While the Christmas creche is often attributed to Saint Francis, credited with making the first living nativity scene in Italy, the Feast of the Epiphany is a day associated with the Order of Preachers.
Not only do we celebrate the revelation of Christ to all the nations (the mission of every Dominican), but in “The Nine Ways of Prayer,” we are told that one of Saint Dominic’s favorite examples of how to pray was based on that of the Magi from the East, who bowed down in homage before the Lord.
Before Jesus’ birth, “epiphany” was somewhat of a political term. Emperor Antiochus IV declared himself to be epiphanes (manifest god), killing those who opposed his rule, just as Herod did after learning that the Magi were in search of the king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-18).
Today the word epiphany is used to describe a moment of sudden insight or internal clarity. Although this definition is close to the original meaning, it is not what one really focuses on during the Feast of the Epiphany.
Celebrated at the end of the Christmas season, Epiphany is not simply an internal realization of a greater truth. It begins with God’s revelation of himself in a stable 2,000 years ago. This is why Saint Gregory of Nazianzen preferred to call it the Feast of the Theophany, the manifestation of God.
Unlike the kings of old, God does not force his way into our lives with fanfare and parades. Instead he comes as a poor and humble child, his first resting place in a lowly manger.
Just as the Lord invited Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar to follow a star, he invites each of us to seek him out. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out, “He is the ultimate destination of history, the point of arrival of an ‘exodus,’ of a providential journey of redemption that culminates in his death and Resurrection.”
After seeking out the Lord and finding him in his mother’s arm, we cannot help but humble ourselves and adore our Savior. Strengthened by our time in his presence, we go forth to proclaim the name of Jesus to all those we meet.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to do this is by marking our doors with the traditional Epiphany blessing: the numbers of the year and the letters C, M, B [the initials of the Magi and the phrase Christus mansionem benedicat (May Christ bless this house)]. For 2017, the blessing reads: 20 + C + M + B + 17.
As we do so, we are invited to pray the “Blessing of the Home and Household on the Epiphany” from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers: Lord God of heaven and earth, You revealed Your only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect Your love. Bless this house, all who inhabit it, and all who pass through these doors. May this home and this family be a light for all who are lost and afraid, a place of peace and hospitality for those in need, and a sign that You are indeed God-with-us. And when our long journey has ended, lead us all by the star of Your mercy, that we may come home to You, to the dwelling place You have prepared for us in heaven. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.