THE EPIPHANY -- Greek, TA EPIPHANIA [The Manifestation]
In the Western Church since the fourth century January 6 has been kept as “The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles” in the person of the Magi [wise men from the East – see Matthew 2].
With this Festival we reach the Twelfth Day and the end of the Christmas Season.
The traditional Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the Western Church take up the theme of the visit of the wise men to Jesus and the supreme benefits brought to the Gentiles by the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father [see the Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the BCP of 1662 & 1928].
In contrast, in the Eastern Church the manifestation of the Son of God Incarnate to the world is associated with his own Baptism by John in the river Jordan and his first miracle [sign] at Cana in Galilee. Here it is kept as a major Festival, a Day of Lights, with the blessing of the waters.
As we are westerners let us stay within our tradition for January 6 and reap the great benefits associated with the right keeping of the Feast of the Epiphany. We can turn to meditation upon the Baptism of Christ in a week’s time.
Let us begin with the GOSPEL – Matthew 2:1-12. Perhaps we are tired of singing carols about the three kings or wise men! If so let us concentrate on the internal spiritual state of these visitors from afar who looked for God’s salvation in the land of the Jews.
“They rejoiced with exceeding great joy” at the culmination and completion of their long pilgrimage. They knew that they had reached the place where the baby King was to be found and they were overjoyed. Do we rejoice each time we recall and remember that the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father has truly occurred?
“They bowed down and worshipped him.” Though a babe, he was the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Son of God in human nature/flesh and they as Gentiles recognized him as such and offered their adoration and worship. Do we, who are Gentiles, worship the Lord Jesus Christ as God each time we enter into a Sanctuary or do we treat him merely as a kind of super leader and saviour who is above us but not truly God incarnate?
Let us turn to the Epistle – Ephesians 3:1-12. Here the apostle Paul announces his commission to take the Gospel of the Father concerning his incarnate Son to the Gentile world. Further, he writes of what the offering of the whole Gospel to the Gentiles means, that they are actually and really fellow heirs with Jewish believers and members together of one Body. Do we take this great privilege of being made members of God’s People in the new covenant of grace for granted?
Let is turn finally to the Collect where there we pray that we shall be led by heavenly light on to “the fruition of thy glorious Godhead” even as the wise men were led by the star to experience the manifestation of the only begotten Son of the Father in Bethlehem. The end of the pilgrimage for the wise men was to see the face of the King of kings and to worship and adore. This manifestation from him to them of his glory and veiled divinity was the fruit of their long search.
Likewise, the end and fruit of the discipleship & pilgrimage of the people of God will be after the resurrection of the dead. And it will not be the open vision of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity [which even archangels cannot behold], but the sight of the all-glorious Father reflected in the face of the exalted incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by the presence of the Holy Ghost. This will lead to adoration and worship and praise that is unceasing and perfect.
Is “fruition of thy glorious Godhead” the supreme goal and purpose of our lives? To partake in the Feast of the Epiphany is to claim that it ought to be, should be and is!
January 4, 2002 the Rev’d Dr Peter Toon Peter@toon662.fsnet.co.uk
The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP