The word ‘epiphany’ was originally used in Greek mythology in the sense of ‘theophany’, viz., the manifestation of a god in human form. The Christian feast of Epiphany originated in the Eastern Church, probably to substitute some of the pagan theophany celebrations. In the beginning, the feast included the birth of Christ, the manifestation of Christ to Magi, the baptising of Christ and His first miracle at Cana - all events where Christ is being manifested to the world. This feast was adopted by the Western Church in the 4th century, but with special emphasis laid on the adoration of the Magi, i.e., the manifestation of Jesus to the non–Jewish people. In some places, this feast is also called “Christmas of the gentiles”.
According to an ancient tradition preserved and passed on through the centuries by believers, the magi were of three different generations. Caspar was thought to be a very young man, Balthazar was middle-age and Melchior was a senior citizen. The message underlying this tradition is that Jesus, God’s Son and our Saviour, speaks to each of us at every stage and at every moment of our lives. The old hear the call to integrity and wisdom. The middle-age hear the call to service and responsibility. The young hear the call to identity and intimacy. What call do you hear today and how will you respond to it?
Today, as we come with the gift of ourselves to honour Jesus, he will meet us where we are, at whatever age we are, in whatever frame of mind and heart we are, with whatever joys and “baggage” we carry with us. He will meet us where we are and engage us in conversation. He will call us to accept this new year as God’s gift. He will invite us to see in it the promise of a new beginning, supported by grace and enabled by God’s own Spirit. He will encourage us to take full advantage of the gift of yet another chance to become a truer reflection of God in whose image we are beautifully and wonderfully made.
What will you carry away with you after your “visit” and conversation with God? In today’s 1st reading (Is 60:1-6) Isaiah suggests that the joy we experience in God’s forgiving and merciful presence should so shine forth within us that others might see and be similarly drawn to God. In today’s 2nd reading (Eph 3:2-3,5-6), Paul reminds us that our relationship with God in Christ also makes us related to one another and all others. In the 21st Christian century, this relatedness must necessarily form bonds even between those who might otherwise regard one another as enemies. While this may be challenging to achieve, the universal character of the Gospel demands that this universality be translated into our practical everyday lives.