Painting: Waldemar Flaig, Star of Bethlehem,1920
Feast of Epiphany
Isaiah 60: 1-6
Ephesus 3: 2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2: 1-12
We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
When the blazing sun is gone
When he nothing shines upon
Then you show your little light
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
The kid song twinkle little star helps me to reflect on the feast of Epiphany because the lyrics actually contains the meaning of Epiphany. The lyrics raise a question How I wonder what you are? By faith, I answer: that star is Jesus Christ. The star is the Christ who has become the life, the light for all nations.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Epiphany. The Greek word Epiphany means appearance or manifestation. In the Western Church, the Feast of the Epiphany refers to Jesus’ first appearance to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi. Who were the Magi? The Magi were the wise men from Orient, exactly they were the priests of Zoroaster – an ancient religion centered in Iran. According to legend, they were identified by name and their lands of origin: Melchior hailed from Persia, Gaspar (also called “Caspar” or “Jaspar”) from India, and Balthazar from Arabia.
The feast of Epiphany is the fulfillment of what is prophesied by Isaiah. Darkness covered the earth and thick darkness was over the peoples, that was when the blazing sun had gone and when nothing shone upon the life. But the grace came down to the universe, the twinkle divine star aroused in the darkest and showed its light brightly like a diamond in the sky. Light casted out the darkness. Jesus Christ was the star who rose upon them and his glory appeared over them. No more fear and coward.
From now on, God has shown through the star the King and the Savior who born for all the nations. He is the king of humility, the king without the palace, the king without the weapon but He is king for all nations with His light, His peace, and His love. The whole universe has gathered under Jesus’s star in order to know: Jesus Christ is Majesty, the Lord who saves the world and redeems the universe from sin; so that the nations know that the Lord Jesus Christ loves them all. The gifts of Magi symbolize and confirm all realities mentioned above. The gift of gold represents his Majesty as king, frankincense represents his divinity as God, and the myrrh represents his humanity as Savior because he will die to redeem the universe from the sin. Then, the feast of epiphany proclaims that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel for all universe. No one and nothing left behind and His love and His light accompany all the creatures. All races will all be members of Christ’s body. So, salvation is not only for Israel but for all people who believe in Jesus Christ. Salvation is for all universe. The feast of Epiphany has proved that discrimination is not available between the nations or races because Jesus is the light for all nations and under His light is only peace, equality, and fraternity and they are united to come to worship Jesus Christ. His light is the universal light that leads all the people to recognize him as the savior. It is good news and because of the Good News, they will all look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ. That’s why nations will come to his light and kings to the brightness of his dawn. The appearance of the star in the feast of Epiphany means the universe acknowledges the light, enjoys the light and walks in the light (Fr. Tony Kadavil). As a sign of gratitude for the priceless lessons of faith offered by Jerusalem, the nations will bring wealth by land and sea, especially gold for the temple and frankincense for the sacrifice. The magi have done it.
The magi were the men who sought the truth, who came for Jesus’s light, and Jesus’s love. When the bright star was above, they knew that it was a sign of divinity. They were intellectual people because they were astrologers who investigated the star but they were also men of faith. They just followed the star and made a long and far journey to Jerusalem to worship Jesus. The Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”.
When the star stopped in a place that is in a simple home, they saw a poor child and his mother. But they were not disappointed or they calculated that the star guidance was wrong; otherwise, they did worship Jesus. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. This was the peak of their faith. As the manifestation of their faith, they opened their treasures and presented to him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The opening of the treasures they had brought as gifts symbolized the offering of their own hearts. How the remarkable faith it was. They were able to “see” beyond appearances. They recognized the child Jesus as the true king and the light. They found not only the secret of the star but the secret of the whole universe – the secret of God’s incredible love for His people. For the Child they found was no ordinary child but the very Son of God become a man. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds, quoted from Fr Tony Kadavil homily). Jesus’s light fulfilled their heart they were overjoyed.
The attitude of the magi was different from the attitude of Herod and the teachers of the law-priests. The Herod response was hatred and destructive because Herod was only fearful that this infant would steal his throne. The Herod refers to the Christian who is the doer of evil and of crime. Meanwhile, the teachers of the law-priest were more interested in their own business which makes them blind and indifferent even though the scripture has revealed it clearly. They were reluctant to meet and indeed to worship Jesus because of their status, their arrogance. The teachers of the law and the priests pinpoint to the Christians who are so ambitious in seeking power, money so that they are reluctant to worship Jesus; they are the worshiper of money, of power, of pleasure. The question for us is who are we? Are we the magi, or the Herod or the teachers of the law-priest?
Life is a journey but is not just an ordinary journey; it is the journey with the Jesus’s light, with the star of Bethlehem. We come to adore Jesus from all the world. We come along to see Jesus. That is the purpose of our journey. During our journey, the star of Bethlehem always precedes us. We do not know well how the star of Bethlehem seen in orient thousand years ago now is still conducting us to Jesus. For this reason, there is light in our heart that is stronger than all darkness it fights but if only we are brave enough to see it and to follow it. A journey always involves a transformation, a change like the magi that they returned to their country by another route after seeing the child Jesus. In our journey we meet many obstacles, problems, we getting weary but the star always gives us the direction where we must go as long as we have faith and seek the truth. The magi brought their gift during the journey. How is about us? We can bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh which very easy to find in our era. But what we do with the gold, frankincense, and myrrh? We take them while thinking of our ways. What will we give to him after find and meet him? Furthermore, since the resurrection of Jesus, he is no longer on earth. Christina Rosetti in her poems A Christmas Carol responds beautifully: What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I could give a Lamb. If I were a wise man, I could do my part. What can I give Him? Give Him my heart! (quoted from Fr. Tony Kadavil) We give the child Jesus our heart. But how to give him with our heart? By the testimony of faith and act of faith; by the testimony of love and act of love; and by the testimony of hope and act of hope. All of them unite and become a heart of epiphany, a lightful and twinkle heart. Then, we bring the faith as our gold, we take love as our frankincense, and we deliver the hope as our myrrh to see and to worship him. Through faith, love, and hope, we can see beyond appearances, we can see the child Jesus in every heart of the people. We can see the manifestation or the appearances of Jesus to all nations in peace, in forgiveness. Every day is worship to Him in peace and in prayer, in our relation with our fellow and the creatures. And everything we do is lighted by the feast of Epiphany. Everything is yellow because of the light Christ’s star. And look how it shines for us and accompanies us during our journey to worship Jesus. We are overjoyed. Suddenly we are on the new route, we are transformed into new men. We become like Jesus’s star, full of light even in the darkness and drawing our neighbors from all nations to one Jesus Christ: the light for all nations (Fr. Dominic White, OP). It is real, it is true, it is faith, it is love, it is hope but if only we want to be it.
The light of Jesus’s star has spread in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Now that star may disappear from the view because the star has already become our mine. Hopefully, we maintain the light in our hearts so that we taste the mystery of Epiphany and to feel Jesus’s light for all nations.