Epiphany 2018


"It was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery." So Paul describes the gift of faith to the Ephesians. In Matthew's Gospel that same gift of faith is explained like this: "We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage." That is what the Wise Men say to Herod, when they come to Jerusalem looking for the infant king. Isaiah spoke of the gift of faith in these terms, "Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples." The Magi followed a star, whereas Isaiah had foretold that the Lord himself would rise and shine, bringing light to his people and to all those who "lift up their eyes and see." "It means" writes Paul, "that the pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body."

"The sight of the star filled them with delight." The journey of the Magi is really the Exodus of the Gentiles, an exodus from the darkness of separation, ignorance, idolatry and paganism to the light of revelation and the knowledge of God. The gift of faith demands a journey, a pilgrimage: from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan, from Egypt to the Promised Land, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, from distant lands to Jerusalem. This physical journey accompanies a spiritual journey of grace and conversion, a difficult journey from the worship of self to the worship of God. "Falling to their knees they did him homage." The Wise Men could have come all the way to Jerusalem only to listen to Herod and follow his example. The shepherds could have stayed in the fields with their sheep. Mary and Joseph could have said, "No," to the bidding of the angel. Paul could have rejected that revelation on the road to Damascus. It was only the experience of Easter that ultimately convinced the disciples that Jesus was the Christ, thus opening their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit.

The Epiphany, traditionally known as Easter in Winter, celebrates the Paschal Mystery. The star above the manger is a light that shines in the darkness, pointing to a greater light, Christ himself, the Light of the World. The wood of the manger will become the wood of the cross and the cave at Bethlehem, an empty tomb. The title given to Jesus by the Magi, "King of the Jews," will be nailed to the cross by Pontius Pilate. The star leading the Wise Men will give way to the dawning light of Easter and their question, "Where is he who is born?" echoed by that of Mary Magdalene, "Where have you put him?" Just as the Magi kneel down and do homage, so Thomas, falling to his knees before the Risen Christ, will say, "My Lord and my God."

Today we celebrate the threefold revelation of the Mystery of Salvation. The Kings present their prophetic gifts to the Christ-child; Jesus is baptised by John in the waters of the Jordan and, at the Wedding Feast of Cana, water is transformed into wine. When St Leo the Great preached on this day over 1,500 years' ago, he said. "The gifts the Magi first brought to Bethlehem are still being offered by all who come to Christ in faith. When we acclaim Christ as King of the universe, we bring him gold from the treasury of our hearts; when we believe that the only-begotten Son of God has become one with our human nature, we are offering myrrh for his embalming; and when we declare him to be equal in majesty to the Father, we are burning the incense of our worship before him."

Our prayer today is that we listen to Jesus and do what he tells us, that the water of our humanity be changed into the wine of his divinity, that we see God, not lying in a manger, but face to face in the glory of the Kingdom, for that is where the star is leading us.

On behalf of the monastic community, I wish you all a happy Epiphany.