CHRISTMAS SEASON: EPIPHANY — Our Lord Jesus Manifested to the Nations [C]–Faith Celebrated

MATTHEW 2, 1-12

lectionary bible

1  After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east

Art Source:

Art Source:

2   asking, ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’

3   When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem.

4   He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5   They told him, ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

6   And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for from you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’

7   Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared

8   and sent them on to Bethlehem with the words, ‘Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’

9   Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was.

10   The sight of the star filled them with delight,

11   and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

12   But they were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

New Jerusalem Bible  

Doubleday 1984 



As described in the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar [article 32], the Christmas season “holds most sacred the memorial of Christ’s birth and early manifestations.”

Over the centuries the feast of the Epiphany [Greek = manifestation] had been influenced by Eastern Christian tradition and the symbolism of other cultures and sects.

Epiphany not only celebrates the first manifestation of Jesus as a human being in his birth – as in the feast of Christmas — but also his early manifestations.   After Vatican II Epiphany in the reformed liturgy highlights the manifestation of Christ to all the nations.


Wise Men from the East Iranian painter Hossein Behzad (1894 –1968) Art Source:

Wise Men from the East
Hossein Behzad (1894 –1968)
Art Source:   


Jesus manifesting himself to the magi [Latin = wise men] from the east in Matthew 2 [G] constitutes the focus of the feast. This customary reading is cherished for its popular symbolisms prefiguring the life and destiny of the infant Jesus. Herod’s ill intention forebodes the opposition of political and religious authorities which ended in Jesus’ death.

The gift of myrrh of these Gentiles presages Jesus’ fate on the cross, his death, and burial.

Their gift of frankincense – an incense offered traditionally to God alone in the Jerusalem temple — suggests the adoration of these wise men coming before the presence of the incarnated Son of God.

Gold as the magi’s third gift symbolizes immortality implying the eternal glory gained by Christ after his ascension at God’s right hand.


Gold and incense are mentioned in the first reading [1] from Isaiah [60, 6]. The prophet proclaims the assembling of nations and gift-bearing kings in Jerusalem to do homage to God in a restored people returned from exile. God’s glory and power dawn like the sun over Jerusalem to draw these nations and their wealth to a city the prophet sees in ruins.

The psalmist [P] reiterates these sentiments, honouring the Christ as the lord over all nations.


The feast of Epiphany leads us to celebrate God’s infinite saving love for all peoples and for all times.

During the apostolic times the vision of the mystery of the incarnation was proclaimed by Paul to the Ephesians [2]. Barriers between Jews and Gentiles in the earliest Christian century were disrupted as all become co-heirs to the same inheritance, members of Christ’s body, and sharers of the same promises.

Resources consulted

Normand Bonneau, The Sunday Lectionary: Ritual Word, Paschal Shape. Liturgical Press 1998.

Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg, Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today, 3rd Edition. Liturgical Press 2006.

Kevin W Irwin, Sunday Worship: A Planning Guide to Celebration.  Pueblo 1983.


Today we gather as peoples of all nations inheriting the salvation God offers through the first manifestation of Christ’s birth and the other manifestations which continue to be revealed.

How are we to celebrate this universal offer of God’s saving love in songs and through our witness?


What Star Is This? [selected verses]
Charles Coffin 1736

From All that Dwell Below the Skies [selected verses]
Isaac Watts 1719 & John Hatton


We Three Kings of Orient Are
John Henry Hopkins Jr 1857


The First Noel
William Sandys

What Child Is this?
William Chatterton Dix 1865


Go, Tell It On The Mountain
John Wesley Work Jr 1865

Joy to the World
Isaac Watts 1719

1 = 1st reading
P = Responsorial Psalm
2  = 2nd Reading
G = Gospel






The feast of the Epiphany helps me understand the offer of God’s saving love to peoples of all nations.

Wise men from the east He Qi Art Source:

Wise men from the east
He Qi
Art Source: 

In our plural societies

how am I to witness to

this universal reach of God’s salvation?