Saturday, 6 January 2018 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we all celebrate the great feast and solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, which traditionally marks the end of the season of Christmas, and which begins the time of the Ordinary Time in the current Roman calendar, and the Weekdays after Epiphany in the Traditional calendar. On this great occasion, we remember the moment, when the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour and God, was revealed to the whole world.

The word Epiphany itself comes from the Greek term Epiphaneia, which means manifestation or appearance. That is why this Solemnity, among the most ancient and historical in the traditions of the Church, celebrates the moment when the Lord and Saviour manifested Himself before the world, in the most extraordinary manner. He revealed Himself in ways that many people could not have expected or comprehended.

No, He did not appear before His people in His glory, showing His might and power, with bright light and unapproachable majesty. Had He done that, everyone on earth would have come to believe Him and fear Him right away then. But that was not what He intended to do, and that was not what He had done. No, He appeared in the most unexpected way of all, as a small, little, weak and vulnerable Baby lying down in a manger, in a small, cramped and dirty stable not fit for human beings, and less so for a King, and even less so for the Lord and Master of all creation.

Yet, that is how He has come into this world, assuming the humble appearance and reality of a Man, and as a vulnerable and weak Baby, needing protection and care from His earthly parents. And at the moment of His birth, His coming into this world was pronounced by the Angels of God to the shepherds of Bethlehem. And yet, that was not all that had happened, because especially the significance of today’s Solemnity of the Epiphany is that God wanted to love all of His beloved people, regardless of their status or background.

He came into this world not to save just the people of Israel, but also all of the other races and nations, the non-Jewish people or also known as the Gentiles. And all of these are highlighted in the Scriptures, as we heard the story of the Three Magi or the Three Wise Men, which takes central place in the celebration we have for this great Solemnity of the Epiphany.

The three of them came from faraway lands, travelling for a long period just that they might come to pay homage to the King Who was to be born in Bethlehem, which they saw through the appearance of the bright new star on the sky, the Star of Bethlehem. There are many symbolisms associated with the Solemnity of the Epiphany, and these were just some of them.

The Three Magi represent the faithful people coming from all sorts of background, from distant lands as the premonition of the future, which is our present time and the history of the Church, as the faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Christian faith, came to spread to all parts of the world, even to the most distant corners and parts of the earth.

They came to Jesus through the Star of Bethlehem, which is a sign of the faith they had in God. Even though the Star of Bethlehem might have been a very wonderful and bright star, an unusual astronomical sign, but no one would have done anything more than admiring it, had they not had great faith in God. That was what the Three Magi had done, travelling very long distance to reach the Lord, even though they did not know Who He was.

When they reached Bethlehem and found the Baby Jesus lying in the manger, through the gifts they brought Him, they also made Him to be revealed to the world, witnessed by all those who were gathered there, and later on immortalised through the Holy Gospels, as what we have heard today, the moment when God called all of His people to Him, and revealed to them Who He really was, in Jesus Christ.

The Three Magi brought Jesus the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Certainly these gifts are not what is common or usual as things to be given to a person, and less still, a newborn Baby. Yet, each of these gifts gives us greater insight to Who Jesus really is, and in fact, each of them highlight a different aspect of the Messiah or Saviour Who came into this world, two millennia ago.

Gold has been highly prized by humanity for a very long time, treasured for its useful properties. It does not rust or tarnish, and therefore it is adapted almost universally as a primary material in the crafting of coins and bullions, as methods for people to do monetary and trading transactions, as well as for the accumulation of wealth. The more gold someone has, the more prestige and honour he or she has.

And gold is also highly prized for its beautiful shine and lustre, which makes it the material of choice for kings and the divinities like gods and idols. Therefore, the gift of gold by the Magi to the Lord Jesus highlights His kingship, for He is indeed the King of all kings, Ruler of all rulers. Yet, this King came not in His grand regalia and wealth, and neither did He come with the showing of His power and majesty. Instead, He chose to come as the humble Son of Man, born of a humble and simple woman, married to a simple carpenter of Nazareth.

Then how about the frankincense? Frankincense is the best quality incense available in the world, the finest of all the finest incense materials made from aromatic natural sources such as hardened tree secretions and natural chemicals. Incense has been used for a very long time throughout the history of mankind for the purpose of divine worship and adoration. As such, it has only been used for the purpose of worship, and not for human beings, and therefore, it symbolises the divine nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The frankincense highlights that Our Lord and God is truly the one and only true God, high above any other beings of this world, above all the false idols and gods, and is the only one worthy of worship and praise. And we therefore recognise Jesus not only as just Man, but also God Himself, having two natures, one human and one divine, united in His person.

Last of all, is the gift of myrrh, a truly strange gift to be given to someone, as myrrh is the substance used during embalming and preservation of dead bodies, in order to prevent the dead bodies from decaying and decomposing. Yet, it is the same myrrh and mixture used at the time when Jesus was buried after His death on the cross and before He was placed in the tomb. Myrrh therefore represents the then upcoming fulfilment of God’s mission realised in Jesus, which is through His death on the cross.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the visit of the Three Magi paying homage to Our Lord Jesus is a reminder for each one of us, that Christ is indeed the focus of our Christmas joy, and the focus of our entire faith life. We cannot sideline Him or ignore Him if we are indeed truly Christians, not just in name, but also in action and reality. Unfortunately, there are many among us out there, who have forgotten this fact, and live our lives in absence of Christ in our lives.

We put our human desires, ambitions and all the other things that this world has offered us, ahead of our obligation to love the Lord and to heed His call, for us to come to Him. We always delay whenever He calls, and often we even pretend not to listen when He speaks with us, in the depth of our hearts. And this is one of the main reasons why there are so many of us Christians who are encountering deep crises in our faith, because we do not really embody what we believe in, and our faith becomes merely a formality, rather than reality.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us come to realise, by reflecting on the story of the Three Wise Men, the Magi, who embarked on a long and difficult journey to seek the Lord, and when they finally found Him, they were overcome with joy and gave Him the worthy homage and honour He deserved. And as we have discussed earlier, their actions, the gifts they gave to the Lord, became the source of revelation, that indeed, Jesus, the Baby lying in the manger two millennia ago in Bethlehem, is Our Lord and Saviour, the ultimate proof of God’s everlasting love for us.

That is why, as we reflect again on the significance of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we should remember God’s love for us, such that while He is God and King over all, but He willingly embraced us through His assumption of a human nature, and made Himself tangible and visible for us, through the gift of Jesus, His Son. And the gift of myrrh should remind us of that act of ultimate and incomparable love when He gave up His life on the cross, that we may live, and that all of us who believe in Him may receive the grace of eternal life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of the Three Magi, going forth on a new journey of faith towards the Lord bearing gifts. No, not the gift of gold, or any other worldly precious items, but rather, the gift of our loving hearts. God does not want anything else from us beside our love and commitment, and it is therefore time for us to begin loving Him, and giving Him our all, if we have not done so.

May the Lord, Who was revealed to all of us by the Three Magi bearing the gifts revealing His humanity and divinity, and the mission through which He saved us all, by His death on the cross, continue to guide us on our own respective journeys of faith, that eventually we may find our way to Him, and together with the Angels and the saints, we may give Him honour, praise and glory forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 6 January 2018 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 2 : 1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the days of king Herod, wise men from the East arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw the rising of His star in the East and have come to honour Him.”

When Herod heard this he was greatly disturbed, and with him all Jerusalem. He immediately called a meeting of all high-ranking priests and scribes, and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

“In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they told him, “For this is what the prophet wrote : And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the clans of Judah, for from you will come a Leader, the One Who is to shepherd My people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called the wise men and asked them the precise time the star appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem with the instruction, “Go and get accurate information about the Child. As soon as you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may go and honour Him.”

After the meeting with the king, they set out. The star that they had seen in the East went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the Child was. The wise men were overjoyed on seeing the star again. They went into the house, and when they saw the Child with Mary His mother, they knelt and worshipped Him. They opened their bags and offered Him their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.

In a dream they were warned not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another way.

Saturday, 6 January 2018 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 3 : 2-3a, 5-6

You may have heard of the graces God bestowed on me for your sake. By a revelation He gave me the knowledge of His mysterious design. This mystery was not made known to past generations but only now, through revelations given to holy Apostles and prophets.

Now the non-Jewish people share the Inheritance; in Christ Jesus the non-Jews are incorporated and are to enjoy the Promise. This is the Good News.

Saturday, 6 January 2018 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

O God, endow the King with Your justice, the Royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

Justice will flower in His days, and peace abound till the moon be no more. For He reigns from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.

The kings of Tarshish and the islands render Him tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts, all kings bow down to Him, and all nations serve Him.

He delivers the needy who call on Him, the afflicted with no one to help them. His mercy is upon the weak and the poor, He saves the life of the poor.

Saturday, 6 January 2018 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 60 : 1-6

Arise, shine, for your Light has come. The Glory of YHVH rises upon you. Night still covers the earth and gloomy clouds veil the peoples, but YHVH now rises and over you His glory appears. Nations will come to your Light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes round about and see : they are all gathered and come to you, your sons from afar, your daughters tenderly carried. This sight will make your face radiant, your heart throbbing and full; the riches of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you.

A flood of camels will cover you, caravans from Midian and Ephah. Those from Sheba will come, bringing with them gold and incense, all singing in praise of YHVH.

(Usus Antiquior) Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord (I Classis) – Saturday, 6 January 2018 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : White

Offertory

Psalm 71 : 10-11

Reges Tharsis, et insulae munera offerent : reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent : et adorabunt Eum omnes reges terrae, omnes gentes servient Ei.

 

English translation

The kings of Tarshish and the islands shall offer presents, the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts and all kings of the earth shall adore Him, all nations shall serve Him.

 

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Ecclesiae Tuae, quaesumus, Domine, dona propitius intuere : quibus non jam aurum, thus et myrrha profertur; sed quod eisdem muneribus declaratur, immolatur et sumitur, Jesus Christus, Filius Tuus, Dominus noster : Qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus. Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

Favourably regard the gifts of Your Church, o Lord, wherein no longer gold is offered, nor frankincense, nor myrrh, but He who by these gifts is signified and has become our Sacrifice and our Food, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

 

Preface of the Epiphany

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere : Domine, Sancte Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus : Quia, cum Unigenitus Tuus in substantiae nostrae mortalitatis apparuit, nova nos immortalitatis suae luce reparavit. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus cumque omni militia caelestis exercitus hymnum gloriae Tuae canimus, sine fine dicentes :

 

English translation

It is truly meet and just, right and salutary, that we should always, and in all places, give thanks to You, o Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God. Because Your only begotten Son appearing in our mortal nature had restored it by the shedding upon us of that new and immortal light which is His very own. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations and with all the array of the heavenly host, we sing a hymn to Your glory and unceasingly repeat :

 

Communion

Matthew 2 : 2

Vidimus stellam Ejus in Oriente, et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.

 

English translation

We have seen His star in the east, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.

 

Post-Communion Prayer

Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus : ut, quae sollemni celebramus officio, purificatae mentis intellegentia consequamur. Per Dominum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus. Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

Grant, we beseech You, o Almighty God, by the understanding of hearts made pure we may comprehend that which by solemn rite we celebrate. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord (I Classis) – Saturday, 6 January 2018 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : White

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew

Matthew 2 : 1-12

Cum natus esset Jesus in Bethlehem Juda in diebus Herodis regis, ecce, Magi ab Oriente venerunt Jerosolymam, dicentes : Ubi est, qui natus est Rex Judaeorum? Vidimus enim stellam Ejus in Oriente, et venimus adorare eum.

Audiens autem Herodes rex, turbatus est, et omnis Jerosolyma cum illo. Et congregans omnes principes sacerdotum et scribas populi, sciscitabatur ab eis, ubi Christus nasceretur. At illi dixerunt ei : In Bethlehem Judae : sic enim scriptum est per Prophetam : Et tu, Bethlehem terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus Juda; ex te enim exiet dux, qui regat populum meum Israel.

Tunc Herodes, clam vocatis Magis, diligenter didicit ab eis tempus stellae, quae apparuit eis : et mittens illos in Bethlehem, dixit : Ite, et interrogate diligenter de puero : et cum inveneritis, renuntiate mihi, ut et ego veniens adorem eum.

Qui cum audissent regem, abierunt. Et ecce, stella, quam viderant in Oriente, antecedebat eos, usque dum veniens staret supra, ubi erat Puer. Videntes autem stellam, gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde. Et intrantes domum, invenerunt Puerum cum Maria Matre ejus, (genuflect here) ei procidentes adoraverunt eum.

Et apertis thesauris suis, obtulerunt ei munera, aurum, thus et myrrham. Et responso accepto in somnis, ne redirent ad Herodem, per aliam viam reversi sunt in regionem suam.

 

English translation

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of king Herod, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who is born the King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and we have 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 the Christ should be born. But they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet, ‘And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of you shall come forth the ruler that shall rule My people Israel.'”

Then Herod privately calling the wise men, learnt diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them, and sending them to Bethlehem, he said, “Go and diligently inquire after the Child, and when you have found Him bring word to me again, so that I may also come and adore Him.”

Having heard the king, they 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 exceedingly great joy. And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, His mother (kneel here) and falling down they adored Him.

And opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having received a vision in their sleep, that they should not return to Herod, they went back by another way into their own country.