Solemnity of Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012
Scripture: Lectionary 20: Isaiah 60:1-6. Psalm 72:1-126.96.36.199-11. 12-13. Ephesians 3:2-3.5-6. Matthew 2:1-12:
St. John Chrysostom tells us that the star that led the Magi to find the child Jesus with his mother in a home in Bethlehem. We know that Joseph was from the house or heritage of David and David’s first city where he ruled was Bethlehem. The statement of Matthew is a good balanced way of looking at Marian theology and devotion, namely, to always find the person of Jesus with his mother; she should not be separated from him whenever we speak of her role within our Catholic devotion and faith. The star has an echo in Matthew that may have issued from his reflection on Numbers 24:17: “A star shall advance from Jacob and a staff shall rise from Israel.” Bethlehem is more directly mentioned in Matthew in its importance for being the place where a ruler would come forth: “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah from you shall come forth for me one who is to be their ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.” This citation is one of the three used from the Old Testament in Lumen Gentium in eighth chapter of this Vatican II document which treats of the role of Mary in the history of salvation. She is not separated from her son nor from the Church.
Symbolism is seen throughout the narrative of Matthew about the coming of the Magi who were influenced by the star and by their faith that there was a newborn king in Israel. In our own lives the star serves as a symbol of our faith for the same gift of guidance to Christ whom we search for all our lives.
There are echoes of Isaiah and the Psam (72) in Matthew and they are wisely chosen for this feast of the Magi (Wise Men). Isaiah tells us, “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you!” (Isaiah 60:1). Matthew is aware of this passage as well as the one from Micah. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he understands the prophecies being fulfilled in the Christ child. The Magi represent us the Gentiles finding the child with his mother through their faith.
The Magi trusted in the light of the star and followed it to Bethlehem where they find the home of Joseph and discover the child, the newborn king, with his mother Mary. We also know from the first chapter of Matthew that the Evangelist has prepared us for the legitimacy of this birth from the virgin under the protection of Joseph who likewise accepted the child through the law of Israel and became his legal father. The Davidic lineage is clearly from Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was from Bethlehem. King David of the royal messianic lineage ruled in Bethlehem for seven years before his long reign in Jerusalem, the city of Judah.
In the short selection from Ephesians we learn that the holy apostles and prophets have revealed to us this secret plan of God and both Jew and Gentile are a part of it. This would include everyone in the universalism spoken of in the Bible. The Messiah was to be the Savior of all.
There is a long tradition of symbolism developed under the three gifts offered by the Magi. They come to have precise names as this tradition grows: Kasper, Melchior, and Balthesar. The gifts may be thought of in this way for our own personal reflection. Gold is the symbol of God’s love; frankincense is our prayer; myrrh is the aromatic balm of the Holy Spirit. We too are called to bring the spirit of these three gifts to the child and his mother by our own love of God, our prayers, and our listening to the Holy Spirit in what Matthew has handed on to us in this remarkable narrative about the Magi. Amen.