal life with him. The offering of Christ our saviour. And so we say in the final prayer of today's mass, still remembering the Symbolism of the wise men. "Go before us with heavenly light O Lord - that we may perceive with clear sight, and revere with true affection the mystery in which you have willed us to participate."
There is an ancient saying in the Church, lex orandi, lex credendi "The law of prayer is the law of faith" in other words the Church believes as she prays. What we say and do at Mass is part of that holy and living Tradition which, with Scripture and the Teaching Authority of the Church, ensures we remain faithful to Jesus. Every Mass we celebrate is a journey, following the light of faith, bearing gifts, but in the end recognising something greater than any of us.