Epiphany… the word fundamentally connotes manifestation— properly speaking, the manifestation of Christ to the Gentile world, represented by the Magi or “Three Kings” of Tradition. While most of us unpack and display the Magi along with the shepherds and other figures of the crèche all at once (Anyone familiar with Fontanini knows that all kinds of “villagers” make an appearance at the stable— that makes for a lot of unpacking!) liturgically the Christmas story has distinct episodes.
The unsophisticated-yet-spiritually-sharp shepherds are the first to receive the good news and come in worship of the Savior King. The gospel relates that their witness is among those things that Mary treasures in her heart. This weekend, we are invited into the episode of the Magi, recognizing the cosmic signs of the birth of Christ and traveling over great distance to offer their homage and their powerfully-symbolic gifts— gold for His kingship, frankincense related to His high priesthood, and myrrh in anticipation of His death and burial.
Our singing of the carol, “We Three Kings” in reference to these somewhat mysterious figures merits clarification. While they are not kings in the commonly thought-of sense, Given the truth that Jesus is the fulfillment of so many messianic prophecies in Sacred Scripture, there is an understandable association with words from Psalm 72:
May he rule from sea to sea,
from the river to the ends of the earth.
May his foes kneel before him,
his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute,
the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.
May all kings bow before him,
all nations serve him. Psalm 72:8-11
Since these visitors would have been persons of means and education, I believe that they serve to remind us that while no special learning level is requires for the growth of faith, we would do well to recognize that Christianity stands up well to academic rigor. All too often, a good many people have been misled to think that religion and scientific learning are at odds. Rather, the Epiphany event confirms that those who are truly wise acknowledge that, when all is said and done, the finest research and calculations ultimately point to a power that leads the truly intelligent to bow before the mystery of God, not try to relegate God to some corner of “quaint folklore.”
In recent years, Epiphany week has served as an occasion to grow in understanding of the issues of migration. Please note the ad, in the next column, for an upcoming webinar related to this important theme appealing to the minds and hearts of Catholics.
I would like to thank Fr. Charles Strebler for his ministry among the community of St. Mary in these past six months. As announced weeks back, Fr. Strebler will begin his new ministry as Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Avon Lake on January 15. Next weekend— January 13-14 will be his final one among us. He will be the Celebrant of the 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Masses. Please join us in the parish hall after the 11 a.m. Mass for a reception of gratitude and blessing him forward.