The Epiphany of the Lord – B


“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.”


Thy light is come, O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; and the Gentiles shall walk in they light, alleluia.

[On this day] We celebrate a holy day adorned with three mysteries: this day a star led the Magi to the manger; this day wine was made from water at the wedding; this day Christ willed to be baptized in the Jordan by John in order to save us, alleluia.

Brevarium Monasticum


Oh God, who on this day

revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations

by the guidance of a star,

grant in your mercy

that we, who know you already by faith,

may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.



Is 60:1-6

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,                                                                              your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.


The feast of the Epiphany is the feast which commemorates the manifestation of God to the Gentiles. This manifestation began when the Wise Men from the East came to Bethlehem to pay their respects and offer their gifts to the newly-born king of the Jews (see Mt. 2 in today’s gospel). Though the words of second-Isaiah were not understood by his hearers as referring to this event, it was only in the coming of the Magi, to welcome Christ, that they were really fulfilled. Jerusalem was in no sense an attraction for the nations in the intervening centuries. But the Magi at Bethlehem were the first-fruits of the thousands and millions of Gentiles who have since then seen the glory of God in the Babe of Bethlehem and who have figuratively come to Jerusalem from the West and from the East to form the new Chosen People, the new Kingdom of God.

Let us thank God today for having called us, Gentiles, to his kingdom, his Church, and for giving us the means to reach heaven. Let us never imitate the Chosen People of the Old Testament who so often forgot how good God was to them, and who often so provoked him, that he allowed them to be taken into exile as slaves of a pagan nation. We too could bring exile on ourselves, an exile much more fatal than the Babylonian one. Whatever else may be my lot, whatever hardship I may have to suffer during the few years I am on earth, God forbid that I should ever, through my unfaithfulness, cause myself to be excluded from my true home, heaven, where “the glory of the Lord will shine” forever.


Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
All kings shall pay him homage,
all nations shall serve him.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.



Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.


St. Paul’s thoughts in his prison in Rome are not for himself nor for the fate that awaits him. He is thinking instead of the mission Christ gave him, to evangelize the Gentile nations. He has done much already, and even in prison he does all he can to continue the good work. He writes to his Gentile converts from Rome, to remind them of their great privilege in being called to the Christian faith. They are now God’s new Chosen People, they are now members of Christ’s mystical body, they are now guaranteed heaven if they appreciate and live up to their vocation.

Today, on the feast of the Epiphany, we are celebrating the coming of the first Gentiles to the feet of Christ. They were the first of the long stream of Gentile peoples and nations that flowed steadily toward Christ’s mystical body, the Church, down through the years. We have the privilege of being part of that stream, and St. Paul, who today in heaven is as interested in us as he was in his Ephesian converts, is exhorting us, through these words of his, to appreciate the privilege which is ours. Through the grace of God and not through any merits of our own, we are Christians and are on the road to heaven. “Rejoice and persevere” is St. Paul’s advice to us today. If we truly rejoice it means we truly appreciate what the gift of the true faith means. We know where we came from, we know where we are going, and we are certain there is a place, a wonderful, eternal place, to go to. We know too how to get there. This is no mean knowledge in the world of today, where so many seem content to make this world their heaven, and let the future look after itself – if there be a future (and logically to ease their consciences they must hope there isn’t one).

Thank God, our faith and our ordinary intelligence tell us there has to be a future life – God would be a cruel joker if he gave us the nature we possess with its spiritual gifts and desires only to have them end in a grave after a few short years. We can rejoice then because we appreciate the great privilege given us, and if we appreciate it we shall hold on to it and follow the path it indicates. We may have to climb some hills and they may look as steep as Calvary, but after Calvary comes the Mount of Olives, the mount of the Ascension.



Mt 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.


CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.1 Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”.2 in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.3 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.4

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.5 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”6

CCC 528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.7 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.8 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.9 The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas10 (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

CCC 724 In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word visible in the humility of his flesh. It is to the poor and the first representatives of the gentiles that she makes him known.11

1 Cf. Lk 1:31.
2 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.
3 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9.15.
4 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21.
5 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
6 Acts 10:38.
7 Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.
8 Cf Mt 2:2; Num 24:17-19; Rev 22:16.
9 Cf Jn 4 22; Mt 2:4-6.
10 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.
11 Cf. Lk 1:15-19; Mt 2:11.


The Magi are the central personages in today’s feast of Epiphany. They were pagans who did not know the true God of the Jews. Yet that true God revealed to them that the King he had promised to the Jews had come. The expected Prince was born. They came to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, expecting, of course, to find the city and the whole country rejoicing. Instead they found suspicion and hatred in the reigning king – a hatred which in a few days turned to murder. Among the religious leaders they found knowledge of their past history, but utter indifference as regards the present and the future. These leaders knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; they must have realized that the Magi were very sure of the truth revealed to them – they would not have come such a long journey on a “fool’s errand.” In spite of that, the thought of going to Bethlehem with the Magi never entered their minds. These were the leaders who some years later refused to listen to Christ and in spite of his miracles refused to admit his claim that he was not only the promised Messiah, but the true Son of God. These were the men who rejected him because he had mercy on sinners, and spoke of a future life. What they wanted from their Messiah was political power and earthly freedom and prosperity. Like Herod they ended with murder – the crucifixion of the “King of the Jews.” The pagan king was not much worse than the indifferent leaders of God’s Chosen People.

We too know the true facts concerning Christ, his mission, and his present and future kingdom. Like the leaders of the Jews of his day, we also could become absorbed in the affairs of this life and the quest for wealth, pleasure and power. We could become so totally absorbed in such things as to have neither the interest nor the time to pay our respects to Christ or to welcome him into our homes and our hearts, as our true Lord. God forbid it should ever be thus with us. Rather let us resolve this morning to make the Magi our models, to follow them to Bethlehem and offer him all that we have and are. He will accept our offering and we will return by another way, wiser and better men.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.


The Deep Desire of the Magi

Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the “star” which they saw “in the East” and which they recognized as the star of the “King of the Jews,” that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (Mt 2:2). So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them toward the King of the Jews, toward the kingship of God himself. The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin. This is the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian… When the Magi came to Bethlehem, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:11). Here at last was the long awaited moment – their encounter with Jesus. “Going into the house”: this house in some sense represents the Church. In order to find the Savior, one has to enter the house, which is the Church… “They fell down and worshiped him… and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt 2: 11-12). Here is the culmination of the whole journey: encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary, the Son of God made man… The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI


Epiphany Hymn of St. Ambrose

Most High God!

Thou that enkindlest

the fires of the shining stars!

O Jesus!

Thou that art peace and life and light and truth,

hear and grant our prayers.

This present day has been made holy

by thy mystic baptism,

whereby thou didst sanctify

those waters of the Jordan,

which of old were thrice turned back.

It is holy by the star shining in the heavens,

whereby thou didst announce

thy Virginal Mother’s delivery

and didst, on the same day,

lead the Magi to adore thee in thy crib.

It is holy too,

by thy changing the water

of the pitchers into wine;

which the steward of the feast,

knowing that he had not so filled them,

drew forth for the guests.

Glory be to thee, O Lord Jesus,

that didst appear on this Day!

And to the Father and to the Holy Spirit,

for everlasting ages. Amen.

Hymn of St. Ambrose (338-397), used by the Church in Milan

The Blessing of the Home

The blessing of the home is a popular Epiphany custom. using specially blessed chalk (your parish priest will bless the chalk, if you ask, or use the prayer of blessing below), many households mark their entrance door with the year and with the inscription CMB, the initial Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the names of the three wise man in legend. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means “Christ, bless this home.” The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+15. It remains above the doorway until Pentecost.

Blessing of Chalk

Let us pray. O Lord God, bless this creature chalk to make it helpful to man. Grant that we who use it with faith and inscribe with it upon the entrance of our homes may enjoy physical health and spiritual protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

House Blessing

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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