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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Epiphany, or Manifestation of Christ.

The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, January 6

Adoration of the Magi
From a Sermon by St. Leo the Pope
Dearly beloved, rejoice in the Lord ; and again I say, rejoice. Only a few days are past since the Solemnity of Christ’s Nativity, and now the glorious light of Epiphany is breaking upon us. On that day the Virgin brought him forth, and on this he was made known to the world. For the Word-made-Flesh was pleased to reveal himself by degrees to those unto whom he had come. When Jesus was born he was first manifested to the believing, but hidden from his enemies. However, the heavens declared the glory of God and their sound went out into all lands, namely, when the herald-Angels appeared to tell the shepherds the glad tidings of a Saviour’s birth. And now the guiding star leadeth the Wise Men to worship him, that from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down thereof, the birth of the true King may be known abroad ; that through those Wise Men the kingdoms of the East might learn the great truth, and the Roman empire remain no more in darkness.

The very cruelty of Herod, when he strove to put an end to the new-born King whom he feared, was made an unwitting means to further this new dispensation of mercy. For the tyrant was so intent on his horrid crime of slaying the little Child, that he did not perceive how his indiscriminate slaughter of the Innocents would serve to spread wider abroad the story of a new-born Babe whose birth as a great ruler had been announced from heaven. Thus were these glad tidings loudly proclaimed, both by the novelty of their story, and the iniquity of their enemies. Moreover, the Saviour was carried into Egypt. And thereby that nation, so long hardened in idolatry, was (by the mysterious virtue which went forth from Christ, even when his presence was unknown,) prepared for the saving light so soon to dawn on them ; if so be, they might receive the Truth as a wanderer even before they had banished falsehood.

Dearly beloved, we recognize in these Wise Men, who came to worship Christ, the first-fruits of that dispensation to the Gentiles wherein we also are called and enlightened. Let us then keep this Feast with grateful hearts, in thanksgiving for our blessed hope, the dawn of which we do commemorate on this day. From the worship paid to the new-born Christ is to be dated the entry of us Gentiles upon our heirship of God and joint-heirship with Christ. Since that joyful day the Scriptures which testify of Christ have lain open for us as well as for the Jews. Whose blindness rejected that Truth which, since that day, hath shed his bright beams upon all nations. Let us then honour this most sacred day, whereon the Author of our salvation was made manifest. As the Wise Men fell down and worshipped him in the manger, so let us fall down and worship him, enthroned omnipotent in heaven. As they opened their treasures and presented unto him mystic and symbolic gifts, so let us strive to open our hearts to him, and offer him from thence some worthy offering.

Antiphon on the Magnificat:
The Wise Men, beholding the star, said one to another : This is the sign of a mighty King ; forth fare we to seek him: * and let us offer him gifts, gold and incense and myrrh, alleluia.
O God, whose only-begotten Son hath been manifest in the substance of our flesh : grant, we beseech thee, that, like as we have known him after the fashion of our outward likeness, so we may inwardly be made regenerate in him, through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, now and forever. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
As on this day is the Church espoused to her heavenly Bridegroom, forasmuch as in Jordan Christ hath cleansed her iniquities: * therefore do the Wise Men hasten with their offerings to the royal nuptials where the guests are regaled with water made wine, alleluia.

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