TODAY is the Feast (or Solemnity) of the Epiphany of the Lord. It’s the day when Filipino Catholics and other Christians–who have come to practice the American (and English traditions)– greet members of the family and their friends “Happy Three Kings.”
Epiphany means “manifestation.” What the Church remembers in the Masses and prayers today is the first manifestation of the Son of God, Christ the Lord, God-made-Man, to pagan mankind.
The manifestation of the True-God-True-Man Jesus was made to the Three Magi or the Three Kings. Wise and learned pagans (non-Jews and, more so, non-Christians) who were men of goodwill searching for the Messiah they had learned about in their scholarly readings and their astrological studies of the heavens.
Through this feast the Church proclaims that the mission of Jesus Christ is universal. The Second Person of God the Holy Trinity took on the humble form of a human being in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and came out into our world not only to fulfill what God had promised to Israel but to bring about the salvation, the redemption, of all the people of our planet, the entire human race.
Like many of the important feasts, the Epiphany emerged in the East, or the Oriental half of the Church, not in Rome and the other Western capitals. It was known by the Greek words saying “Feast of the Theophany” or “Feast of the Illumination.” It only became a universal celebration of the Church (meaning the Christian dioceses in the West adopted it) in the fourth century.
Originally the “Feast of the Three Kings” was celebrated on January 6. It is now celebrated on the Sunday that falls between January 2 and January 8.
Representatives of all the races
The Three Kings or Wise Men–Melchor, Gazpar and Balthazar–are always shown to be of the three races: white, brown and black. (Brown includes us Pinoys and our Mongol-race fellow Asians, who are referred to as the “Yellow” race). This is to stress that the Manifestation of the Lord was being made to all mankind. That he wants all men–and women–to become divine like him.
Here are the opening passages from the homily given by St. Josemaria Escriva on the Epiphany of our Lord on January 6, 1956.
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Not too long ago I saw a marble bas-relief representing the adoration of the child Jesus by the Magi. The central figures were surrounded by four angels, each one bearing a symbol: a crown, an orb surmounted by the cross, a sword and a scepter.
The artist had chosen symbols with which we are all familiar to illustrate the event we commemorate today. Some wise men whom tradition describes as kings come to pay homage to a child, after having been to Jerusalem to ask “Where is he that is born king of the Jews?”
Moved by this question, I too now contemplate Jesus “lying in a Manger,” in a place fit only for animals. Lord, where is your kingship, your crown, your sword, your scepter?
They are his by right, but he does not want them. He reigns wrapped in swaddling clothes. Our king is unadorned. He comes to us as a defenseless little child. Can we help but recall the words of the Apostle: “He emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave”?
Our Lord became man to teach us the Father’s will.
And this he is already doing as he lies there in the manger. Jesus Christ is seeking us — with a call which is a vocation to sanctity — so that we may carry out the redemption with him. Let us reflect on this first lesson of his.
We are to co-redeem, by striving to triumph not over our neighbor, but over ourselves. Like Christ we need to empty ourselves, to consider ourselves as the servants of others, and so to bring them to God.
Where is the king? Could it be that Jesus wants to reign above all in men’s hearts, in your heart?
That is why he has become a child, for who can help loving a little baby?
Where then is the king?
Where is the Christ whom the Holy Spirit wants to fashion in our souls? He cannot be present in the pride that separates us from God, nor in the lack of charity which cuts us off from others. Christ cannot be there. In that loveless state man is left alone.
As you kneel at the feet of the child Jesus on the day of his Epiphany and see him a king bearing none of the outward signs of royalty, you can tell him: “Lord, take away my pride; crush my self-love, my desire to affirm myself and impose myself on others. Make the foundation of my personality my identification with you.”
The way of faith
We want to identify ourselves with Christ. It is not an easy goal. But it is not difficult either, if we live as our Lord has taught us to live, if we have recourse to his word every day, if we fill our lives with the sacramental reality, the Eucharist, which he has given us for our nourishment.
Then the Christian’s path proves to be viable. God has called us clearly and unmistakably. Like the Magi we have discovered a star: a light and a guide in the sky of our soul.
“We have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.”
We have had the same experience.
We too noticed a new light shining in our soul and growing increasingly brighter. It was a desire to live a fully Christian life, a keenness to take God seriously. If each one of you were to tell aloud the intimate details of how his vocation made itself felt, the rest of us would conclude immediately that it was all God’s doing. Let us give thanks to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and to Holy Mary, through whom all blessings from heaven come to us, for this gift which, along with our faith, is the greatest the Lord can bestow on any of his creatures. It is a clear desire to attain the fullness of charity, the conviction that sanctity is not only possible but necessary in the midst of our social and professional tasks.
Look how gently the Lord invites us. His words have human warmth; they are the words of a person in love: “I have called you by your name. You are mine.”
God, who is beauty and greatness and wisdom, declares that we are his, that we have been chosen as the object of his infinite love.
We need a strong life of faith to appreciate the wonder his providence has entrusted to us.
A faith like that of the Magi, a conviction that neither the desert, nor the storms, nor the quiet of the oases will keep us from reaching our destination in the eternal Bethlehem: our definitive life with God.
A life of faith is a life of sacrifice. Our Christian vocation does not take us away from our place in the world, but it requires us to cast aside anything that would get in the way of God’s will.
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Resources for the Blind: A word to friends
We have become so accustomed to officials, public and private, pushing for their self interest that we are incredulous when faced with people or organizations working for the betterment of their fellow human beings, especially the disadvantaged ones. This is the case of the Resources for the Blind, Inc., a private sector non-profit agency dedicated to the assistance of the visually impaired —more commonly called the blind – and their restoration to normal life.
Brought to the Philippines in 1988 by the American missionary Dr. Arthur Lown, managed by his successor Mr. Randy Weisser until recently when it was taken over by Mr. Nestor Custodio as Executive Director, the RBI provides a wide range of services to persons with visual impairment including preparing blind children for normal schooling, training teachers for the blind, preparation of textbooks in Braille, teaching reading in Braille, preparation of the visually impaired for employment and related services.
Supported with contributions from sympathizers in the United States, it welcomes assistance from kindred spirits in the Philippines. A friend of RBI recently sent out a message of acknowledgement: “To all our friends who gave gladly to the Resources for the Blind, Inc., thank you. 2016 will be a better year. God bless Boots Anson Rodrigo, Jullie Yap Daza, Gon Jurado, Bernie Ople, Johnny Gatbonton, Tessa Mauricio Arriola, Benny Leguesma, Monching Lopez and Fred dela Rosa. Salamuch.”
Friends with generous hearts will want to extend a helping hand to this extraordinarily worthy cause. RBI is located in Cubao, Quezon City. Its contact person is Ms Baby Padasas. Its telephones are Tels. 726 3021 to 24 and its email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.