The Epiphany of Wise Men

A blessed and joyous Epiphany to all our readers, this twelfth day of Christmas, culminating the great joy of the season in the revelation of Christ to all the gentiles, symbolized in the three Magi, traditionally Caspar, Melchior and Balthassar. The mystery hidden for ages in God – adumbrated in the Old Testament – has now been revealed, and we, with the wise men, ‘rejoice with great joy’.

The gifts they offered symbolize the mission of Christ, as the One sent by the Father for the redemption of the world: Gold, for a king; incense, for a priest; and myrrh for the body of the One who would give His life for us all.

Here are words for reflection from a homily offered by another wise man, Pope John Paul II, back in what now seems an impossibly innocent era of 1996. May we too – with the Pope, the Magi, all those who are gifted with that same ‘wisdom of the wise men’ – rush to meet the Christ, the Messiah:

“Arise [Jerusalem], shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is 1:1). 

Today, the Solemnity of Epiphany, this is how the prophet’s words resound. The ancient, evocative oracle of Isaiah in a way foretells the light that shone on the stable in Bethlehem on Christmas night, anticipating the angels’ song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2:14). In a certain sense, in pointing to the light the prophet is pointing to Christ. As it shone for the shepherds seeking the newborn Messiah, so this light shines today on the path of the Magi, come from the East to adore him who was born King of the Jews. 

The Magi represent the peoples of the whole earth who, in the light of the Lord’s birth, set out on the way leading to Jesus and, in a certain sense, are the first to receive that salvation inaugurated by the Saviour’s birth and brought to fulfilment in the paschal mystery of his Death and Resurrection. 

When they reached Bethlehem, the Magi adored the divine Child and offered him symbolic gifts, becoming forerunners of the peoples and nations which down the centuries never cease to seek and meet Christ.