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 (Is 60:1-2)
The word epiphany means “appearance” or “manifestation”, specifically an appearance or manifestation of the divine – a glorious revelation occurring in world history. Still an epiphany is not for everyone to see. When an epiphany does occur there are only certain people chosen to perceive it. Epiphanies are especially given to those whose hearts are ready for religious wonder: the pious Jewish shepherds of the field, the Eastern kings seeking clues of the One God, John the Baptist anointing Jesus in the Jordan River. Not many have seen a manifestation of the Lord. Perhaps this is because so many people today would not recognize it if they saw one; or in recognizing it would not act upon it in the thoroughly devoted and transforming way it is meant to inspire? Only God knows.
This Sunday’s Feast of the Epiphany asks each and every Catholic and all sincere seekers of God to believe, through faith, in the revelation of God; specifically in the divine revelation associated with the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Church does not require that you be present at the manifestation of God in real time, but that you only recall the words of Jesus Himself in his final beatitude and legacy left to mankind before He departed the world: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29).
In order to celebrate this great feast day which falls on the “twelfth day of Christmas” we have placed on our bulletin cover a beautiful medieval work by the three Limbourg Brothers known as The Adoration of the Magi (1416). This piece was probably from an illuminated manuscript on parchment as part of a larger book or bible. The Limbourg Brothers were Dutch, however they were mostly active in France as masters of miniature illustration in what is known as the Late Gothic style.
This painting, typical of the talented brothers, is a panoply of activity for the artistic eye. Almost the entire right side of this tempera painting is a sea of jostling figures from which the magi emerge. Here they appear, as ones stranded by the storm still blowing from Eden. Here they represent all sincere mankind as they offer praise and thanks for their salvation, even as one king kisses the “dry land” before the infant Jesus, the wellspring of eternal life.
The scene also has its share of four footed creatures: sheep and horses, camels and leopards all present so that creation itself can express homage to the creator born on earth of Mary who is seen here already in her heavenly royalty while she presents her Son to others for adoration. Above we see the shepherds at night engaged with their own manifestation of angels who themselves offer “Gloria” amidst the shining star in praise of Emmanuel, God-with-us. Mary is attended by ladies in waiting, one lady seen bearing the fruitfulness of the womb.
Off in the distance we see a great French Gothic city defined pictorially by two flags flying. For us, this is looming Jerusalem which will claim the life of Jesus, yet will still play its full part in salvation history (Rev 21:2). May the Lord manifest his Holy Spirit to all those who seek Him!
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services