Sunday, 3 January 2010

Epiphany, Shaftesbury


Today, on the feast of Epiphany, we recall how the Wise Men from the East came bearing gifts for the new-born King of the Jews, namely, Christ. This is one of the reasons why it is traditional for us to exchange gifts at Christmas time, also following the example of St Nicholas the third century bishop in Turkey whose feast is 6 December and two was renowned for giving gifts, especially to children.

When we think of the gifts presented at the epiphany it is common to reflect on what one of our hymns calls the "mystic meaning" of these gifts. We have no real idea as to why, in their own minds, the wise men gave these specific gifts, but there are some very clear symbolisms.
Incense is offered before the deity, and so frankincense is a gift fit for the divine Christ-child.
Gold is fit for a king, for He who is a King of Kings.
Myrrh is perhaps the most striking of the gifts. Myrrh is the perfume traditionally used to anoint the dead, something people rarely choose to focus on at a birth -it would be like buying one of those advance funeral payment plans and presenting it to two parents at the birth of their child: rather odd. But Christ was no ordinary child, He is the one who entered this world to die, to die for us.

The gifts that the Magi brought were gifts worthy to worship the newborn Christ. I would suggest to you today, that we would do well to ask ourselves what gift we would bring to the newborn King today. The popular Christmas Carol says "I will give my heart", and I suggest you that today is a good day press to combine such a thought with our New Year resolutions.
New Year resolutions are very Catholic notion, a very sacramental notion: taking a specific moment as a specific opportunity, an opportunity to change, to repent, to find something in my heart that I will present anew to the Lord.
New Year's Day has already passed but I don't think it's too late to make a resolution for the year. The last two years my primary resolution has been to stop pressing the snooze button on my alarm clock, and while I have got better this, I must confess that this year it is again my primary resolution, so I'm adding it with a new twist to something else again this year.

So, like the Magi, let us today make an offering to the Lord, a gift worthy of Him.
But I would offer a final thought: let us recall the symbolism of the offering that is made in every Mass: the bread and wine are brought forward in procession, symbols of the offerings of our whole lives and of the whole congregation.
And this bread and wine, unworthy and inadequate an offering as it is, this offering is taken by Christ and transformed into the one fitting act of worship: is transformed into Christ Himself, His Body, His Blood, His Soul and His Divinity, and it is all offered to the Father -the selfsame sacrifice that He offered once on Calvary is made present again on the altar at Mass.

The wise men from the East, if they had truly known who lay before them in the manger, would have felt that even their gifts of mystic meaning were inadequate such a king. If we realise that our lives are not worthy to be gifts presented to the King, then let us remember that He knows this already, that He loves us despite this, and that He wants our gifts and offerings despite this, for He is the one who takes what we give Him and transforms it into an offering that is even more.

1 comment:

Rosie said...

Fr. Dylan,

I love your posts. Thank you so much for posting your sermons. You probably don't remember me, as my time with FOCUS only overlapped with your's by one summer training, but I still vividly remember some of your homilies and confession advice and think of you as one of the finest priests I've met. I have a one year old now, and we try to get to Daily Mass as often as possible. On those days, the baby section of the church is quiet and I get some prayer. On Sundays, the baby section is riotous, and I frequently can't hear the homily...so then I get to read your homily. Thank you and may God bless you.

In Christ, Rosie