The Christmas of the Nations
Granted that it is a bit of a shock when, every so many years, the Epiphany follows right on the heals of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, even so for all of those countries which, back before the calendar reform after the Council, did not observe the Epiphany as a holy day of obligation the Sunday celebration of Christ’s Manifestation to the nations has been pure gain.
To call the Epiphany of the Lord the “Gentile Christmas” is to say too little and so I’d like to let our rich tradition speak in the words of the 2nd lesson from today’s Office of Readings taken from a sermon for this day by Pope St. Leo the Great:
“The loving providence of God determined that in the last days he would aid the world, set on its course to destruction. He decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ…
Let the full number of the nations now take their place in the family of the patriarchs... In the persons of the Magi let all people adore the Creator of the universe; let God be known, not in Judaea only, but in the whole world, so that his name may be great in all Israel…
This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ.”
Sadly on this day I cannot banish from my mind’s eye those images of the anguish and rage of Coptic Christian young men in Alexandria, Egypt, following the bomb attack which carried off so many of their loved ones, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The exile, the bondage really, of so many who recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth continues with the complicity of too many.
Please God, that in our day the silent service of the star of Bethlehem and we by our good example and personal sacrifices would lead the nations to worship Him Who is light and life for all the nations! Lord, grant us peace! St. Leo, pray for us!