The Feast of Epiphany is sometimes called "little Christmas." The word "Epiphany" means "manifestation." The liturgy readings narrate the revelation of the Christ-Child to the world of the gentiles in the form of a star. The Christmas Season captures the two forms of one reality- God came to earth to be with His people. The first form of this manifestation was on Christmas day when "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Prologue of St. John). The Word assumed a human nature and became like us. God the Father manifested Himself to us through the Son, Jesus. This is the first manifestation. Then on the feast of Epiphany, God manifested Himself again, not in the silence of the night in some hidden cave in Bethlehem, but to the world, through the persons of the Magi, and in them, to the Gentiles. This is the second manifestation.
One can draw many hidden meanings on this feast we celebrate. The readings bring up many thoughts to mind. First, the reality of the star. I think of the star as a symbol of Faith. Faith, according to St. Paul, is the certainty of things unseen. It is the engine that drives our relationship with God. 'Without faith, it is impossible to approach God," St. Paul says. Just like the star which the Magi saw, this faith can sometimes lead us to places we have not imagined, experience things we do not understand, and see things we never imagined. This faith, just like the star, can bring us to a hidden place - a place of poverty, wonder and surprises, like the cave in Bethlehem. Living in faith can take us to a deeper awareness of our own spiritual poverty, helplessness and total dependence in God. It forces us to take leaps of faith, to have courage in darkness, and perseverance in the midst of doubts and confusion. Our "epiphany" happens everyday. It is said that stars are always shining but are not visible in daylight because of the dominant light that comes from the brightest and biggest of the stars- the Sun. God is always in our daily experiences but we do not always appreciate His Presence because of the distractions posed by the most pressing things of daily existence. Do we have the understanding of the Magi? Do we have the courage to follow a star that seems to lead us to a place though unknown and hidden from our understanding? This is a question only we can answer. 'Where is the newborn King of the Jews?" the Magi asked. In the same token we can ask "Where is God in MY life?" Isn't this the unspoken question we ask ourselves? And even if we know where to find Him and what we must do to find Him- do we find the courage to do so?
You and I know that once we allow God to enter our lives, we are forever changed. We may not always remain in that initial surge of spiritual fervor but we can not say we are the same person. After finding the Child,the Magi returned to their own countries by another way. Encounter with God always entail change. This can be an unsettling experience because we are used to the familiar and comfortable. But life in God constantly calls for moving forward. We know by experience how one step forward equals two steps backward but we continue to live in faith, hope and charity. I love these words of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity when describing the life of faith: "It no longer rests in inclination and feelings; it matters little to the soul whether it feels God or not, whether He sends it joy or suffering; it believes in His love." One believes that everything is grace.
This feast of the Epiphany invites all of us to a deeper realization of our individual "star.' It is an invitation to gaze at it with the expectation that it is telling us something. This star shines everyday. It challenges us to venture out into the unknown, beyond the familiar and the comfortable. It reminds us there were others who lived in another era of time and place who followed the same invitation and were granted the joy of eternal fulfillment. Did you ever wonder why only the Magi seemed to have understood what the significance of this star was? If you think that the whole land of Israel was waiting for this revelation to occur, and yet, why only the Magi saw it when it was finally revealed? Maybe because they were vigilant. Maybe because they made it their business to study it, and analyze it, and contemplate it. If I don't endeavor to prayerfully look at the events of my life and see the hand of God in it, I too will merit the the harsh words of the psalmist, "They have eyes but they do not see. They have ears but they do not hear." That would be sad because in God alone do we find rest.