Epiphany: The Invitation to Wonder at God’s Presence

When most of us think of the Epiphany, we immediately think of the Wise Men visiting the Christ Child. However, this is only part of what the feast of Our Lord’s Epiphany celebrates. The Epiphany celebrates “the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana” (CCC 528). Clearly, there is more to this feast than meets the eye, but what is the connection between the three events that the Epiphany celebrates?

The word “epiphany” comes to us from the Greek word epipháneia, meaning “to make manifest,” which is exactly what unites all three events. Each event is a manifestation of Jesus as Savior. At Jesus’s Baptism, the heavens are torn open as the Spirit descends in the form of a dove and the Father declares his divine Sonship. Jesus’s Baptism illustrates his divinity and messianic identity, which John the Baptist proclaims to those gathered at the Jordan River. During the Wedding Feast of Cana, Jesus performs his first miracle not only to help a couple out of an embarrassing situation, but also to manifest himself to the disciples. Their faith in him is confirmed and strengthened by the miracle.

However, Jesus is not the Savior of Israel alone, but of the whole world. In the Gospel of Matthew, the first people outside of the Holy Family to worship Jesus are the Wise Men who followed the star from the east and humbly worshiped perhaps the poorest of babies in Bethlehem. The Adoration of the Magi reminds us that Jesus is for everyone. Union with God is not the goal just for Christians but for everyone. All people were made to be united with God, and nothing else will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts...whether we realize it or not. St. Athanasius explains that “God became man, so that we might become God.” By their pursuit of truth in the natural world, the Wise Men are led to encounter and contemplate the highest Truth, the Word made Flesh.

How is Jesus trying to manifest himself in our lives? Are we ready to attend to him when he knocks at the door of our hearts? We are often so busy, rushing from one thing to the next and moving so fast that we do not encounter Jesus when he is right in front of us in creation and in our neighbors who are made in his image. While these manifestations are not nearly as dramatic as the heavens being torn open, they are invaluable, nonetheless. Such manifestations could be simply admiring the stars of night and recognizing that God made these stars just so that we could wonder at their beauty. May God give us the grace and courage to slow down and recognize his presence in our lives.

Br. Thomas Maria Johns, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE