ISAIAH 60:1-6 | EPHESIANS 3:2-3A, 5-6 | MATTHEW 2:1-12
The Pastor’s Reflections
“Where is this newborn king of the Jews?”
It’s an interesting fact that the feast of the Epiphany has been celebrated much longer than Christmas. Epiphany was solidly in place on the Christian calendar by the end of the 3 rd century, whereas Christmas took a while longer to evolve; it wasn’t celebrated universally until the 8 th century. It was the Eastern Church that gave us the Feast of the Epiphany. The Greek word means manifestation – God appearing among us.
The star in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus is the central image of the feast. It was the light that led to Bethlehem, the birthplace of “the newborn King of the Jews.”
From the very beginning, this story has been the spiritual icon of humankind’s search for God. It’s also interesting to see how the Eastern Church has integrated the star into the liturgy.
Above the paten, the dish that holds the bread for the Eucharist, a cross-shaped dome, called the asterisk, is placed over the bread. From the asterisk hangs a small star – the star of Bethlehem. It’s a tiny beacon guiding the faithful to “the newborn king of the Jews.”
The Feast of the Epiphany speaks to us of our personal and communal pilgrimage – a journey just like the Magi’s. Every day of our lives we take another step in our journey. Like the Magi, there will be days when we feel sure-footed and the mysterious star we’re following is clear and bright, and we feel we’re getting closer to our journey’s end. We’re filled with hope and joy.
The Magi’s journey also cautions us for the days when every step we take is drudgery, our feet like lead, and the path steeper with every step. Sometimes, the star may even disappear. Patiently, or sometimes despondently, we might need to pause as we wait for the dark clouds to disappear. The Eastern Church, with its tiny star suspended over the Eucharistic bread, teaches us an important lesson. The Christian journey is long and difficult. Like the Magi, we’ll be challenged over and over again, but we can stop along the way to strengthen ourselves. We can feed our souls with the Bread of Life.
In the Western Church we’ve named the communion we receive at the last moments of our earthly lives, viaticum. It means food for the journey. The Feast of the Epiphany is our yearly reminder that, in mystery, we reach the goal of our journey whenever we receive the Eucharist. Like the Magi, we follow a star. It’s the light of our faith guiding us through the challenges of the journey. As we long for rest and comfort along the way, we’re fed by the very object of our journey. The Eastern Church gives us a beautiful symbol today – the little star suspended above the Bread of Life.