Fr. Leonard Goffine's
The Church's Year
AND FEAST OF EPIPHANY
the COLLECT, and the
EPISTLE, are the same
as on the Sunday after Christmas.]
(Mt. 2:19-23). At that time: when Herod was dead, behold an Angel
of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, saying: Arise,
and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel:
for they are dead that sought the life of the child. Who arose,
and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod
his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep,
retired into the quarters of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city
called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by the
prophets: that he shall be called a Nazarite.
In this we see how wonderfully God deals
with His own. He indeed permits them to be persecuted and oppressed,
but never to be suppressed, and from time to time He gives them
many consolations. Jesus was forced to flee into Egypt to escape
the persecution of Herod, because God did not wish to save Him by
an evident miracle, but in an ordinary manner. He lived in poverty
in Egypt, but for no longer time than God willed, Who having confounded
His enemies, and taken them out of His way, called Him back, and
He passed His youth in peace and quietness. The dispensations of
God the Father in regard to His Son, and the care He had for Him,
should be a consolation for the just; they must be happy if God
deals with them as He did with His Son; they will certainly, like
Christ, be made to suffer no more than God permits, and their sufferings
will be ever accompanied by consolations. St. Joseph avoided the
land of Judea, because he feared since Archelaus succeeded Herod
in the government, he might also imitate him in his cruelty. A Nazarite
means, a low person, a despised person. Jesus was so called, because
He grew up at Nazareth, and spent the greater part of His life in
that city, which was held in such contempt by the Jews that they
could not believe, anything good could come out of Nazareth (Jn.
festival is this?
This festival is set apart
to solemnly commemorate the coming of the three wise men from the
East, guided by a miraculous star which appeared to them, and directed
them to Bethlehem, where they found Christ in the stable; here they
honored and adored Him and offered gifts to Him.
this day called Epiphqnid Domini, or Apparition of the Lord?
Because the Church wishes
to bring before our mind the three great events in the life of Christ,
when He made known to man His divinity: the coming of the wise men
from the East, through whom He revealed Himself to the Gentiles
as the Son of God; His baptism, on which occasion His Divinity was
made known to the Jews, and His first miracle at the marriage of
Cana, by which He revealed Himself to His disciples.
Behold the Lord the Ruler is come; and
the kingdom is in his hand, and power and dominion (Mal. 3). Give
to the king thy judgment, O God; and to the king's son thy justice
(Ps. 71:1). Glory be to the Father.
God, Who on this day by the leading of a star didst reveal Thine
only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; mercifully grant, that we who
know Thee now by faith may be brought to contemplate the beauty
of Thy majesty. Through our Lord.
(Is. 60:1-6). Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem; for thy light
is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, For behold,
darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the peoples; but the
Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness
of thy rising. Lift up thy eyes round about, and see; all these
are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come
from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt
thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged,
when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength
of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall
cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha; all they from Saba
shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise
to the Lord.
The Prophet Isaias, in this epistle, predicts
that the light of the Lord, which is Christ, will rise over Jerusalem,
the prototype of the Church, and that the Gentiles who knew nothing
of the true God, would come to walk in that light which Christ,
by His doctrine and holy life, would cause to shine, and that numberless
nations, from all parts of the world, would assemble as her children
to adore the one true God. The fulfillment of this prophecy commenced
with the adoration of the Magi, who are to be regarded as the first
Christian converts of the Gentiles; the Church, therefore, very
properly celebrates this day with great solemnity. We ought also
to share in the joy of the Church, because our ancestors were Gentiles,
and like the three wise men were called to the true faith. Let us
exclaim with Isaias: Give praise, O ye heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
ye mountains give praise with jubilation: because the Lord hath
comforted his people, and will have mercy on his poor ones (Is.
(Mt. 2:1-12). When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days
of king Herod, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem,
saying: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen
his star in the East, and are come to adore him. And king Herod
hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling
together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to
him: In Bethlehem of Juda; for so it is written by the prophet:
And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the
princes of Juda, for out of thee shall come forth the ruler that
shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise
men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared
to them; and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently
inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word
again, that I also may come and adore him. Who having heard the
king, went their way; and behold, the star which they had seen in
the East went before them, until it came and stood over where the
child was. And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great
joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary
his mother and falling down they adored him. And opening their treasures,
they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having
received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod,
they went back another way into their own country.
the three kings to undertake so tedious a journey?
A star which God permitted
to appear in their land, at the sight of which they were inwardly
enlightened, so that they at once recognized its signification.
Let us learn from these kings who so readily responded to the inspiration
of God, by immediately undertaking so difficult a journey, to follow
without delay the promptings of divine grace, and from their zeal,
and the fearlessness with which they asked Herod where the Messiah
would be found, we should learn to seek and practice, without fear
of men, whatever is necessary for our salvation.
Herod fear, and all Jerusalem with him?
Because Herod, a proud, imperious,
cruel, and therefore jealous king, was afraid, when he heard of
a new-born king, that he would be deprived of his throne, and punished
for his vices. A bad conscience is always ill at ease, and has no
peace. There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord God (Is.
57:21). Jerusalem, that is, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, feared
because many of them were attached to Herod, and others, especially
the chief priests and the scribes, feared they would be punished
for their secret crimes, when the Messiah would come, of whom they
knew that He shall judge the poor with justice, and with the breath
of his lips he shall slay the wicked (Is. 11:4).
Herod assemble the chief priests and the scribes?
Partly to find from them
where the Messiah was to be born, partly and principally because
God so directed it, that Herod and the chief priests, knowing the
time and place of the Messiah's birth, would have no excuse for
their infidelity. In the same way God often makes known to us, in
the clearest manner the most wholesome truths, yet we heed them
as little as did the Jews who had sufficient knowledge of the Messiah,
indeed, even showed the way to the three kings, but made no use
of it for themselves, and were therefore cast away.
Herod say he wished to adore the child?
This he did out of wicked
hypocrisy and dissimulation. He had no other intention than to put
Jesus to death, and therefore affected piety to
find out exactly the time and place of His birth. Thus do those
murderers of souls who desire the fall of the innocent; they do
not let their evil intentions be made known at once, and so they
put on sheep's clothing, feign piety and devotion, until they creep
into the heart from which, by flattery and irony about religion
and virtue, and by presents, they expel shame, the fear of God,
and thus murder the soul.
the kings fall down and adore Christ?
Because by the light of faith
they saw in the Infant at Bethlehem God Himself, and, notwithstanding
the poverty of His surroundings, recognized in Him the expected
Messiah, the new-born king of the Jews, and by prostrating themselves
before Him paid Him the homage of their country.
the kings offer gold, frankincense and myrrh?
Because it was the ancient
Eastern custom, never to appear without presents before a prince
or king, and the three kings, as the holy Fathers universally teach,
enlightened by the Holy Ghost, desired by their presents to honor
Christ as God, as king, and as man. Of this the venerable Bede writes:
"The first of the kings, named Melchior, offered gold to Christ
the Lord and king; the second, named Caspar, frankincense to the
divinity of Christ; and the third, Balthassar, myrrh, by which was
expressed that Christ, the Son of man, must die."
we bring similar offerings to Christ?
We offer gold to Him, when
we love Him with our whole heart, and out of love to Him, present
Him our will by perfect obedience and continual self-denial, as
our will is our most precious treasure. We also offer Him gold when
we assist the poor by alms given in His name. We offer Him frankincense
when we devoutly and ardently pray to Him, especially when we meditate
upon His omnipotence, love, goodness, justice
and mercy. We offer Him myrrh when we avoid carnal desires, mortify
our evil inclinations and passions, and strive for purity of body
the kings return by another way to their own country?
This they did by command
of God. From the example of the three wise men we should learn to
obey God rather than man, that we must be obedient to His directions,
even if we do not understand them; so the three kings obeyed, although
they may not have understood why God commanded them to flee from
Herod. After we have found God we should walk in the path of virtue,
and not return to our old sinful ways. "Our fatherland is paradise,
heaven," writes St. Gregory. "We have departed from it
by pride, disobedience, abuse of the senses, therefore it is needed
that we return to it by obedience, contempt of the world, and by
taming the desires of the flesh; thus we return to our own country
by another road. By forbidden pleasures we have forfeited the joys
of paradise, by penance we must regain them."
Give me, O divine Savior, the faith of
those Eastern kings. Enlighten my understanding with the light
which enlightened them, and move my heart, that I may in future
follow this light, and sincerely seek Thee who hast first sought
me. Grant also, that I may really find Thee, with the wise men may
adore Thee in spirit and in truth, and bring to Thee the gold of
love, the frankincense of prayer, and the myrrh of penance and
mortification, that, having here offered Thee the sacrifice of my
faith, I may adore Thee in Thy eternal glory. Amen.