Saturday, January 8, 2011

Blog # 99 Epiphany Applied

Blog # 99 Epiphany Applied In my lifetime the story of the Magi's visit to the holy family has always been a popular feature of the Church's celebration of the Christmas event. As a matter of fact, though, it's liturgical celebration goes back into history further than the official celebration of the birth of Jesus itself. One explanation for this phenomenon sees it in the fact Christmas was celebrated around the time of the winter solstice when the short nights were about to lengthen and their pagan neighbors would be celebrating at that time the victory of light over darkness ,to them the work of their sun god. There could be concern perhaps that the joyful celebration of Christ's birth would be taken by the pagans as a participation in their rituals. To avoid such a danger the celebration of Jesus' birth would be toned down. On the other hand, the visit of the Magi, wealthy, wise men, kings, or whatever sort of influential earthly rulers they were taken to be was a genuine boost and source of support to the Christian community at a time when Jesus had already ascended into Heaven and they by faith continued to believe in Him and trust Him even to the point of laying down their lives in the witness of bloody martyrdom. The details of the story of the Magi were obviously based upon God's special presence to them in guiding them to Jesus by following a star in the heavens beginning at a place very far from Bethlehem. The gifts they brought were fit for a king and they presented them to Jesus on bended knee. A story that focused so clearly on the divinity of Jesus engendered confidence in the Christian community at a time when the Christian life was a very dangerous way to live. No wonder it was celebrated. A second blessing that came from celebrating the feast of Epiphany stems from a serious difficulty experienced in the Christian community in the early years after Jesus ascended into Heaven. It was was the question of the relationship between circumcision and Baptism. The fact the visitors were not Jews and therefore not incorporated into the Jewish community by circumcision but nevertheless were blessed by God in their being guided by a star to the place where Jesus was gave support to the message of Jesus that identified Him as the SAVIOR OF ALL PEOPLE and not just those who would be or become Jews. With all of this as a background, our celebration of the Epiphany in 2011 becomes an invitation #1 to renew our personal faith in the divinity of Jesus and # 2 remind ourselves of our union with Jesus and with one another in the Church as members of branches on a vine. Only because Jesus is God can He say of bread this is my body given for you and of wine this is my blood poured out for you. Only because Jesus is God can He be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Secondly as members of the Church we share the mission of Jesus as Savior of all people, His love for all, and His desire that all come to know the Father's love through Him by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church. "As the Father has sent me I send you." The world is not waiting for Jesus to love them because He is yet to do that. Rather the world is waiting for us to discover that universal love personally and then tell the world of it by our love. In a sense we are the Magi in 2011.

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