Epiphany 2022

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, blessings, and peace, as we celebrate the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Commonly known as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, on this occasion we commemorate that time in history when men first became aware of an important aspect of God’s self-revelation in the Incarnation of His Only Begotten Son. Although the Incarnation had been prophesied throughout history, this reality became known more clearly and intimately to the Blessed Virgin Mary “by the message of an angel,” as we pray in the Angelus. From there, it came to be known to Joseph in a dream, to her cousin, Elizabeth, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and to the Shepherds on the evening of the Nativity by the appearance of an angel. If we imagine the Incarnation to be like a rock thrown into a pond, the revelation spreads out like the ripples. The difference is that ripples are less powerful over greater distance and time from the center, and are eventually unable to be distinguished from the rest of the water; but God’s self-revelation in Christ Jesus can be as clear and as intimate to any one of us if we have the faith of those first privileged to know God as the Christmas Child. God’s self-revelation does not wither away. The Miracle remains as compelling to us as to those back then who were alive to see it all with their own eyes. Continuing with the metaphor of a rock thrown into a pond, the question is whether the ripples will spread only to the edge of that pond, or whether those same ripples will spread across every other body of water regardless of the land between them. Distance and time within the pond may not lessen the intensity of God’s self-revelation, but what about new or not yet discovered bodies of water? Are they too caught up into the ripples of Christmas Joy?

The Three Kings or Wise Men are foreigners from the East. They have no cultural, political, nor religious affiliations with First Century Judaism, and yet the Incarnation has been made known unto them. Their eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit, and they behold that Nativity Star in the night sky for what it is. In virtue of their wisdom, they discern God’s self-revelation and, just as importantly, how they must respond to what has been made so clear to them. As this is made clear to strangers, so is it made clear to us: The ripples of Christmas Joy, indeed, will not be landlocked. They will spread, regardless of the many divisions that men have imposed upon one another since God first turned men away from constructing the Tower of Babel. All that has been upended will be made right in Christ Jesus. No one will be left untouched by this divine joy unless they choose to reject it in favor of their own mad obsessions. Moreover, as the ripples of Christmas Joy reach out to the farthest strangers, so do they pull everyone back into the family of the faithful who are willing to be so embraced. God’s self-revelation to the most distant and foreign of the Gentiles means that in Christ Jesus those who were once strangers are made kin. Broad generalizations and gross stereotypes about “those others,” whatever the racial, ethnic, national, cultural, religious, or ideological identity, will fall to the side like worn clothes fit for a bonfire. Instead, in the family of the faithful, we shall see the fulness of Christ Jesus in our clear eyed, personal, and familial interactions with one another. For there are no strangers in heaven and even less so will there be strangers in the Father’s Kingdom. In the eternal life for which we are saved from sin and reborn in the Blood of the Lamb, there are no national borders, no walls, except for the wall that forever separates us from sin and death, no passports, except for Christ Jesus Himself, no oppressive laws, for the Law of God etched into our hearts will be the basis of our liberty and freedom. Artistic depictions of the Three Kings or Wise Men suggest this as well. For example, in Byzantine art, the Magi are often painted in Persian clothes including breeches, capes, and Phrygian caps. In other words, they are depicted as among the longstanding foes of the Eastern Roman Empire. The Persians are to be feared, hated, stereotyped; and yet, as they come unto Christ Jesus, they enter into the family of the faithful. Where once they are lost in a sea of foreign and hostile faces, in coming unto Christ Jesus they have unique names: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. According to Origen, they bring gifts to the Christ Child that symbolically attest to the Incarnation: Gold, as to a King; Myrrh, as to the embalming of a man; and Incense, as to the worship of God. The more we strangers enter into the family of the faithful, the more we are known to one another, and the better we recognize Christ Jesus and learn to praise Him.

The Three Kings teach us that strangers become family in Christ Jesus. The foreigner becomes a friend; the hostile enemy, a peaceable neighbor; the stereotyped caricature, a beloved brother or sister in the faith. This happens because the Three Kings acted upon the revelation that God had given to them. They did not recognize the Nativity Star for what it is, and then go home to keep this knowledge for themselves. Rather, they crossed many miles of hostile territory, even to the point of being questioned by the unscrupulous King Herod. They carried their gifts across all those miles, notwithstanding how they would be noticed by outlaws along the way. They put aside whatever exalted ego they had on account of their higher breeding and education, and so came upon the Christ Child on their knees. God’s self-revelation inspired them to do what they could to worship God as He wills and to spread that revelation unto others. As St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I must preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and so to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery.” Our fellowship with one another, what breaks down all of the barriers between us, and allows us to know one another truly as brothers and sisters, is our life lived in and for the Incarnation of God. Stated another way, we become known to one another to the extent we bring Christ Jesus to one another. We are family to the extent we do what God wills for us to do in sharing His Son with the strangers, the outcasts, the sinners. We are a home to one another to the extent we are a hospital for the spiritually sick and a refuge for the lonely. Following the example of the Three Kings, let us pray that we may discern God’s will for us and, even more importantly, act upon it. When we do so, we manifest God unto the strangers, and with the Holy Spirit over time break down the barriers among men to the greater glory of God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. 

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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