By Fr. John Brobbey
The Church is Catholic or Universal and the point of our universality is that she is composed of our part, the Western Church, or the Roman Catholic Church, or the Latin rite, are all of the same Catholic Church called the Eastern Rite. As One Catholic and Apostolic tradition, our liturgy therefore embraces traditions from both sides of the same Catholic Church. Therefore, the reason for our threefold celebration of the Manifestation of Jesus to the world, another version of Christmas even though those of us in the Latin rite have already celebrated Christmas on December 25 and climaxed it with the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. On this first Sunday of the Manifestation of Jesus, called Epiphany, we proclaim at Holy Mass the visit of the magi in Matthew 2:1-12.
The wise men came from “the east,” where they had seen a star, to find the “King of the Jews.” They are assumed to be three because they brought three gifts. Christian tradition later assigned them the names Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. But, the most important point of today’s Gospel passage is “the east”, the place the magi came from. They came from “the east” and this means they were non-Jews with pagan belief yet led to the true light through the science of nature. Thus, the most important reality of the magi’s visit is that in the earliest days of Jesus’ life, God the Father already drew Gentiles (non-Jews) to come and worship Him as a foreshadowing of the Great Commission when He would call all of us to make disciples of all nations. This is the Good News of Epiphany and Christmas. The true and saving God is here for all in Jesus. Once we are drawn by grace to know Him, let us worship Him with everything in us and everything we possess.
The wise men were astrologers! The light of the star represents the light of Science, Nature, Philosophy, and Reason which can only lead us as far as Herod’s Palace. It is only the Light of Scripture, the Grace of God which can lead us to the ultimate Wisdom, Truth and Worship! Faith and Reason, Science and Religion, Philosophy and Theology are not at war and in conflict. The latter illuminates the former. Ultimate wisdom is born, and the true King is enthroned. He is our High Priest and Savior. Hence, the Gold is not presented to King Herod in Jerusalem but Jesus in Bethlehem. The Frankincense is not presented to the Priests in the temple in Jerusalem but to the eternal high priest in the manger. The light dims in Jerusalem but stops at the manger in Bethlehem! As we prostrate in homage to the King of the Universe, the Eternal High Priest and the Prophet, May the light of God never dim as we pursue the path of righteousness in 2024. Happy New Year!