January 7, 2018 — The Epiphany of the Lord
Today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. For centuries we as Catholics celebrated this Feast on Jan. 6, but the decision was made a number of years ago (at least in the United States) to celebrate the Epiphany on the Sunday which falls between Jan. 2 and Jan. 8.
“Epiphany” means “manifestation.” It is on this day that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is revealed as the light of all nations. Officially Christmas is not over. In fact, the recommendation of the Church is that on this day those who display a crèche, a nativity or manger scene, should replace the shepherd and sheep with the Magi and their likely animals on which they traveled as well as their gifts. However, that is all secondary to the real meaning of this day.
At Christmas the Messiah Jesus was revealed to the shepherds, who were Jewish. But on this day the Lord is revealed to all nations and to the Gentiles (represented by the Magi). We are all familiar with the star the Magi followed, but we need to understand all that is happening and what it means. This all represents the Light of Christ, a Light which today we honor and commemorate. We are called to be the Light of Christ right now to those around us and those with whom we come in contact. That way we can be the disciples Christ wants us to be.
The poet William Cullen Bryant captures the significance of the star the Magi followed very well when he wrote, “O Father, may that Holy Star, Grow every year more bright, And send its glorious beams afar, To fill the world with light.”