The Epiphany is a beautiful feast – I think it’s special for many of us in that it captures the heart of the Christmas narrative while being free of the commercialisation which now surrounds the feast itself in December, which in a way makes sense because it is probably older as a celebration of the birth of Our Lord than 25 December. This year, of course, like so much else, we can’t really mark it properly and that’s a pity because of some of the ceremonies and customs are so lovely.
In my homily this morning I drew attention to two aspects of the story which have a particular resonance at the moment. First, the feast day proclaims the manifestation of the baby Jesus to all the nations of the world, symbolised by the three astrologers who come to Bethlehem from the east. Exercising freedom of movement, they cross boundaries to follow the star: their journey reflects so much of what Pope Francis writes about in his letter ‘Fratelli Tutti’ which came out in October (by the way we’re intending to run a Lent programme on the encyclical) and his constant theme, ‘no borders’. The reality of this feast day underlines how Catholic Christianity breaks down the barriers and boundaries between peoples, bringing down borders and the sinful divisions among humanity. So if we understand Epiphany correctly we can see how it’s a big challenge to so many disordered and sinful attitudes in the world and in this country – so many people intent on erecting new borders and divisions, full of a deluded sense of national pride. Secondly, we often forget that the astrologers in the story (who were of course not ‘kings’ in the biblical account: they only begin to be called kings in the Middle Ages) outwit King Herod. They don’t go back to him to tell him about the baby. In their own way they stand up to the brutal tyrant in his lust of power and his pathetic insecurity. This too should guide the Church at least in our dealings with the Herods of our own day, so many of the unworthy national leaders in the world at this critical time.
Have a good feast day and God bless
In my homily at the live-streamed Mass this morning I alluded to the traditional Epiphany house blessing which has been…