So, what is Epiphany (also called Three Kings Day, or the Twelfth Night)? In its simplistic form, Epiphany is the immigration of individuals to see a native place. Around about the 4th century, the celebration of Epiphany was the association of three visiting Magi (what we call the Three Kings) traveling to visit the newborn Jesus in the manger nestled in Bethlehem. With them, as we all know, they bring gifts; gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. [The gifts have meanings Gold=Royal Standing; Frankincense=Divine Birth; Myrrh=Mortality.] But even better is the fact that the word EPIPHANY itself is Greek [not Hebrew] meaning “manifestation’. Already full of irony– the word is not native, but rather a term that was in a sense “immigrated in.”
So where does this lead us to? Well the fact that as the region of Bethlehem was becoming a “sanctuary” for the Magi and even Jesus, the nation itself was in the middle of welcoming refugee and others into their lands. United by their belief that the King of Kings had been born; we see in Christianity’s first moments, the beginnings of what has become Human Days of Dignity–where one group (or one nation) was called upon to welcome others from the outside who bear gifts and have a great gift to bring to this new “nation” united by Christ.
It is fitting that today in the Archdiocese of Louisville we celebrated a Migration Day of Prayer—presided over by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz; and the fact that we also begin to usher in the celebration of Epiphany. As part of those 5 days of Human Dignity (which are scattered thorough this liturgical season) we are called to become more inclusive, to welcome those who come seeking a place of sanctuary as an opportunity to potentially have an encounter with Christ; for it is known through Catholic teaching that we should meet everyone as if they were Christ himself, for we never know if it might be him coming to visit us.
So what should we do? We should welcome all of those into our “nation” that wish to enter. We should find ourselves full of love and embrace for those seeking nothing more than what you or I have. We should realize that it was Mary and Joseph (along with Jesus) that opened up and accepted visitors from all over to live united under the Messiah. We should not be greedy, but instead should offer to share what has been so generously given to us by God, through his one and only Son-born of the Virgin Mary. It is through the acceptance of those who wish to come into the house of the Lord (into our communities) that we may find ourselves close to walking hand-in-hand with Jesus.
So in the end, Epiphany is nothing more than (not minimizing the significance of the event) a remembrance of our call to accept all those that have been called to the feast table by God; and to treat others as we would want to be treated!
So not only Happy Epiphany but HAPPY IMMIGRATION DAY!
Lawrence V. McCrobie