For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:11-13).
This passage from St. Paul’s epistle to Titus was read on Christmas day. It is a succinct summary of the Mystery of the Incarnation and a program of life for those who accept the revelation. In a slightly different translation, we are exhorted to live justly, temperately and devoutly as we journey towards the Heavenly Jerusalem. The Feast of the Epiphany extends the celebration of Christmas and invites us to further reflect on this Mystery of the Messiah as the light to the nations. The importance of this Feast theologically and liturgically cannot be overstated. St Peter Chrysologus observed: In the mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal Godhead. Yet the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body. Mortal man, enshrouded always in darkness, must not be left in ignorance, and so be deprived of what he can understand and retain only by grace (Sermon 160 PL 52, 620-622). This mystery and all mysteries need to be celebrated in all their splendour and import, lest we be left in ignorance, and so be deprived of what [we] can understand and retain only by grace. In the Church, this instruction is generally speaking accessible in the sermon or homily; and the grace to retain what we have learned is obtained through the celebration of the Sacraments and our willingness to be formed by the doctrine of the faith.
The Epiphany celebrates the truth of Our Saviour revealed to the nations as the world’s salvation and glory. He who is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega is both the ontological and cosmological centre of our life. This is to say that He is our personal Saviour and also the Savour and King of the Universe, of all creation. When we consider the journey of the magi guided by the star, we are given to understand something of the grandeur of the Mystery of the Incarnation. The whole of creation, the world itself, the stars and the heavens, the cosmos in its entirety proclaim the wonder of this Mystery and through the nature that He has created, God reveals and announces the world’s salvation. There is no other means to salvation than Christ, for in him all the fullness of God dwells in bodily form (Col. 2:9).
There is much to learn from the magi about our own journey to God. These men undertook an arduous journey in search for the truth. We can imagine the challenges they faced travelling as they did on foot and with the aid of animals. Their experience resonates with those of the faithful who in these times of confusion set out on journeys in search of the sacraments and especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We think also of the priests who must also undertake their own travels and journeys from place to place in their efforts to bring the grace of the sacraments to the scattered and fervent remnant faithful.
Anyone who assents to Our Lord’s invitation of salvation undertakes a very personal and intimate journey out of the self. This is perhaps the hardest of all journeys because in some cases, we leave behind the illusion of spiritual and moral self-sufficiency and in others, the prisons of despair and doubt that prevent us from living the fullness of Christian life. Just as the star beckoned the magi out of their country, so the light of God’s truth beckons us out of the darkness of ignorance and the chaos of lies that afflicts the world in the absence of the light of God’s truth.
The prince of this world appears at this time to have the upper hand, certainly as it concerns the confusion and disorientation experienced by the faithful because of statements and documents emanating from the highest offices of the Church. We must be ever vigilant, lest we be deceived. Our Lord says of the devil: He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). In the name of mercy, biblical norms of morality are being obfuscated and denies. There is confusion everywhere. Basic tenets of justice are denied and it would seem that the innocent are further victimized and the guilty are rewarded and enabled. The duplicity of the ruling class is now being exposed; and this chaos also afflicts the Church. God will not be mocked. Those who govern the Church have a grave responsibility before God for the souls that He has entrusted to them. Cardinal Manning soberly observed that sacrilege carries the seeds of its own dissolution. Those entrusted with the care of souls, and this includes parents and educators, do well to ponder these words. The sacraments and most especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass cannot be in any way compromised by even the faintest hint of irreverence and most especially sacrilege. We may very soon witness the dissolution of the great façade of a worldly church, of the antichurch that has relativized the truth of Christ and is now complicit in the attack against the truth of Christ and by consequence also the Church of Christ with her deposit of the faith (depositum fidei).
Those who love the Messiah, Our Saviour and the Church He founded must now imitate what St. Leo the Great calls the obedience of the star [that] calls us to imitate its humble service; to be servants as best we can of the grace that invites all men to find Christ. The obedience of the star that leads to Christ becomes the obedience of faith (Rom. 16:26) by which we ourselves are drawn evermore deeply into the Mystery of Christ and in turn, lead others to Him. The deepening of faith accompanied by a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the truth of Christ gives birth to a life of genuine piety and the fruits of a devout life: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness [and] faithfulness (Gal. 5:22), to name but a few. A devout life in Christ lived humbly and generously in a spirit of prayer is what will fortify us in this time of trial; and the witness of such a life will invite others to find Christ. The magi inspire us to become co-workers of the truth (cooperatores veritatis), willing especially in these our times to search out places where the truth of Christ is cherished and proclaimed. The journey of the magi is our journey into the Heart of Christ Our Saviour, King and centre of all hearts. May the prayers and example of Our Lady and St Joseph, of the shepherds and the magi, and of all of Our Lord’s faithful disciples through the ages help us become humble servants this Mystery, to God’s greater glory, the salvation of souls and the defeat of the enemies of Christ and His Holy Church.