06 January 2008

An Epiphany Sermon from the Fathers

An except from a sermon for Epiphany Day by St Peter Chrysologus:

Although in the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation itself there were clear signs of his eternal divinity, nevertheless today’s feast discloses and reveals in manifold ways that God came into a human body, so that mortality, always developed in darkness, may not lose through ignorance what it has been made worthy of holding and possessing through such great grace. For he who willed to be born for us did not want to remain unknown by us; and so he discloses himself in a way that the great mystery of his merciful kindness may not become a great occasion of error.

Today the Magus[1] finds crying in a cradle the One whom he was seeking as he shown among the stars. Today the Magus admires evident in his swaddling clothes the One whom he experienced as hidden for a long time within the constellations. Today the Magus ponders with deep amazement what he sees and where: heaven on earth, earth in heaven; man in God, God in man; and the One who is not able to be contained in the whole world, he sees confined in a tiny body.

Therefore, because the Magus is unable to figure this out and cannot grasp it, he immediately adores him. For he sees that the stars, the mood, and the sun do not shine as brightly in heaven as the flesh he gazes upon has shed light upon the earth. He sees that in one and the same Body divinity and humanity have merged together in unity. While he believes that the One her is God, recognizes that he is King, and understands that he will die out of love for the human race, his thoughts frighten him as he deliberates how God is able to die, how the Restorer of life can be put to death, and thus the Magus stops searching with ingenuity for what he cannot find with his own ingenuity.

And since he sees that he wandered astray for a ling time in the sky with the wandering stars, he rejoices that on earth he has reached God by the guidance of a single star, and the Magus perceives that everything in the sky that is seen clearly by human eyes lies veiled with profound mysteries, and now that he sees this he acknowledges, as evidenced by the mystical gifts that he offers, that he believes and no longer pries in to it: with incense for God, with gold for the King, and with myrrh for the One who is going to die. He professes his faith in God with incense, and in the King with gold, so that he may now appease with lavish homage the One whom he refused and offended by his prying and impertinent activity, and in order to fulfill what many suppose refers to the eunuch who is also from Ethiopia: “Ethiopia will reach out its hands.”

The Magus saw Christ; he reached ahead of the Jew with his own hands, because at the time when the Jew was betraying Christ by the wickedness of Herod, the Magus with his gifts was acknowledging that Christ was God. This is why the gentile, who was last, became first, since at that time the faith of the Magi consecrated the belief of the gentiles and denounced the cruelty of the Jews.

[1] Singular for Magi.

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