Drawing Back The Veil
In this short version of his homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Year A, Father Hanly examines the mysteries revealed when God draws back the veil in the Epiphany.
Readings for the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, Year A
- First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
- Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
- Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas offers us two of the finest readings in all the New Testament. The first, by St Luke, is the story of the birth of the Messiah; the second is the one we just read to you. It’s the gospel of the Epiphany, the three wise men coming to Bethlehem and bearing gifts and paying homage to the Christ Child.
It’s hard to believe, but at one time in the church, there were only two Holy Days of Obligation. Very special in the eyes of all the people. One of course was Easter, the Resurrection, and the other was not Christmas, but the feast that we celebrate today: the Epiphany.
“Why?” you might ask. Well, because if you look at the crib and you see the baby Jesus, he is surrounded by shepherds, and his mother, and St Joseph, and every character, even the angels probably, every character in the scene is welcoming the Jewish Messiah, but with the celebration of the Epiphany, all the Gentiles of the world can understand that Jesus came, not just for the people of Israel, but for people everywhere. He was to be the Messiah, not only for a small group who had held onto the hope of the Messiah for centuries and centuries, but he had come for us all.
Epiphany means “manifestation.” It’s a Greek work and it literally means “to draw back the veil.” So whenever you hear of “epiphanies” in the Gospel, it means that God is drawing back the veil that covers a great mystery. Then, all of us peer into this mystery, able to understand much more about who God is and who we are.
And what did the Magi, these three wise men, see? What did they see when the veil of God was drawn back?
What they saw was, as Matthew says, the Child with Mary, his Mother. And they fell on their knees and worshipped him.
And then from their treasures, they offered him gold, the symbol of kingship; frankincense, the symbol of the presence of God seen in the perfumed smoke of prayer rising up to heaven; and the final gift was the perfumed oil which was to be used for his burial, and this was the symbol of his great sacrifice: that he would offer up his life in suffering and pain for the redemption of the whole world.
After the Magi paid homage to the Child they went home by another way. They did not return to Jerusalem to tell Herod where the Child could be found because they knew that Herod planned to destroy him.
Like the Magi, we too come to adore Jesus, our Lord. And we fall on our knees as they fell on their knees, to hear the angel voices proclaiming the coming of the Lord into our present world and into our hearts this morning.
We must remember the coming of Jesus, is not a one time only thing, he comes each morning to call us to continue our journey with him, following where he our star leads us by faith to where he takes us, ultimately taking us home.
Did you ever wonder why we never hear of the Three Wise Men except for this one and only visit to Bethlehem?
Because the Child, who is more than a child, and Mary, who carried God Himself to be born in the stable, had come to stay. And the wise men knew that wherever they went the Child and Mary his mother would be with them. On their journey, no matter wherever the child would lead them, they would follow to the gates of heaven itself.
And so when we come each year to see the crib scene, we are reassured that, for the rest of our lives, we too, like Mary, carry Jesus with us and we shall never be separated again.
Last Wednesday, we celebrated the Feast of the Mother of God. She who carried God Himself in her womb and brought him forth in Bethlehem and he was brought forth to live with us and to stay with us, to lead us, to care for us, to forgive us, to make sure that we understand the true nature of what we are.
For we, like Mary, are the Christ bearers of Jesus, the Saviour, sharing him with everyone that we are with and meet as we walk together the long road with him, eventually into eternal life.