At the moment I am encountering a difficulty in as much as I do not have a copy of the new Sacramentary, the Altar version of which is both too large for my prayer room, and too expensive for my pocket. I am told that the small version will be available about Easter.

The introduction, in the ‘old’ translation, to the Opening Prayer for EPIPHANY provides excellent focus for our celebration of this solemnity.

“That we will be guided by the light of faith.”

There is no certain knowledge concerning the Magi (Wise Men, or Kings) other than what is provided by this SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 2: 1 – 12]. I use the word Magi because it does conjure-up the whole concept of miracles. FAITH IN ITSELF IS A MIRACLE – if we understand miracle to mean the very first definition provided by the OXFORD CONCISE DICTIONARY: “an extraordinary event attributed to some supernatural agency.”

Christmas WAS a miracle. Faith IS a miracle.

The Magi appeared from nowhere, and disappeared into nowhere. Somehow or other they represent so many of us. Perhaps they represent the majority of believers – the unknown multitude of believers who soldier on unacknowledged, anonymous to a large extent,and without achieving great public acknowledgement? They (we) appear from nowhere and disappear into nowhere. Somehow or other EPIPHANY is OUR feast! Yet they (we are) were believers … they (we have) had faith. This is the faith that makes the world go round. THIS IS A MIRACLE! The Magi came, they saw, and they believed. The gifts they offered were, in essence, the gift of themselves – and faith leads us to offer ourselves. In itself, this is another miracle. Epiphany is the feast that celebrates the Lord Christ making himself available to ALL people, of all time, in every part of the universe. We, in the present, are an essential part of all of these things. Is this yet another miracle?!

Of this there can be no doubt. The OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 60: 1 – 6] makes it clear. “Above you the Lord now rises … nations come to your light … all are assembling and coming towards you …. everyone … will come.”[In passing we also note that both the idea of miracle, and the universal dimension of Christ’s manifestation is confirmed by Saint Paul in the NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT -EPHESIANS 3: 2 – 3. 5 – 6]. Here the Apostle speaks of the mystery, and the fact that pagansnow share the same inheritance.]

Were the Magi astronomers? “We saw his star when it rose.” Astronomers or otherwise – it matters little! What is important is the fact that they read the signs of the times. As men and women of faith we are called to do exactly the same. Remember the focus of our opening prayer: “That we will be guided by the light of faith.” The Magi “saw his star as it rose and (came) to dohim homage.” These visitors to Bethlehem, from whatever source, knew that some major event of history was about to happen. They read the signs of the times – whatever those signs may or may not have been! This led them to action – to DISCOVER THE REALITY FOR THEMSELVES! Matthew tells us that “going into the house they saw the child … and falling to their knees they did him homage.” Do not overlook that the Magi were also able to read the signs of the times when they encountered Herod. They recognised the king’s duplicity, refused to fall into the trap, “and returned to their own country by a different way.”

The miracle of Christmas AND the miracle of the Magi must be merged into a single unit and, then, integrated into our response to the challenge of the Gospel as a whole.

We have to learn, little by little, to recognise and, then. read correctly the signs (both good and bad) of our own times. {even the official Church often fails to do this!} We need to be on our guard, without fearing, the duplicity presented by the contemporary ‘Herods’, and then take “a different way.” On the other hand, the sight of the star must fill us with joy. However, we must go into the house, do homage, and offer our gifts.

The gift of ourselves is the most valuable.