From Pastor’s desk on the Solemnity of Epiphany, January 3rd 2021
The Church begins each New Year with the Solemnity of the Most Holy Mary, the Mother of God. This feast is celebrated on January 1st. The theological reason is this: As the Blessed Mother gave birth to the Son of God so She also introduces Him to the whole world. Jesus, the Logos, is the Lord, to whom belong time and space. So we consecrate the year to God while entrusting it to the Maternal Care of the Most Holy Mary. In a sense, we begin a New Year with Mary, because She leads us to better understanding of Her Son Jesus Christ. Mary also teaches us how to love Jesus so that more securely we may grow in faith and holiness. With Mary we come to mature faith much faster than just doing it on our own. The Marian devotion has proven time and again, as evidenced in the lives of so many saints, that the spiritual headway through Mary’s intercession is faster and always brings more good fruits of conversion and virtuous life.
Right after the celebration of the New Year’s Day we celebrate another great solemnity, which belongs to even earlier Christian tradition, both in the East and in the West. It is the solemnity of the Epiphany that traditionally was celebrated on January 6th, but for pastoral reasons in the U.S. it is transferred to the first Sunday after the New Year’s Day. The word epiphany comes from another Greek word theophany, that means revelation of the divine. There were other instances of Theophany in the Old Testament, notably God’s revelation to Moses in the Burning Bush or later in the New Testament at Jesus’ transfiguration at Mount Tabor. In case of the Feast of Epiphany we hear about God’s supreme manifestation to the gentiles represented by the Magi coming to see the newborn King of Israel in Bethlehem.
The story of the Magi inspired many legends and interpretations. What we know from the lapidary tale in the gospel of Matthew, the Magi, or the wise men, initially must have been driven by mere human curiosity. The Magi studied the scriptures and the stars and found out that a truly great figure would be coming into to the world. Their scientific inquisitiveness lead them to an astonishing discovery; namely, the birth of the Messiah would occur among an apparently insignificant people of Palestine. So they embarked upon a journey that was both physical and spiritual. The Magi were guided by the star, which brought them to a tiny town in Palestine, Bethlehem, where they were to find someone much greater than just a human child. They discovered the King of Kings and the Lord of lords. The Magi witnessed the revelation—Epiphany—of the true God in the baby Jesus.
Not everyone is given a chance to come to this kind of knowledge, but only those who are humble and great enough at the same time. The Magi, who most likely were the top scientists in the time of Jesus, were also humble enough to accept in faith what they did not understand with pure reason. In the story of the Magi we must see that mere human knowledge is not enough to come to possess the mystical knowledge of God. We learn that greatest Mystery can be grasped only with the eyes of faith.
The Magi eventually had to make a decision not to prove everything scientifically, but to believe what eyes could not see. They were able to read the visible signs, but their natural knowledge eventually was superseded by supernatural faith.
The message of the Epiphany is of the utmost relevance for the people of our times, who are often skeptical about the Christian faith. We must remember that faith and reason do not stand in contradiction each other, but rather these are complementary components of human knowledge. Hence, human knowledge is too narrow without faith in God. As St. John Paul II accurately stated it:
“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves” (Fides et Ratio, no. 1).
Let us pray that we too, like the Magi, may come to know Jesus through both reason and faith. And by knowing Jesus we may walk “by another way”—the way of truth that God is near us in the Lord Jesus.
Have a healthy blessed New Year!
Fr. Janusz Mocarski, pastor