Monday, January 6, 2014
Epiphany of the Lord (Christmas: January 6)
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. "The Lord and ruler is coming; kingship is his, and government and power." With these words, the Church proclaims that today's feast brings to a perfect fulfillment all the purposes of Advent. Epiphany, therefore, marks the liturgical zenith of the Advent-Christmas season. Pius Parsch
The young Messiah is revealed as the light of the nations. Yet, as the antiphon for the Magnificat at Second Vespers reminds us, three mysteries are encompassed in this solemnity: the adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the wedding feast at Cana. Extra candles and/or lamps may be placed around the sanctuary and in other parts of the church to honor Christ revealed as the Light of the Gentiles. It is customary to replace the images of the shepherds at the crib with the three Magi and their gifts.
Epiphany means manifestation. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world; after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem He is revealed to the Magi, who have come from the East to adore Him. All Christian tradition has ever seen in the Magi the first fruits of the Gentiles; they lead in their wake all the peoples of the earth, and thus, the Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation. St. Leo brings out this point admirably in a sermon, read at Matins, in which he shows in the adoration of the Magi the beginnings of Christian faith, the time when the great mass of the heathen sets off to follow the star, which summons it to seek its Saviour.
That is the meaning, too, of the wonderful prophecy from Isaias, which the liturgy appoints to be read in the first nocturn at Matins and at the Epistle of the Mass. This same thought of universal redemption the Church returns to as she sings, in the antiphon to the Magnificat at 2nd Vespers, applying the words to herself, of the union with Christ typified by the wedding feast at Cana, by the baptism of her children foreshadowed by that of Christ in the waters of the Jordan. Formerly, the Epiphany was an additional day for solemn baptisms.