The following is a guest article by Geoff Jablonski.
One of the marvelous things of the Catholic Faith is the Liturgical Calendar. Holy Mother Church, in Her Divine Wisdom, has structured Her liturgical year to correspond to various seasons, mirroring the changing seasons found in nature. From the color of vestments to the inculcated attitude of the Faithful in seasons like Lent, Advent, and Pentecost, the Church devotes great time, energy, and devotions to helping the Faithful grow not only in one virtue, but in all of them. As we progress from Christmastide into the time of Epiphany, we have rejoiced in the coming of the Lord and must now go with Him in His journey from Bethlehem to Calvary, realizing that His coming is not always what we expect or what we desire on a natural level. That stated, we find in the Mysteries of the Lord’s Circumcision (appropriately celebrated on the Christmas Octave when the Lord, as a Jewish male, would have been circumcised according to the Mosaic Law and Covenant) and Epiphany the entire purpose of the Lord’s Life, Death, and Resurrection.
The Feast of the Circumcision reminds us of the blood that the Lord came to shed for us. In this event, Our Lord, for the first time, identifies Himself with the people He came to save. As the Word made flesh, He had no need to be circumcised (or baptized, as we shall see later). Indeed, as the personification of Divine Wisdom, He was the author of circumcision and everything it represented. Yet, in spite of His grand wisdom and awesome love, He displayed His great humility in undergoing the very covenant ritual that marked the Covenant People of the Old Dispensation. One is reminded of the words of St. Paul to the Galatians, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: That he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:4-5).” The Lord identified Himself with us so that we might become like Him. As St. Athanasius once commented, “God became man so that man might become God.”
The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word ἐπιφάνεια and its meaning is, “manifestation, striking appearance.” In the Traditional Calendar, the Season of the Epiphany commemorates not only one event in the Lord’s life, but three! The first is the famous visit of the Magi, the second is the Baptism of the Lord (traditionally celebrated on January 13th), and the third is the first miracle of turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana. In each of these episodes, we see the true meaning of epiphany in different ways. In all of them we find a different aspect of the Lord’s mission and the sequence in which they occur according to the Gospels (Epiphany of the Magi, Baptism of the Lord, Miracle at Cana, in that order), we find a natural sequence that more and more reveals why Christ came and how He was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Indeed, the first time our Lord ever speaks of, “His hour,” follows the intercession of our Lady on behalf of the wedding couple who have run out of wine.
The first of these is the most famous and it is here that we see both a fulfillment and a foreshadowing of what is to come in the life of the Messiah. In His birth, not only does the Lord fulfill Psalm 71 (or Psalm 72 in the modern numbering) where kings of the Gentiles will offer tribute, but we see a foreshadowing of the Lord’s triple anointing as priest, prophet, and king. We see in the offering of frankincense a mystical representation of Christ’s priesthood as the eternal, high priest of the New Covenant, following in the order of Melchisidek. In the surrounding circumstances and witnesses afforded to His birth, we find that the Lord is, “the Prophet” described by Moses in Deuteronomy 18. In the gold offered by the magi and the questions they ask of Herod, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage (Matthew 2:2),” we find Christ’s future as Messianic King.
In this one event, we see everything of the Lord’s mission present. Christ has come to renew all things and it is to His birth that all things bear witness. At the foot of the manger of the Savior we find man and woman, men and beasts, heaven and earth, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile. The Virgin, holding her newborn Babe in her arms, lays Him in the manger to be adored by the world. She, the Holy Theotokos, gives over the Babe, the very image of life (in every sense of the word), and lays him in the wooden manger so that the world may have life through him. Contrast this with the broken body of the Lord brought down from the Wood of the Cross and placed in the arms of the Mother of Sorrows. The world, taking what she had given them, now returns Him to her no longer appearing in splendor and with the divine vitality, but broken, covered in wounds, and dead – the very image of sin itself. The heavens bear witness to His birth through the song of the heavenly host and the miraculous star. At His death, it seems as though the Father Himself has forsaken His Christ and the sun refuses to shine, seeing that the creature, refusing to pay homage to its Creator, commits the unthinkable act of deicide.
With the Lord’s mission now put on display for all the world to see, the time must come for the Father to bear witness to climax of salvation history. The Lord, once again displaying His humility, identifies Himself not with the religious and political elites, but with those, conscious of their sin, cry out for a Savior. Going down to the Jordan, He is baptized by His cousin and precursor in order, “…to fulfill all justice (Matthew 3:15).” It is at this point that the Father, for the first time, makes known what He has done. “And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).” Reminiscent of another moment of epiphany, the Transfiguration, the Father again exhorts not only the Apostles, but all disciples through the ages when He states through the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him (Matthew 17:5).”
It is here, in the waters of the Jordan, that Christ is revealed to be the one sent by the Father, the one who is to come into the world so that we may have salvation. The divine anointing of the Holy Ghost is where it is revealed that Christ possesses the fullness of the divine seal of approval, so to speak, in His divine mission not only to the Children of Israel, but to the lost souls of the Gentiles. In this anointing is fulfilled the Father’s Will that all authority should rest with His anointed. The Psalmist, writing of the Messianic King to come, states, “Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows (Psalm 44 (45): 8).” St. Peter, speaking to Cornelius and his household bears witness when he states, “You know the word which hath been published through all Judea: for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached, Jesus of Nazareth: how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10:38-39).”
In this anointing by the Holy Ghost, we see confirmed what was hinted at, alluded to, and witnessed at the Visit of the Magi. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of the Holy Virgin is confirmed in His divine mission as being sent by the Father to confer salvation on all, Jew and Gentile, through faith. He is the priest and victim of the New Covenant. He is the image of the invisible God and within Him is pleased to dwell the fulness of the deity. In making known the Father, Christ is the prophet per excellence. Whereas previous prophets only alluded to things of divine origin in part or by foreshadowing, Christ fully reveals in Himself the fulness of the Divine Plan. His kingship is not of this world, but encompasses all Creation and makes all things new. It is for this reason that His sash bears the title, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Having then gone into the desert to fast and pray like so many before Him (Moses, Elias, John the Baptist), our Lord brings to Himself the twelve apostles and goes into his home country of Galilee. It is here, at a wedding, that we find His power and glory displayed for the first time. The most peculiar aspect of this story is not what miracle is performed, but how it comes to be performed in the first place. “And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come (John 2: 3-4).” Our Lord, speaking of His “hour” makes reference that it is not yet His time to be revealed, to begin His ministry. Yet at His mother’s behest, and in her supreme confidence, the original divine plan of revealing of Christ‘s power is changed. Speaking thus of the changing of water into wine, the Evangelist concludes his narration, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11).”
Friends, as we conclude the Christmas Octave and advance through the Season of Epiphany, let us not lose the joy that has come with the Advent of the Lord. With St. Paul, let us exhort one another, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh (Philippians 4:4-5).”
Our priests, in their recitation of the Divine Office are reminded of the great coming of the Lord. At the Office of Matins, the words they speak of the Invitatory are, “Christ is born to us; Come, let us adore.” As Christmas gives way to Epiphany, the tone remains joyful, but the words are changed to, “Christ has appeared to us; Come, let us adore.” What the Apostle says is true. The Lord is nigh. Let us heed the words of the Apostle, “And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light (Romans 11:11-12).”
Friends, the season of Advent is over. Hopefully we have, with a sober conscience and a vigilant intellect, kept watch and seen the coming of the Divine Infant in the night. As Christmastide comes to an end, let us continue in our joy that our salvation has come. As Epiphany unfolds, let us meditate on the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes to fulfill the Law and the Prophets; to reveal the plan of Divine salvation has approved by the Father; and who joined Himself to us in circumcision, baptism of repentance, and death, so that we may have life. The Lord has appeared, friends, and revealed the plan of salvation. Let us follow Him now wherever He may lead us, remaining confident in His providence, love, and forgiveness, knowing that the Cross looms large in the coming days and the season of penance completed in Advent where we awaited the Lord will soon be fulfilled in the season of penance in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving of Lent. Christ is born to us; come, let us adore. Maranatha.
Geoff Jablonski is a 28-year old Naval Officer from Fredericksburg, VA. He has served on Active Duty since 2010 and currently works in King George, VA. Geoff will separate from the Navy in September 2017 out of a desire to discern the priesthood and attend seminary at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, NE with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.