Mass Text - Latin
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Just a few very brief observations about the nature of today’s feast.
The word “epiphany” comes, ultimately from the Greek, meaning a revelation or a manifestation. Very often it has the connotation of being a “overwhelming,” or “life-changing” manifestation. In the Catholic use of the word, Epiphany refers to the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world around Him, so that all may believe in Him. It is more of a period within the Church’s year than it is a single feast day.
First of all, it refers to the manifestation of our Lord to the Three Wise Men, about which we read in today’s Gospel. Most people, on hearing the word “epiphany” think of those three kings, following their star from the east to present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We can also recognize the events of Christmas day as part of this manifestation—first to Mary and Joseph, and then to the shepherds who came to adore.
Today’s Divine Office mentions not only the visit of the Wise Men, but also refers to the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River as an epiphany event, and refers as well to our Lord’s first miracle at Cana of Galilee where He worked His first miracle (and, perhaps, raised Christian marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament). While not excluding these events from today’s feast, the Church does observe them with feast days of their own: January 13th for our Lord’s Baptism, and the second Sunday after Epiphany for the Wedding at Cana.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, which also has something of an epiphany aspect to it, as our young Lord goes to the Temple on His own to introduce Himself to the teachers and students gathered there to study God’s Laws—as He starts to go “about His Father’s business.”
Pope Saint Gregory the Great put all of this together in one of his homilies on the Gospels. All of these manifestations, whether they be manifestations of stars, or of angels, or of miracles, or of the spoken word—even the earth quaking and the sun dimming its light as our Lord died on the Cross—all of these things are to inspire belief in those who are willing to believe, and to convict the unbelieving who harden their hearts against our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, together with the Church, in the Collect of today’s Mass, we must pray that Jesus Christ will be revealed to all mankind, so that all may know God by Faith in the here and now, and be led to look upon the beauty of His majesty in the hereafter.