In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. -Matthew 2:1-12
About The Meditation Prompts Definition: Epiphany from the Greek phainein to bring to light, to cause to appear, to show; epiphainein to manifest, epiphainea appearance Latin epiphania. Epiphany n: a festival observed on January 6, commemorating the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; an appearance or manifestation esp.of a divine being, a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking. Only a fool would give a gift meant for the recipient to give. Unless the fool is profoundly wise and knows the value of the gift. Such gift-giving is intimate and prophetic. The meditation prompts encourage foolishness over conventional wisdom (Meditation One), understanding that the new will replace old prophecies, divinations, teachings, and enigmas (Meditation Two) and acknowledges the magi's gifts as gifts of the Giver. The magi's offerings are God's own favor - love, holiness, and the bitter but generative gift of Christ's passion (Meditation Three).
May unexpected Epiphanies brighten your year. -Suzanne
Meditation One (Introit) Wise Ones Become Fools
How have wise men become such fools as to adore a child, whose age and whose relations’ poverty alike deserve contempt?
They have become fools, that they may be wise. The Spirit has taught them in advance what later the apostle preached, “Let him who would be wise become as a fool, that so he may be wise. For because through wisdom the world in its wisdom could not have knowledge of God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching so save them that believe.” …
… They fall on their faces, they revere Him as King, they worship Him as God. Of a truth He, Who led them hither, has instructed them too; He, Who urged them on by means of the star without, has Himself taught them in their inmost heart.
-Bernard of Clairvaux From In Epiphania Domini I.5
Scrooge was better than his word. he did it all, and infinitely more; and to Timy Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old City knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let hem laugh, and little heeded them, for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they schould wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.
-Charles Dickens 1812-1870 A Christmas Carol
Miscellany (from hymnody)
Shall we then yield him, in costly devotion,/ odors of Edom, and offerings divine,/ gems of the mountain, and pearls of the ocean,/ myrrh from the forest, and gold from the mine? Vainly we offer each ample oblation,/ vainly with gifts would his favor secure,/ richer by far is the heart’s adoration,/ dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
(verses 3-4 of beloved Epiphany hymn “Brightest and best” words by Reginald Heber (1783-1826)
What can I give him poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part - What can I give him? My heart.
Christina Rossetti 1830-1894
Born a king on Bethlelhem's plain, gold I bring to crown him again, King forever, ceasing never over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I: incense owns a Deity nigh; prayer and praising gladly raising, worship him God Most High.
Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
-John Henry Hopkins, Jr. 1820-1891 Three Kings of Orient (exerpt)
The Epiphany January 6
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Adoration of the Magi, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1510
Meditation Two (Insight) A Star Brighter Than This Star
[The Magi] Clearly did Balaam reveal to us The meaning of the words which were prophesied, Saying that a star would rise up, A star which would dim all prophecies and divination, A star to destroy the parables of the wise, Their teachings and their enigmas, A star much brighter than this star which just appeared, For he is the maker of stars About whom it was written: 'From Jacob shall rise up A newborn babe, the God before time.'
[Christ] Admit them (the magi) for my word led them, And shone on those who were seeking me. To all appearances, it is a star; But in reality, it is power. It went with the magi in service to me; And still it stands outside fulfilling its ministry, And revealing with its beams the place where there has been born, A newborn babe, the God before time.
-Romanos c.490-c.556 excerpt, Kontakia On the Person of Christ, trans. Marjorie Carpenter quoted from A Christmas Sourcebook Liturgy Training Publications
Meditation Three (Integration) Mine And Thine
Behold, I give thee gold, that is to say My Divine Love; frankincense, that is all My holiness and devotion; finally myrrh, which is the bitterness of My Passion. I give them to thee to such an extent that thou mayest offer them as gifts to Me, as if they were thine own property.
-Mechthild von Hackeborn 1241-1299 The Book of Special Grace, Part 1 Chapter 8
The Last Word
All things come of Thee O Lord, And of thine own have we given thee. -1Chronicles 29:14 (ca. 4th cent B.C.E.)
Just as the shepherds represent my instinctual self, the Magi represent my reason. I'm much stronger in reason than instinct. I understand the Magi occupying themselves with maps and charts and esoteric scrolls and interpreting books and cyphers and symbols.
Unlike the shepherds who saw the sky dissolve right over them, the magi prepared themselves like athletes for the moment of grace. It's a wonder they ever looked up from their desks to catch the Star blazing from the heavens.
They prepared for every hardship of the journey across deserts, mountains, and plains, for the occasional caravansary or watering site, for weakness, fatigue, boredom, and hardness of heart. It takes a wise person to know enough to go the distance, pace by pace, keeping perspective.
While I need to learn what the shepherds have to teach me about being present to the moment, I cultivate the friendship of the Magi, too, because their wisdom and poise can guide me through many an unlikely landscape toward my destination. I don't need to wait for the sky to open in front of me. On any day, I can wake up and choose to journey toward God.
A new year has begun. During this year, too, all the paths from east to west, from morning until evening, lead on and on as far as the eye can see, through the deserts of life, with all its changes. But these paths can be turned into the blessed pilgrimage to the absolute, the journey to God. Set out, my heart, take up the journey ! The star shines. You can't take much with you on the journey. And you will lose much on the way. Let it go. Gold of love, incense of yearning, myrrh of suffering – these you certainly have with you. He shall accept them. And we shall find him.