I. The Epiphany a Necessary Sequel to the Nativity.
After celebrating but lately the day on which immaculate virginity brought
forth the Saviour of mankind, the venerable feast of the Epiphany, dearly
beloved, gives us continuance of joy, that the force of our exultation
and the fervour of our faith may not grow cool, in the midst of neighbouring
and kindred mysteries1 . For it concerns all men's salvation, that the
infancy of the Mediator between God and men was already manifested to the
whole world, while He was still detained in the tiny town. For although
He had chosen the Israelitish nation, and one family out of that nation,
from whom to assume the nature of all mankind, yet He was unwilling that
the early days of His birth should be concealed within the narrow limits
of His mother's home: but desired to be soon recognized by all, seeing
that He deigned to be born for all. To three2 wise men, therefore, appeared
a star of new splendour in the region of the East, which, being brighter
and fairer than the other stars, might easily attract the eyes and minds
of those that looked on it, so that at once that might be observed not
to be meaningless, which had so unusual an appearance. He therefore who
gave the sign, gave to the beholders understanding of it, and caused inquiry
to be made about that, of which He had thus caused understanding, and after
inquiry made, offered Himself to be found.
II. Herod's Evil Designs Were Fruitless. The Wise Men's Gifts Were
These three men follow the leading of the light above, and with stedfast
gaze obeying the indications of the guiding splendour, are led to the recognition
of the Truth by the brilliance of Grace, for they supposed that a king's
birth was notified in a human sense3 , and that it must be sought in a
royal city. Yet He who had taken a slave's form, and had come not to judge,
but to be judged, chose Bethlehem for His nativity, Jerusalem for His passion.
But Herod, hearing that a prince of the Jews was born, suspected a successor,
and was in great terror: and to compass the death of the Author of Salvation,
pledged himself to a false homage. How happy had he been, if he had imitated
the wise men's faith, and turned to a pious use what he designed for deceit.
What blind wickedness of foolish jealousy, to think thou canst overthrow
the Divine plan by thy frenzy. The Lord of the works, who offers an eternal
Kingdom, seeks not a temporal. Why dost thou attempt to change the unchangeable
order of things ordained, and to forestall others in their crime? The death
of Christ belongs not to thy time. The Gospel must be first set on foot,
the Kingdom of God first preached, healings first given to the sick, wondrous
acts first performed. Why dost thou wish thyself to have the blame of what
will belong to another's work, and why without being able to effect thy
wicked design, dost thou bring on thyself alone the charge of wishing the
evil? Thou gainest nothing and cattiest out nothing by this intriguing.
He that was born voluntarily shall die of His own free will. The Wise men,
therefore, fulfil their desire, and come to the child, the Lord Jesus Christ,
the same star going before them. They adore the Word in flesh, the Wisdom
in infancy, the Power in weakness, the Lord of majesty in the reality of
man: and by their gifts make open acknowledgment of what they believe in
their hearts, that they may show forth the mystery of their faith and understanding4
. The incense they offer to God, the myrrh to Man, the gold to the King,
consciously paying honour to the Divine and human Nature in union: because
while each substance had its own properties, there was no difference in
the power5 of either.
III. The Massacre of the Innocents is in Harmony with the Virgin's
Conception, Which Again Teaches Us Purity of Life.
And when the wise men had returned to their own land, and Jesus had
been carried into Egypt at the Divine suggestion, Herod's madness blazes
out into fruitless schemes. He orders all the little ones in Bethlehem
to be slain, and since he knows not which infant to fear, extends a general
sentence against the age he suspects. But that which the wicked king removes
from the world, Christ admits to heaven: and on those for whom He had not
yet spent His redeeming blood, He already bestows the dignity of martyrdom.
Lift your faithful hearts then, dearly-beloved, to the gracious blaze of
eternal light, and in adoration of the mysteries dispensed for man's salvation6
give your diligent heed to the things which have been wrought on your behalf.
Love the purity of a chaste life, because Christ is the Son of a virgin.
"Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul7 ," as the blessed
Apostle, present in his words as we read, exhorts us, "In malice be ye
children8 ," because the Lord of glory conformed Himself to the infancy
of mortals. Follow after humility which the Son of God deigned to teach
His disciples. Put on the power of patience, in which ye may be able to
gain9 your souls; seeing that He who is the Redemption of all, is also
the Strength of all. "Set your minds on the things which are above, not
on the things which are on the earth10 ." Walk firmly along the path of
truth and life: let not earthly things hinder you for whom are prepared
heavenly things through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and
the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen.