Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Feast of the Epiphany

Today is  the day we remember the visit of  the three wise men to the manger, after following the light of a star which brought them to Jesus, our light, the light of the world. In the Easter Church, the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated together with Christmas. The  editorial in the Catholic Times reminds us of the influence we have received from the East in understanding the Feast we celebrate today.

The light was to be for the whole world and these wise men, foreigners, were to be a symbol of the gentiles who would in later years be coming to the Jesus. The feast is the feast of light and of the  manifestation of this light to the whole world. A quote from the sermon of Pope Leo I mentions that God did not want the birth of  Jesus to be confined to the narrow area where his mother gave birth to Jesus; he wanted it known to the whole world.

The editorial asks what meaning does this feast have for us today? Becoming more mature Christians is the answer. And since Christ came to us as the light of world, we need to reflect that light, our light, into our world. 

The light motif recurs often in the Scriptures and in our liturgy. We started off as Christians with our baptism. At which time we were given a candle to hold, either directly or with the help of our godparents, and heard the words: "You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in  your hearts." 
Again at the climax of our liturgical year, at the Easter Vigil, we are reminded of what happened at our baptism. We begin the service at the Vigil blessing with the new fire and lighting of the Paschal Candle. Three times during the procession to the front of the Church we hear, at three different times, the chant, "Light of Christ"  and we answer, "Thanks be to God". At the second chanting, the candles of all the parishioners are lit, which is a ritual way of experiencing what we are meant to be and do as Christians.

This year, no different than last year, many areas of the world are involved in violence and war. The  interests of many are not on the important things of life  obscuring the meaning of the Christmas message. This is the reality and the editorial asks us how are we to face the darkness that we find in life. Since we consider ourselves witnesses to Jesus, are we not to shine this light that we have received in the darkness that surrounds us today? This is the meaning of the Epiphany for us.

Pope Francis has given us a good example of what it means to be a light in the darkness. Light used as a metaphor is free of detractors; few will take issue with this metaphorical use of light. Though, when we speak of  unity, truth, goodness and beauty, there are many who will have difficulty in understanding these concepts in the same way. However, if we make an effort to be a light to others, using our values and work as a light, there is a possibility the light we engender will enable others, along with ourselves, to see the transcendental values more clearly and objectively.

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