Epiphany: Christ's Light in the World

By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

I remember  being on the bus, January 5, returning to school after a Christmas holiday with my family. It struck me as I opened my diary that the following day was Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. “Surely school would not be opening after the Christmas break, on the Feast of the Epiphany,” I reasoned. (I am sure my concern did not reflect the meaning of the feast but rather on not having school.) “The Sisters would surely not hold school on such an important feast day … second only to Christmas, Epiphany is regarded by some as even more important than Christmas.”

A check with my friend’s calendar, however, assured me that indeed, sadly, we would have school on January 6.

Although my quite self-righteous attitude toward the feast of the Epiphany was literally correct, my understanding and awareness of its meaning was self-centered rather than spiritual. Today I feel the same way but for different reasons.

That is, at Epiphany the meaning of Christmas – where the Infant received the gaze of ox and ass, shepherd and angels – becomes clear. Now, the wise men appear from afar, led by the star that proclaims Jesus’ birth. The wise men represent nations come to honor the one true King whose interest and concern knows no boundaries of space or time.

The kings’ appearance and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh signify that before Jesus – a poor child, laid in the trough where animals feed – there is no distinction. He is the Lord come to love the Jews, the Gentiles, the rich, the poor, the ignorant and the wise: all kneel together at the crib of the Infant Jesus, the God of Heaven and Earth.

As we conclude these Advent, Christmas, Epiphany reflections, let’s ask ourselves:

What gift of consolation can we bring to the Christ in those around us?

What gift of forgiveness will we give when “the other” offends, hurts, causes pain to us?

What light of hope and love can we bring to “the other,” the one who treats us rudely, ignores us, does not notice or speak to us?

Do we recognize our own Epiphanies – the hint, the awareness of Christ’s light in our lives?

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