Adoration of the Magi, Francesco Bassano, painted 1567-69
Where the Solemnity of the Epiphany is not to be observed as a Holyday of obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday occurring between 2 and 8 January as its proper day. (The Roman Missal). As far as I know, Ireland is the only country where English is widely used that observes this feast as a Holyday of Obligation. Elsewhere it is observed this year on Sunday 8 January. Thew new English version of The Roman Missal also has a special Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, though I think the readings are the same as in the Mass During the Day.
Gospel Matthew 2:1-12 (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."
When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel."
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
Reflection by Columban Sister Kathleen Coyle
From the November/December 2011 issue of The Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand.
St Matthew reminds us at the end of the Magi story that 'they departed for their country by another way' (Matt 2:12).
It was a journey of transformation for the three stargazers. Having drawn near to the sacred, they were awakened to the mystery of their lives. They are now transformed by the experience of the Christ Child in the manger and ready to live in a new and reflective way.
Just as the Easter liturgy invites us to ask Mary Magdalene, 'Tell us Mary, what have you seen along the way?' so the Christmas and Epiphany liturgies invite us to grasp the significance of the transcendental experience of our travellers from the East. Like Mary they could each reply, 'I have seen the Lord!'
Having been awakened to the mystery of their lives, touched and nourished by the energy of the divine, the Magi return home ready to face the routine of life with new hope and purpose.
Like the Magi, we, too, are led to Jesus. We are invited to come close to the borders of mystery, to search for God in the stable of our hearts.
In Fr Karl Rahner’s words, ‘we are encompassed absolutely by God at the moment of our search as we journey through life by the light of the star.’ Insights from occasional moments of deep prayer, from reading the scriptures, our sensitivity to listening to the pain of a friend, may be for us the star or the brilliant flash of light that leads us to the Child and his mother.
We discover that the real journey isn’t to Bethlehem or to the stable but into our hearts - a journey which is largely shaped by our own experiences. Prayer and meditation enable us to integrate all our experiences into our inner centre, or to partially or completely revise them.
As Meister Eckhart reminds us, we may on occasion experience the brightness of the star as much ‘by the fireside or in the stable’ as we do by devotions, ecstasies and contemplation.
Matthew’s reflection on the visit of the Magi invites us to travel “by another route” (2:12). It also invites us to support those who are searching for God in the humility of a fragile baby and who wish to travel home, transformed. This reflection takes us to a new place. Where that new place is and how God is leading us there, can emerge in our prayer, in our commitment and in our sharing of insights to enrich the community.
The star that shines over our personal mangers prepares us to welcome the Light of the World and to deepen our commitment to mission and mystery. The mystical experience of finding Jesus and of being completely encompassed by God must flow into our personal prayer, liturgies, homes and ministry, so that the mystery of God will spill over into our lives, our world and into history.
Sr Kathleen Coyle, a Columban Sister, has taught theology in the East Asian Pastoral Institute in the Philippines. She now resides in Ireland.
Introit: Ecce advénit Dominátor Dóminus; et regnum in manu eius et potéstas et impérium.
Entrance Antiphon: Behold, the Lord, the Mighty One, has come;
And kingship is in his grasp, and power and dominion. (Cf.Mal3:1; 1 Chr 29:12).