“They saw the Child with His Mother, Mary, and falling to their knees they did Him homage”
Today’s feast of the Epiphany tells a strange and mysterious tale. In his Gospel, Saint Matthew writes of “some wise men” who have come “from the East” looking for the Saviour who has been born, having followed the star which had arisen in the sky. After encountering King Herod, they go on to Bethlehem, where they find the Child and His Mother, and they offer Him their homage and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. After this, having been warned in a dream, they “returned to their own country by a different way” (Mt.2:12).
The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘revelation’ – here, the revelation of the Messiah to the Gentiles, represented by the Wise Men; in other words, it is the beginning of the revelation of the Christ to all of us. Perhaps the real wisdom of these men is in recognising this Child for whom He truly is. I wonder what they thought at that moment, as they knelt before Him, and what the Blessed Virgin thought as She watched them do so.
Throughout the Christmas season at Church, I was struck repeatedly by the thought of the Shepherds and the Wise Men in adoration before the Lord; in every soul kneeling there in Church, it seemed we were all doing precisely the same thing – recognising the Lord for who He truly is, offering our adoration and giving Him the gifts we have to hand, not gold or frankincense or myrrh, but our love and devotion, and our time.
Throughout today, I have been thinking a lot about those final words of the account in St Matthew’s Gospel of the visit of the Wise Men – they “returned to their own country by a different way” (Mt.2:12). While the words seem to say something simple and obvious, describing a response to the warning they have been given, I think there is also a deeper meaning here.
This encounter with the Christ Child has effected a change in the Wise Men – something within them is different now. Their journey has not been a spontaneous decision – it has been a response; they have been called by Christ, signified by the star. And now, meeting Him and His Mother, they have been left changed. In other words, in this encounter, they have been touched by divine grace. The journey itself may well have been long and arduous – St Matthew tells us nothing of this, so we can only wonder – but it has paid off. I wonder what particular effects this encounter would have had on the Wise Men later in their lives, of which we known nothing at all. But I am certain they were changed in some way, for this is the effect of an encounter with the Lord.
For all of us who came and spent time in Church throughout this holy Season of Advent and Christmas, we, too, have come to adore the same Christ Child, and each of us have made our own particular journeys, with all that entails at the personal and the communal levels. By the grace of God, may we find ourselves, changed, too.
“If we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life. We need to take risks simply to meet a Child. Those risks are immensely worth the effort, since in finding that Child, in discovering His tenderness and love, we rediscover ourselves.” – Pope Francis, homily for Mass of the Epiphany, 6th January 2018
© Main image: ‘Adoration Of The Magi’ (Sir Edward Burne Jones)