Saturday, January 3, 2009

Light to the Nations

(Epiphany of the Lord)

The Christmas season is a very dense set of celebrations. In less than three weeks, we observe five big days: The Nativity of the Lord, the feast of the Holy Family, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Epiphany of the Lord today, and the Baptism of the Lord next weekend. These days represent for us the Christmas mystery in increasing revelation. The Incarnation of the Word, the Son of God, the good news of “God with us” becomes more and more public over the course of the season. We are especially aware of this on this day of Epiphany, because in the magoi who visit the infant Jesus, the good news is revealed to us, the people of the nations. The word epiphany is derived from the Greek word that means, ‘coming to light,’ or ‘appearing.’

This step by step revelation of the appearance of the Son of God began at Midnight Mass, when angels announced the good news to the shepherds. These shepherds living in the fields were the first to know the joy of Christmas, because it’s always the poor who understand the mystery of God most freely and easily.

The next step came last Sunday when we celebrated the feast of the Holy Family. As Jesus’ parents went to present him in the Temple, he was recognized by Simeon and Anna. This elderly pair represents the faithfulness of the Israel of history and they rejoice to see the fulfillment of God’s promises in the newborn Lord. Anna becomes the first evangelist, as she goes off and speaks “about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” Simeon takes the child Jesus in his arms and proclaims his great canticle, which the Church sings every single night in the Liturgy of the Hours. He sees in the child the “glory” of God’s people Israel, who will become “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” This is the fulfillment of the promise made through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading today: the Light has come and will be the “shining radiance” by which the nations of the world will walk.

That’s us, brothers and sisters. I suspect that few of us are biological descendants of Abraham, but through the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the Light of the nations we have become heirs of the promise made to Abraham through adoption. As we pray in the Eucharistic Prayer, “Abraham, our father in faith.”

This is the good news of the visit of the Magi. Their knowledge and their worship of the Son of God, these wise men from far away reveal how, in Christ, the blessing and promises made to the little nation of Israel become available to the whole world.

Notice what a miracle this whole process is! The Son of God was born away from home in poverty and obscurity. His birth—and indeed his life—were important by no conventional human standard. And yet today we, along with our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world, know him as the perfect and complete revelation of God. The process of this public revelation of the Incarnate Word is what we celebrate today.

But let us not forget that the gift of this knowledge of God makes demands of us. That the wise men were able to discern the appearance of the eternal and universal King meant that they had to bring him gifts. And they brought the best things there were: riches, worship, and reverence for the death he would eventually suffer for our salvation. We too, to whom the knowledge of salvation has been given, are called to offer to Jesus the best of ourselves.


GrandmaK said...

The Continued Celebration of the Birth allows me even more time to reflection on my place in salvation history. Thank YOU! Cathy

Jason Ramage said...

Hi Brother Charles (suppose you are Father Charles now?),

Thank you for commenting on my blog, Richest Man in Assisi, in the day when I was actively posting. I've been away for a while, but missing the blog world, and finally getting back into it. Got a couple of new posts up now. :)

Good thoughts for Epiphany. I was thinking, regarding being sons of Abraham by faith, that one of the wonderful gifts of the sacraments is we are indeed grafted to the family of Abraham. Ordination provides the Church with a lineage of spiritual fathers going back to Christ, who was obviously a son of Abraham. In Reconciliation, every sinner is forgiven through the hands of a spiritual son of Christ and Abraham. And through the Eucharist, we all personally commune with Jesus and our bodies become like branches on the Vine rooted in Abraham.

Well, I didn't mean type for so long... not sure if all that is totally kosher, so feel free to critique :)

God bless,

Brother Charles said...

GrandmaK: Thanks as always for your thoughtful encouragement!

Jason: Good to hear from you brother. Here's wishing you sanctity in the new year!