There’s a lot more to the Epiphany than initially meets the eye. The word “epiphany” means “being made known” or “manifestation.” When we celebrate the Epiphany we are celebrating coming to know Jesus as God dwelling among us. So, the adoration of Jesus by the Magi and his baptism by John in the Jordan River are both key to the Feast of the Epiphany.
In the Western Church we have put the emphasis on the travelers from the East – wrapping them into the Christmas story. The Eastern Church, however, has traditionally emphasized Christ’s Baptism. Personally, I see a very strong binding of the two.
Many interpretations of the Magi suggest that they are meant to represent the nations. This idea is emphasized in the first choice of the Opening Prayer of Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany:
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
I love that these Magi, or nations, come from the East. When Adam and Eve were sent forth from the Garden, they were banished to the land East of Eden. So, it’s only fitting that we, the nations, come back from the East to re-encounter God… and when we re-encounter God, it’s amazing what we find.
God is as vulnerable as a little child and welcomes us into life without resistance or bitterness – without a memory of our past transgressions or defenses against how we might transgress in the future. Instead, we encounter defenseless, pure, blinding love. Our exile is over.
Baptism washes away forever the stain of that exile. Through our Baptism we are bound to him and we bear the beautiful gifts of that binding.
Gold: When our lives are mutually bound, we share in the kingship that is his. Every ounce of goodness, blessing and life given to Christ by the Father is given by Christ to us. The royal inheritance is ours.
Incense: We are sanctified and set apart as Children of God. We are holy. We were made to know God, love God and serve God and our binding to Christ ensures that we share in his priesthood.
Myrrh: As St. Paul points out; when we are baptized into the life of Christ, we are also baptized into his death. We let ourselves die and put on a new life in Christ. We are changed forever.
The encounter with the Vulnerable Christ cannot help but move us in new directions.
When the Magi left Bethlehem, they went back to their country by a different route.