What Happened on the Epiphany of the Lord?

What Happened on the Epiphany of the Lord?

Written by Marlena Hinkle, friend of Stella & Tide

If you look around, it seems like the Christmas season is over. Radios have stopped playing Christmas music, town centers have been stripped of all their decorations, and stores have moved their trees, stockings, and lights to the sale racks. The world quickly transitions into the next holiday season, telling us that we need to move on from Christmas too. It can be so easy to forget the great feast that we celebrated just a few days ago, but the Church continues to celebrate the Christmas season all the way up until tomorrow—the feast of the Epiphany. So, the celebrations aren’t over yet! In fact, the Epiphany is one of the most solemn feast days of the Church, just behind Easter and Christmas.

About the Epiphany

On January 6, just twelve days after the Nativity of Christ, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. In the United States, the feast is commemorated on the Sunday Mass between January 2 and 8. Accordingly, this year, the Epiphany Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, January 8.

Derived from the Greek word epiphaneia meaning “to make manifest” or “to shine upon,” the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ manifestation as the Messiah of Israel, Son of God, and Savior of the world. Along with the adoration of Jesus by the Three Magi (or Three Wise Men / Three Kings), the Epiphany also celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and Jesus’ first miracle, the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. These three events are some of the first moments that Jesus reveals His mission and true divinity to us. As we remember the humble beginnings of Christ born in the stable, the Epiphany calls on us to adore, venerate, and honor the little child Jesus, the Eternal God.

The Three Wise Men

In Sunday’s gospel reading (Matthew 2:1-12), we hear about the journey of the Magi from the East to Jerusalem as they follow the great star in search of the Messianic savior, the newborn king of the Jews. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, they are the first Gentile witnesses of the greatest and most important moment in human history—God’s Incarnation.

The three Magi were not Jews, but Gentiles. They did not worship the God of Israel, but when they saw Jesus Christ, they knew that he was the One True God. In coming to adore and pay homage to Jesus, the Magi reveal that Christ came to save ALL of humanity, and the WHOLE world is invited to worship Him. Traditionally, the three Magi are named Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, and they represent three distinct races—Asian, African, and European, respectively. With the birth of Jesus Christ, God made himself known to all nations and all peoples.

At the moment when the Magi visit Jesus, divine reality breaks through the physical, and the three wise men are able to recognize the young baby for who He really is; they recognize baby Jesus as Lord and Savior. Their response is amazing:

““They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. They opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
—Mathew 2:11

The response of the Magi to Jesus teaches us how we should respond to God in our lives and calls on us to be witnesses of the incredible epiphany of the Christian faith—that God became man, suffered, and died for us so that we might have eternal life with Him.

The Epiphany in Our Lives

In fact, this great epiphany, or revelation of God, continues to happen every day at Mass in the Eucharist. Every time we go to Mass, we, like the Magi, are humble witnesses of God incarnate. How do we respond to this God of eternity? Do we, like the Magi, bow down in humility in awesome wonder of God’s glory? Do we offer up our greatest treasures as gifts to God? Or are we more like King Herod, who hardened his heart to the great truth of God’s goodness?

May this feast of the Epiphany inspire us to worship and love God as we ought. May we pray for the grace to respond to the Epiphany of God with more reverence, humility, and love. Though we will surely fail at this many times, each Christmas season is an opportunity for us to wonder and contemplate the divine reality that God became man for our sake.

The adoration of Jesus by the Magi inspires us to search tirelessly for God in our own lives, even in the places we least expect. Like the Magi, we might find the Savior of the world in a poor, dirty, and cold stable in Bethlehem. Similarly, God is present with us in the challenging and messy parts of life when loving is most difficult—in the family members that we don’t get along with, in the poorest of our neighbors, and in the trials of sickness and death. We are challenged in all these moments to seek God’s presence and be witnesses to His great love.

In the darkness, the Eternal Light shines the brightest.

On this feast of the Epiphany, we have the great honor of contributing to the ongoing story of “epiphanies” in which God continues to make Himself known in the world. God continues to be born in our hearts, minds, and souls every day and every moment when we come to honor and adore Him Who first loved us. While the world moves on from Christmas, let us continue to make the presence of Jesus Christ known in the world by proclaiming the great epiphany of His mercy and love.

1 comment

  • Laurie Smith

    That was a beautiful article on the Epiphany. I never knew the names of the 3 Magi before. Thank you for sharing!♥️
    Stella & Tide replied:
    We’re so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for your comment, Laurie 💓

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