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"And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." Isaiah 60:3
Peace be with you.
Beloved, we conclude Christmastide with the feast of the Epiphany wherein we recall the Magi travelling to find the Christ Child. Epiphany is one of the oldest observed festivals in our liturgical calendar, and with good reason. It appears in the liturgies in the Eastern portions of the undivided Church in the 3rd century and throughout the entirety of the Church’s liturgies post Council of Nicaea I (325 AD). Today the feast is celebrated as Epiphany in Western Christianity with the emphasis on the coming of the Magi and as the feast of the Theophany in the Eastern Orthodox with the recollection of the Baptism of our Lord.
In our Anglican tradition, this feast recalls the vision of Isaiah 60:3 "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." We recall from our Gospel text that “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 worship him.” The temptation is to focus on the Star of Bethlehem, or the Wise Men, and both of those are important because they fulfill Old Testament prophecies.
Micah 5:2 “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
Numbers 24:17 “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.”
Questions surrounding both the Star and the Magi have fascinated biblical scholars, theologians, historians, and astronomers for centuries. The late Pope Benedict XVI even wrote on the topic in his work, “Jesus of Nazareth Infancy Narratives”. Looking at that work, one line clearly stands out, “The key point is this: the wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religious and human reason toward him.”
This “new beginning” was and is to be for all of God’s people – not just the Jews. The coming of the Magi is yet another breakthrough into the prideful and fallen nature of humankind. For in this moment, we see a journeying towards God, not just by the people wherein He was found incarnate, but also by those unbelievers from another land and culture. Most biblical historians believe that the Magi were not only astronomers, but were likely Zoroastrians from Persia that travelled, following the unusual light in the heavens, to bestow gifts on this newborn King.
“…they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.” Isaiah 60:6
Like the Wise Men of old, we too must make a journey, a procession, from darkness to the light of Christ. On this journey we must continually move forward, despite the dangers of the path and the length of travel. We cannot quit or falter in our desire and actions to come to Christ. We seek His love, His mercy, and His grace, and we cannot turn back to our old delusions.
Our world is enveloped in a spiritual darkness that yearns for the Light of Christ. It is the calling of each and every Christian to reflect the Light of Christ to others, to become for them a Star of Bethlehem, and to radiate His love, mercy, and grace. We need to be alert for those occasions to show forth that light in our daily lives to others that still sit in darkness.
Please pray the following prayer throughout the 8 days of Epiphanytide:
“O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
May you process to the Light of Christ on this feast and always.
The Right Reverend William Bower, SSC
Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Eastern United States (DEUS)
Bishop, Vicar General - US Military Chaplains
St. Patrick's Anglican Church
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All Things are Possible with God. Matthew 19:26