Epiphany: manifestation of the Lord

It’s Twelfth Night, the feast of Epiphany in the Latin Rite.  This feast comes just before the Baptism of the Lord on the Liturgical Calender. Both of these events are manifestations of Christ the Messiah.

The magi come from the east, from the lands of the gentiles and bring with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Symbols of kingship, priesthood and prophecy. Oil of myrrh would have been used to anoint the bodies of the dead.

Balsam of Myrrh is still used today in the sacramental oils for baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation Eastern Rite) Holy Orders and Sacrament of the Sick.

Incense is of course still used as a sign of sanctification and prayer as it was in the Temple and the Vision of St. John (Revelation).

The magi came, it is thought, because in the appearance of the star they saw the fulfilment of the prophesy of Balaam (the bad prophet who made an ass of himself while his ass spoke with dignity) Despite his best efforts to take a bribe and prophesy against Israel he was, as a real prophet, saddled with infallibility to some extent so when  he spoke he couldn’t help tell the truth and bless Israel.  (Num 24:17 and surrounding verses). It is also suggested that they had on record the great prophesy of Daniel which he gave to the gentiles and recognised that they were in the time of the iron and clay feet. *Dan 2:33 and surrounding verses).

They saw and understood and travelled a huge distance to find the King of the Jews.  They visited Herod and we often tend to dwell on the fact that Herod wanted to kill the baby after this, but something nastier happened, it seems to me. The wise men of the Temple came with the Scriptures they had and they too recognised the prophesy. “He will be born in Bethlehem…” they say. The gentile pagans head off to find the child and the men of the Temple don’t go with them! I am quite sure they knew it would have been politically inexpedient to do so. But still, the apathy shocks me. I suppose it’s a bit like the way non-practicers turn up for Christmas Mass or Services while some Christian denominations have been closing their churches for Christmas.

Most of Christ’s childhood and early adult years are “hidden” to us. He is next made manifest when, at the important age of thirty he comes to John to be baptised. Christ is a son of David of Judah. John is a Levite priest, son of a High Priest.

God took away the priesthood of the fathers and first born sons of Israel after the Golden Calf incident. Only the Levites, relatives of Aaron, Moses and Miriam had stood (more or less) firm and God gave the priesthood only to the sons of Levi.

The first non-Levite priest after that was King David and then Solomon, of the tribe of Judah.

The law of the Levitical priesthood was that a man could not come to ordination before the age of thirty. Most men were ordained at that age.

Jesus came to John the priest when He was thirty years old and received the baptism of John. At that moment God speaks and John bears witness to the people about Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

Jesus is the Son of David, a prophet, priest and king like David. Jesus is more of all of those things for He is The Prophet, The High Priest and The King, not just of the Jews, but of all the nations.

Side note: I’ve come across some confusion over the baptism of John and  the Baptism commanded by Christ when He returned to the Father. You will find in Scripture that the apostles baptised those who they found who had only received the baptism of John because his baptism was different.  The baptism of John did not affect circumcision into the Law whereas the Sacrament of Baptism instituted by Christ replaced circumcision (hence St. Paul’s argument against the Judaizers who wanted gentile converts to get circumcised as well as baptised). P’haps I need to do a proper blog about baptism…


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