06 January 2009

Epiphany of the Lord

Even from amid the obscurity in which Christ chose to be born, there could not but flash out upon the world, of which He was the Master, some gleam to light up the birth of the Infant Savior, and to show that, Child though He was, with all the touching helplessness of infancy, yet He was something different from any child of Adam, that God had ever given into the arms of a human mother. He came weak and helpless, an Infant and a Pauper – not even sheltered from the blasts of winter – but nevertheless, He was the Son of God. Accordingly, it is in no way wonderful that many a strange movement and unwonted stir should take place around His very cradle.

God’s power, as it were, burst forth irrepressibly, and flooded that holy eastern land with wonders and with signs. Heaven and earth seemed to be brought closer together than they had ever been since that brief bright day, when God walked with Adam and Eve through the fresh flowers of Paradise. Angels left the calm beatitude of heaven to busy themselves, at God’s behest, about the affairs of men. There had be a song of jubilee, that made the moonlit stillness of the shepherd’s night-watch, tremble with the melodies of angelic choirs.

The mercy of God was wider than the world, however sinful the world was. Though men had forgotten God, God had not forgotten them; and this Jewish Child Who was born to be a Savior, was to be the Savior of not Jew alone, but of Gentile, of every race, and tribe, and tongue, under the broad canopy of the merciful heaven.

There appeared like some strange vision in the streets of Jerusalem three men, whose garb and bearing betokened that they came from some far eastern land. They bore upon them the marks of long travel, but there was something in their bearing that, travel-stained and toil-worn though they were, proclaimed them chiefs of men – and the Scripture gives them the name of kings and they told a wonderful tale: that, in the bosom of their people, had lain for many a century a tradition that One would be born a Savior, and that a star would rise in heaven to announce His coming. And at length the Hand of God sent the long-looked-for star flashing in their eastern skies; and at once, drawn by the inspiring grace of God, they left their homes, and journeyed through many a wild waste place; and the star went before them always till it led them to Jerusalem; and there the one question they had to ask was this: “Where is He that is born,” etc. And the news was brought to Herod; and Herod was troubled in mind. He was king of the Jews, and here was a rumor of some Child he knew not, Who would wrench the scepter from his hand, and leave him crownless. And from this trouble sprang a wicked and crafty design. He would find out this Child, and having found Him, he would, without pity, cut off the young life that threatened to destroy his power. The chief priests and scribes were called together, and the sacred books were opened, and with certain voice they proclaimed that Bethlehem was the place to seek the newly-born King.

And so, three wise kings hastened forward to Bethlehem, and found the Child; and their eyes, lit by faith, pierced beneath the surface, and they recognized in Him the King Who was to rule, the God Who was to be adored, and the Man Who was in the after-time to suffer and to die. The kings have gone to their rest many a long year: we are in their place today. And shall we let the occasion pass without making to the Infant Jesus the offerings for which He stretches out His Hands?

Gold – shall we give gold? Ah! Gold is perishable, and Jesus has chosen to be poor; earthly gold He does not need nor care for. But there is gold He wants. He wants the gold of our heart’s best love. This is a treasure that God has put into every human heart. And the noblest heart that ever beat in human breast, has nothing greater to give man or God than the priceless gold of its affection. And what incense shall we offer to Him Who is our God? What, think you, is the most grateful incense that goes up from this earth to the Throne of God? It is the incense of the prayers of the hearts that love Him. Offer Him this – the prayer of adoration, by which we acknowledge Him as our God, the prayer of petition, by which to supply our wants, the prayer of thanksgiving, by which we show our gratitude for the countless favors He has lavished upon us.

These two gifts shall be offered to God by His elect, both for time and eternity. Love and prayer will be the eternal business of the saints of God.

But here on earth another gift is needed to make us saints: for we have not only a soul, but a body, and a body that, with its depraved senses, makes war against the soul; the body that first corrupts itself, and then extends its corruption to the soul. That body we must save from corruption by the third offering of myrrh, the myrrh of mortification; denying ourselves first what is unlawful, and even in many things denying ourselves what is lawful, that we may keep a firmer hold upon the passions which, unless kept in check, would overrun and lay waste our whole spiritual life.

~Excerpted from a homily by Father Joseph Farrell, ordained a priest in 1865, a Professor in Carlow College, Ireland, where he remained until 1868. He died in the year 1885 at the age of 44~