by Sister Sallie Latkovich
I love the Epiphany Story from Matthew’s Gospel. Mostly, I love the reflections it evokes. I thought you might like to reflect with me. . .
An epiphany is like an “A-ha” moment for us: when we see something new, or come to understand something we thought a mystery, or greet another/others with new recognition of who they are, and who we are in relationship with them. Thus, it is an apt title for the traditional story of the “Three Kings” visiting the newborn Christchild. I am given cause to reflect on various “epiphanies” I have experienced recently. How about you?
If you look at the story in Matthew’s Gospel, 2:1-12, you will notice that there is no mention at all of “Kings.” So, what’s the story? We have a hymn where we sing: “We three kings of orient are. . .” Look back at first book of Kings, where Yaheweh asks Solomon to ask for anything; and Solomon requests an understanding heart. From that encounter on, the gift of wisdom is seen as a gift given to kings. Thus, the three in their wisdom of seeking out the Christchild are named as kings. Here, I am given cause to reflect on the “wise ones” I have met in my own life—those with understanding hearts who reflect well on their experience of life. Who are the wise ones of your own life?
Furthermore, these magi are from the “east.” Thus, they are not native to the place. I reflect here on our own mission of unifying love, and greeting the “dear neighbor.” I must admit here my own prejudices, my preconceived judgment of those who are different from me in any way. Do you too have such prejudices?
The sojourners “saw the star at its rising.” Stars are always guiding lights. Remember when the Israelites were crossing the desert in the exodus? They were led by a fiery cloud in the heavens; thus, a light in the sky. What/who are the guiding stars in my life? Perhaps these have been sure signs of the direction in which to go. What/who do I look to for guidance? And, specifically, guidance in my journey to God?
Enter King Herod: who sought to use the travelers to find this “newborn king” and report back to him. Even the youngest child who hears the story knows that Herod does not wish to “do him homage,” but rather to do him harm, so as not to be a threat to Herod’s power. There is often a bump in our roads, a detour that threatens to move us off course, even a threat that we seek to overpower. Has this ever been your experience?
Finally, the same guiding star (by which they were overjoyed in the text) leads them to the place where the child was. EPIPHANY!!! Don’t miss the detail that “they went into the house.” They weren’t simply observers, but truly entered in. When have I chosen to observe God’s work instead of entering in and participating? The visitors seemed to understand, so they prostrated themselves and did him homage: behaviors in the presence of a king—this newborn king of the Jews.
We have often heard that they gave him great and priceless gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Any souvenir shop in Israel today has a “three pack” of these same gifts! One homilist I heard suggested that these were astrologers, readers of the stars; or even magicians, a derivative of the word magi. And, if they were practitioners of illusion, they surrendered their tools of illusion because they had discovered the truth: the Christchild, Emmanuel. Oh my; what are the illusions of my life, untruths that I cling to? Am I willing to surrender these in light of finding the truth of God in my life and world? Are you?
I hope you will spend some time reflecting on this wonderful story from the Gospel, and the truths it might reveal to you.
About the Author
After nine years at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Sister Sallie Latkovich was elected to and currently serves on the Leadership Team of the Congregation of St. Joseph.