One of the events I treasure most from my Franciscan upbringing is the solemnity of the Epiphany, or Little Christmas. Sadly for us in the Latin Church, it is not a feast that is kept with the same reverence and true solemnity with which its uniqueness was once marked. Even when I was a little kid I remember the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph (our own Stevens Point Community) teaching us special songs and stories concerning the Three Kings, the Star of Bethlehem, and their significance in our lives.
In this great feast we ponder the manifestation of Christ to the nations. The “wise men” symbolize the Gentiles, the non-Jews, to whom this manifestation was made. Through them we have come to know and to ponder the significance of the Incarnation.
Pope Benedict XVI calls us to consider further that in the Three Kings we also see all of humanity journeying to Christ. They represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward Christ. If the Wise Men were led by a star to find the newborn king of the Jews, who is in truth the universal savior, the Holy Father tells us, “this implies that the entire cosmos speaks of Christ, even though its language is not yet fully intelligible to man in his present state.” The “language of creation” points us toward the truth about the Creator, namely: God who creates is also God who redeems.
I would further call your attention to the star as it pertains to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The New Year begins as we honor her particular prerogative, namely: she is the Mother of God. Throughout the ages, Mary has been revered as the “Morning Star” or “The Star of the Sea.” The Three Kings noted that they had seen the star in the East; but truly, they saw its Light reflected in the eyes of Mary.
Mary is the Morning Star that leads us to Christ. She is always the full reflection of His brilliance in the world and returns the light in the lives of the faithful who seek Him today. Saint Bonaventure, the great Franciscan theologian and Doctor of the Church, compares life to a tempestuous sea into which sinners have fallen from the ship of Divine Grace. “O poor lost sinners,” he has Our Lady say, “despair not; raise up your eyes and cast them on this beautiful star; breathe again with confidence, for it will save you from this tempest and will guide you into the port of salvation.” Perhaps, in imitation of that prayer, the Irish have a great expression: “O Mary, meet me at the port.”
As we begin this new year of Faith, may we follow the journey of the “wise men” and be led, in our time, by the radiant Star, the Holy Virgin Mother of God!
Blessed Little Christmas – I’ll see you at the Mass!