Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2017.
“For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.” The words of the wise men, transformed and expanded into the hymn, “We three kings of Orient are,” words proclaimed around our world this evening and tomorrow, and therefore savored by Christian communities the world over—these words are our words as well. For as the wise men were guided by the star which came to rest where the Child was, so have we been guided by the Light of lights that shines in our hearts, a Light that comes to rest as the Incarnate Word that overshadows our souls, enlightens our spirit, and Who by faith we conceive in our hearts and bear in our minds. It is Christ who brings us together, because through Him have we been made and remade, to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Epiphany—that is, manifestation or showing forth—of Our Lord Jesus Christ, showing forth to all nations of the world. There are four dimensions of our celebration this evening of this mystery—four dimensions and then a fifth, which is its invitation to us.
The first dimension is that this is a celebration of light. Upon the darkness covering the earth, the thick darkness covering the people has arisen the glorified Light of Jesus Christ. This Light first shone upon the shepherds, keeping watch over their flock at night—they were enlightened by the angelic glory, the light of their eternal song, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased. Being called to seek out the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes means these lowly Jewish shepherds—lowly, but surely religiously bathed in the holy scriptures—became the first fruits of the Church from the people of Israel. It was this same Light of light that marvelously led the wise men by a shining star—coming from far to learn about the unsearchable riches of God, to become the fruit fruits of the Church from the gentiles. This light that revealed the Christ calling to them prefigures the light that shone around Saint Paul, the light of Christ calling to him, and also prefigures the radiant Christ transfigured before the apostles Peter, James, and John. It is by Light in the darkness, a Light unable to be contained by the darkness, that Jesus calls disciples to Himself.
The second dimension of our celebration is the role of Christ as Savior. The Lord our God, the Holy One of Israel, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin, who has chosen to be born as a little child and shown to the world by and with His Mother, Blessed Mary—this, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. It was this Child, silent, at rest, placed in the care of His Mother, that the shepherds acknowledged as Christ the Savior, and whom the wise man, when they found the Child with His Mother, worshipped Him as God, proclaimed Him as King, and acknowledged Him as Redeemer—this Child, who gave His whole life of our salvation.
The third dimension we celebrate is the mystery of the Church itself. All nations have come to Christ’s Light, the brightness of His rising. Through the Light of our Child-Savior, all eyes are lifted up, gathered together to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. As the shepherds and wise men were called to meet the Lamb of God, so are we blessed to be called to His Supper. Unworthy as we are to have God enter under our roof, God in his merciful love lets us enter under His roof, opening the door of heaven to allow us to look in and participate in the eternal banquet of the Bridegroom.
And the fourth dimension we celebrate is the ministry of Our Lady, Blessed Mary the Mother of God. God’s over-passing power has been revealed through a virgin because of her humility before Him. To Elizabeth, to the babe John the Baptist in her womb, to Joseph, to the shepherds, and now to the wise men: Jesus is revealed through Mary, presented and made manifest through the ministry of Mary to all the families of all peoples, who draws us to faith in the Gospel, faith that we are saved by Christ’s birth, faith that He is the glory of Israel and the Light of all nations, faith that salvation comes through Christ alone.
So, what, then, is the invitation to us of this glorious celebration, this mystery of Light, the Savior-Child, the Church, and the ministry of Mary? The invitation is to continue to allow grace to lead us in our lives, as His Light has led us here. After opening their treasures, and offering gifts to Jesus, the wise men departed to their own country by another way. Encountering God always changes the direction of our lives. As we rejoice exceedingly with great joy in the house of God with Mary His Mother, as we fall down and worship Him, as we open the treasure chests of our hearts and offer Him ourselves as a living sacrifice, let us listen to Him in prayer, in silence, and in joy—listening to what He tells us in our dreams, that the course of our way Home—which is beholding God face to face—may be emboldened to delight in His will, and walk in His ways, with strength and courage and love and serve Him with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.