Sunday, 6 January 2019 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate after the twelfth day of Christmas, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, which on this year happens to fall also on its traditional day of the sixth day of January. On this day, we are reminded of the moment of the Epiphany, which came from the word ‘Epiphaneia’ that means manifestation or ‘appearing’ in Greek. This is related to what is commemorated in Epiphany, in what we have as our Scripture passages today.

In the readings for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the central figure and focus is the coming of people from all over the world, which was historically represented by the Three Wise Men or the Three Magi, who came from various parts of the world, bringing gifts and paying homage to the Lord of lords and King of kings, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world. In today’s theme therefore, we see the Lord revealing Himself and His salvation to the many people of various races and origins, beyond the original race of the Israelites.

If at His birth, the Lord’s coming was witnessed by the local shepherds, representing the nation and people of Israel, then the coming of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts and paying homage represent the universality of Our Lord’s salvation and His authority over all of the whole world, and not just over the people of Israel alone. At that time, the prevalent thought was that, the Messiah would come to the people of Israel, and become a King over them, excluding those who did not belong to the race and nation of Israel.

And how did God reveal Himself to the nations? His coming into the world was marked by a great star, a mighty sign in the sky visible to many in various parts of the world, which pointed to the coming of a great King and Saviour, that prompted each one of the Three Wise Men, traditionally named as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, to come from their faraway homelands, to pay a visit to the coming Messiah of God and the King to come.

Each of them bore a gift that when inspected further, seems to be strange and unfitting gifts to be given to a newborn Baby. But, each of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men, in fact played a major part in the revelation of God’s truth, showing us all, the true nature of God and His Saviour, in His great Kingly glory and in His fullness of divinity, and in the mission which He was to embark on, in order to achieve our salvation.

First of all, the gift of gold is a gift that symbolises power and authority, indicating the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, gold is reserved only for the use of royalty and the divine, as they were so precious, incorruptible and beautiful beyond compare. The gift of gold therefore reveals to us the Kingship of Christ, King of all kings, the Lord and Master of all the whole universe. The Three Wise Men came before the Lord and knelt before Him, representing their acknowledgement of Christ as their Lord and King.

Then, the frankincense is the finest quality incense used only exclusively for the worship of the divine, for only the finest is reserved for the use of divine worship. The gift of frankincense thus reveals to us the divinity of Christ, that this Messiah or Saviour Who has come into the world, was not just any mere human beings, but far more than that, as One Who is fully Man, and yet also fully Divine, the Son of God Himself, the Word of God Incarnate.

This shows that the Lord Who has come into the world, is truly the love of God incarnate in the flesh, appearing in our midst, God Who made Himself tangible and touchable, contactable and relatable, and yet, without diminishing His divinity and His Godhood. And it was interesting and remarkable, that God wanted to make Himself so small and insignificant, to put Himself in the Body of a little Child, born in a dirty and cramped stable in the outskirts of the small town of Bethlehem.

This is where the last gift of the Three Wise Men, that is the myrrh, is remarkable, as it reveals to us the purpose and meaning of Christ’s coming into the world, choosing to be born as a Man. The myrrh is a precious ointment and spice, usually used for anointing the body of a deceased person prior to its burial. Truly, it is a very unusual and some may even think, inappropriate gift to be given to a child, and less still, the Child Who is also God and King of kings.

But in truth, even at the moment just after He was born into this world, the third gift, the myrrh has revealed the true nature of His mission, the salvation of all of God’s beloved people, by the obedience of the Son, the suffering He had to endure for the sake of our salvation, the pain and the suffering of the cross of Our Lord. Christ had to suffer and die on the cross, that by His death, He became for us the source of eternal life.

That blessed myrrh is the sign of His mortality, the mortality of the Humanity that is part of His person, and yet, not the mortality caused by His own sins, rather because He willingly took up for Himself, all the sins and punishments due for those sins, so that because of this, by absolving us from our sins, we will not perish and suffer the fate of those who have disobeyed and sinned against God, but instead, have a new hope of life everlasting in God.

This is also linked to the earlier symbolism of the frankincense, as it also presents before us the symbolism of worship, both God Who is worshipped and adored in the divinity of Christ, and in the humanity of Christ acting as the High Priest of all mankind, offering Himself, the Perfect offering of the Most Precious Body and Blood, of the Son of God made Man, Whose blameless and pure sacrifice became the source of our eternal life and salvation.

Therefore, as we have discussed, the three gifts of the Three Wise Men each showed a different aspect of Christ, Who is a King, a Priest and God, and lastly, as a Suffering Servant, the One Who was to suffer and die for our sake. Through all these, the truth about Christ, Who He is and what His mission is, have been revealed to all, and represented by the Three Wise Men, the Magi, all the nations have come to see the glory of God and His salvation.

This is the fulfilment of what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah, who said that a people who lived in darkness, have seen a great light. The Three Wise Men saw the great and bright Star of Bethlehem, and followed its light to find their way to the Messiah, and they found Him, after what would have been a very difficult and arduous journey of probably months and more.

Today, we ought to reflect first of all, on God’s love for us, His desire to reveal to us, the fullness of truth about Himself, of His great and boundless love to each and every one of us. And He chose to enter into our lives, humbling and emptying Himself from all majesty and dignity, being born in a place least suitable for human habitation, less still that of the King of kings and Lord of lords. He gave everything for us, even His life, that by His selfless and ultimate sacrifice, we may have new life in Him and through Him. He revealed Himself to all the peoples of all the nations, that they may know Him, and may be saved, through Him.

This is the true joy of Christmas, which is the reason why we celebrate this wonderful season and time of Christmas, because God’s love has been a part of our lives, and we have seen how glorious and wonderful is His salvation for us. And now, what we need to do, is for us to open our hearts and minds, to welcome Him and to seek Him and His love for us, following in the examples set by the Three Wise Men.

The Three Wise Men travelled from faraway countries, traversing many difficult terrains and facing many challenges along their journey, and yet, they remained faithful despite all those challenges, and completed their journey of faith towards the Saviour Who was promised to come. They believed in the Saviour of God, and came to pay Him homage, while those who have heard the message of God’s truth, such as many of the Pharisees, many among the Israelites, king Herod and his supporters, refused to believe in Him, and rejected Him.

Today’s occasion of the Epiphany calls us to turn towards God, revealed before us, His love and His merciful compassion for us, that we may see in Him, a new hope and light that dawns, dispelling the darkness of sin that have blanketed us and became a barrier preventing us from realising just how much God loves each and every one of us. We are called to walk in the footsteps of the Three Wise Men, to follow the Lord with faith, in our respective journeys of faith in life.

Are we able to make that commitment, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord with ever more conviction and zeal? It is not impossible, for after all, God Himself loved us so much, that He humbled Himself, emptied Himself of all dignity and majesty, that He, the King of kings and Lord of lords, became our Saviour, by His death on the cross, a most painful and humiliating death, out of His love for us. Nothing is impossible for God, and therefore, by God’s will, we too can love Him in the same way.

Let us be inspired by the faith of the Three Wise Men, and walk, from now on, in God’s grace, abandoning our sinful past and embracing a newfound zeal and faith in God, keeping Him as the centre and focus of our lives. May God, Our loving Father, Our Creator and Our Saviour Who revealed Himself to all the nations and to all the peoples that they may know Him, be our guide, and may He bless us in everything we do, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 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.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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) – Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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) – Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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.