The Epiphany of the Lord is the manifestation of the infant Baby Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, to the nations. The Magi from the East, representing the nations or non-Jews came to the new born king through the guiding star. This wonderful star led them first to the palace of King Herod to inquire about this new born king. These magi were nature worshipers or star gazers. They knew the God of creation who at the same time, is the God of revelation, who has already graced the totality of the created order and made his glory to be felt in the whole universe (See Psalm 8:1; Psalm 19). By following the star (nature), helped by the Jewish scriptures, the magi were able to find Jesus, the Son of God in Bethlehem.
The Star they saw did not just appear at that time. It had been there right from the distant past and was seen at different times in the history of salvation. When Balak king of Moab brought Balaam, a pagan prophet, to curse Israel during the time of the Exodus, to put a stop to their advancement, Balaam could not do so. Rather, he saw from the distant past the star of scepter rising out of Jacob (see Numbers 22-24). He saw clearly the future greatness of Israel in all his oracles. Finally, he concluded and says: “a star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel…. (Numbers 24:17).” Towards the end of the Babylonian exile, the disciple of the Isaiah school prophesies as we heard today in our first reading, calling Jerusalem to rise in splendor, her light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon her. Nations walking by the light of Jerusalem will come and empty their riches there (See Isaiah 60:1-6 and Psalm 72).
This guiding star seen in the distant past is what led the magi to go and worship the infant child of Bethlehem. In worshiping the baby, Jesus, as the representative persons for the gentiles, the magi expressed our faith in Jesus through the gifts they gave to him. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each of those gifts is greatly symbolic in meaning. Gold is given to kings. By it, they expressed the faith of the gentiles in Our Lord, Jesus Christ that he is the King of the whole universe who would establish a universal kingdom of peace and justice, uniting Jews and gentiles. In the gift of frankincense given to priests, they expressed the faith of the gentiles that this Jesus will be the eternal high priest who will bring about the holiness and oneness of God and humanity. By their gift of myrrh used for burials, they expressed the faith of the gentiles that the new born infant Jesus will one day die and would be buried. His death would be innocent, vicarious and redemptive.
Those Magi visitors were sincere and generous givers who expressed their faith in God through their gifts. They were worshippers who had experiential knowledge of the divine or God-consciousness, with the feeling of mysterium, tremendum et facinans. That is the God whose experience creates a reverential fear which at the same time fascinates. This is exactly what the presence of the baby Jesus induced in the manger when he was born in Bethlehem. It made the angels to sing the song of glory to God in the Highest; Mary treasured all in her heart; the shepherds saw and went to announce everywhere what they had seen. In the birth of Jesus Christ heaven and earth came to oneness in the person of Jesus (see Luke 2:15-20). Having made their visit, the magi saw and experienced what the shepherds also saw, experienced and announced to all. The magi now share the same experiences with the Jews. This is the experiencing of the great mystery or God’s secret plan which was unknown to men in former ages but now revealed by the Spirit to the holy apostles and prophets. St. Paul tells us about it that in Christ Jesus, the Gentiles are now co-heirs with the Jews. They are now members of the same body and sharers of the promise through the preaching of the gospel (see Ephesians 3:2-6). We who are non-Jews were the gentiles. In baptism, we have entered into a covenant with God in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, enjoying all the rights and privileges of being Christians, we must work for the unity of the church and always maintain peace among all God’s people especially with our Jewish brothers and sisters. It is an obligation on our part to denounce anti-Semitic tendencies in our society. We are the new People of God, at the same time, we must not forget to pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters.