Epiphany, or Theophany as it is known in the Eastern Rite, is celebrated on January 6 in most places around the world. But the Holy See has allowed local Bishops’ Conferences to set their own schedule of Holy Days and, taking the path of least resistance, the American bishops have chosen to move Epiphany to a Sunday to avoid having a mandatory Holy Day of Obligation fall on a weekday.
The day is generally thought of as commemorating the arrival of the three kings to the manger where Jesus lay. That is really too simple, because it is the revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. It is kind of an “ah ha” moment for the world to realize the divinity of God in the infant Jesus. The kings were gentiles who came to see THE King, but it is not clear whether or not they realized the profundity of the mystery they witnessed. They came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
We might ask ourselves what the meaning of the gifts they carried was. As Catholics, we see the gifts as prophetic. Gold was the precious medal which symbolized earthly kingship, but it also symbolized virtue. Who could be more virtuous than Christ? Frankincense was a symbol of the priestly vocation. In the Tridentine Rite, as well as in the Eastern Rite, there is a beautiful prayer which says “let my prayers rise up to You like incense, and the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrfice. O Lord, set a watch before my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips. Let not my heart incline to the evil of engaging in deeds of wickedness.” So the prayer is lifted up to God as the smoke from the incense. Myrrh was an oil used in the preparation of the body for burial, and thus served prophetically as a symbol of suffering and death.
Our family opened gifts on Sunday, the day the Am Church celebrates Epiphany, because it is hard to get everybody together during the week. However, we are looking forward to the beautiful Epiphany Mass and proclamation of the date of Easter when we attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form tonight.
Today I pray that Mike will always be faithful to the Catholic Faith which is the most valuable gift he received on the day of Baptism. It is the anniversary of his own Chrismation (Confirmation) and reception of Holy Communion.