Feast of Epiphany 2013

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St Matthew tells us that the wise men came to Jerusalem from the east to offer homage to the child born in Bethlehem. They believed they were witnessing the birth of a king. The heavenly sign of a star told them that this child was of divine significance.  When they arrived at the stable, despite the evident poverty and simplicity of the scene, they knelt down and in the words of St Matthew "did him homage" and offered their gifts to this child whom they recognised as destined for kingship.

Later before Pilate when asked if he were a king, Jesus answered in the affirmative: "I am a king", but quickly qualified this by saying that his kingdom was not of this world.

St Matthew emphases that the purpose of the journey of the wise men from the east was to seek out and give homage to this new born king. The gifts that they brought with them were meant as expressions of their homage. Another word for homage and one that is more commonly used is the word "adoration". The wise men offered adoration to the one that we know as the promised Messiah, one who is the Son of God.

The fitting attitude we human beings can adopt and should adopt towards the presence of God is that of homage or adoration. In the act of adoration we are giving expression to who God is and who we are. We are creatures before the Creator.

The wise men remind us that this should be our first attitude towards God. St Matthew mentions that they knelt before the child. Our first and most appropriate form of response to God in adoration is that we kneel. The posture we adopt before the presence of God is that of these wise men - we kneel. That is why we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. The Lord has come among us and we kneel in adoration.

There are in fact two basic expressions of adoration. One is to kneel in silent adoration. This is our approach when we have times of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There is another expression which is shown to us in the Sacred Scriptures.

It is found in the opening chapter of the Book of Isaiah and it is described for us by St John in the Book of Revelations. In Book of Revelations, Chapter 4, St John describes the wonderful scene of heavenly worship. He says that day after day and night after night the angelic hosts keep on singing,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Here we have a valuable insight into what happens in heaven. Heaven is given over to exultant praise of God. Joy and exuberance abounds.Then we are told: “the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one who lives forever and ever. And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

“You are worthy, O Lord our God,
to receive glory and honour and power.
For you created everything,
and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.”

We are given a glimpse of heavenly worship. The great cry goes up: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty”. We identify here the same vision that captivated Isaiah in the Temple as the Lord called him to the prophetic ministry:

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.  Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. In a great chorus they sang, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”  The glorious singing shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke.                                                        (Is.6, 1-3)

This was the vision that inspired the life and ministry of the prophet. He knew the glory of the Lord! There is a profound confidence in the ultimate victory of God that lies under all the writings of Isaiah. God will be supreme in the end! This vision of heavenly worship was the cornerstone of the faith of Isaiah. The Lord God revealed his glory to his chosen prophet. This one vision would be enough for a lifetime of faithful service through the most difficult of times.

Praise belongs to the saints and angels as they behold the Lord in glory. Here on earth we who are still on our pilgrim way to the Kingdom can be inspired by their example and by our own awareness of who God is and what he had done for us.

The adoration fitting for God can be that of the silent submission of our hearts before the presence of Almighty God, even if present in the most humble of ways - as the Lord was at Bethlehem - in our case in the form of consecrated bread. This finds expression in our times of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Adoration should be at the heart of Christian prayer. It should be the beginning of our prayer and the end of our prayer. Notice that our recitation of the psalms are concluded by “Glory be to the Father….”

Today we can be reminded that every Mass is an act of worship of God. Listen to the teaching of the document on the Liturgy from Vatican II. The Council, in article 8, states,

In the earthly Liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that Heavenly Liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a Minister of the Holies and of the true Tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our Life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory .

Our participation in the Liturgy engages us in a cosmic reality. We are lifted beyond ourselves: beyond our meagre concerns; beyond our physical attachments; beyond our earthly preoccupations. We lift up our eyes. We lift up our hearts. We look to heaven. WWe behold the glory of the Lord.

Today on this Feast of the Epiphany the wise men remind us of the virtue of adoration and of its vital place in our Christian worship and prayer.