05 January 2008

Epiphany - the Manifestation of God in the Flesh

The Feast of the Epiphany, one of the four cardinal feasts of the Church, is the continuation of the mystery of Christ Mass since both feasts celebrate the mystery of God’s manifestation or appearance in the flesh to man. Therefore, this is a day to renew the joy caused by the Holy Incarnation of Our Lord and God.

Since the fourth century, in the Western Church the two feasts have focused first on the manifestation of God in the flesh to the children of Israel, and then on the manifestation of God in the flesh to Gentiles. The Gospel appointed for today indicates a second chief theme that differentiates Epiphany from Christ Mass. While on Christ Mass we heard the angels tell the shepherds to recognize the Word made flesh (“let us see this word”), today we hear of the Magi who come to worship the newborn King (“they adored Him”). Hence, today’s feast urges us both to acknowledge the Lord’s manifestation and to worship Him as He comes to us in the flesh.

To encourage our worship, the prophet Malachi invites us to “behold the Lord the Ruler [who] is come” (Introit); and the prophet Isaiah acclaims that “thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” (Epistle) These prophetic words coax from our hearts and mouths the prayer that “we, who now know [God] by faith, may come at length to see the glory of [His] Majesty.” (Collect)

Finally, the chants in today’s liturgy beseech us to imitate the Magi by presenting gifts. What gift we present is indicated by St. Paul: “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.” (Rom 12.1)

From the Sunday bulletin for Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church.

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