FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY - JANUARY 8, l967
Since last we met, the Church celebrated a feast, which, come to think of it, I have never heard a Catholic layman mention - the Feast of Epiphany. Mostly it is called the Feast of the Three Kings, and at any Christmas Crib last week these colorful gentlemen had dismounted and parked their picturesque camels close by. This little talk is not going to be about either the camels or the kings. However, one can't help at times thinking of camels as a means of transportation. These long-legged, swaying beasts, loping rhythmically, padding silently across the desert, seemed to have their points.
There is a great deal of noise in the world today and the rectories of the old city parishes were generally built in noisy neighborhoods. Often times the rectories were built on what we might call BIG TRUCK BOULEVARD and it is hard to find anything noisier than a big truck. It's impossible to quiet a truck and unchristian to curse them, but like most things in life even a truck can preach a sermon to us.
Trucks are the camels of the 20th century. These huge battleships of the road, gray or green, or brilliant red, outlined with amber bulbs, rumbling along with all sorts of loads, milk or oil or furniture; pair after pair of headlights like shining yellow eyes, zooming on through the night with a sullen road. They ride eventually into the pink dawn, then with a change of drivers, highballing along other highways under blue skies and into a far-off sunset. I guess if you look hard enough you can see adventure and romance even in hubcaps and grease.
Many a schoolboy has squirmed through roll-call or fought his way through recess because some parent with more imagination than discretion has draped on him a name like Lancelot or Archibald or even Gaylord. If there is a situation somewhat like that in the church calendar, the feast which has the best right to sulk over its strange name is probably Epiphany. And all Epiphany really means is "to reveal".
Actually the word is blood brother to our modern word cellophane. The tiny cellophane window in the envelope reveals the name and address. The feast of Epiphany recalls the occasion when Our Lord revealed Himself to the Three Kings from the East and thereby to the whole non-Jewish world. Each year we keep this anniversary on the 6th of January, so it is the last of the "Twelve Days of Christmas." It is Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night".
Another alias of Epiphany is "Little Christmas," because in many lands this is the glorious day when youngsters get their gifts, in pleasant memory of saddle-bags bulging with gold, frankincense and myrrh, that the Kings presented to the tiny Christ.
The Feast of the Epiphany is the 3rd greatest in the calendar. As Christians we should develop a wonderful familiarity with this word. I was thinking the other day how one might use the word "Epiphany" in everyday life. Well, women-folk love to display their new hats. The thoughts occurred to me that the husband could say to his wife, "I see that you have a gorgeous new hat. When will it have its epiphany? When will you reveal it to the world?"
The Christmas cribs have come down, and back to the sacristy closets and dusty attics go the painted statues. The electric star is carefully dismantled, and stray wisps of synthetic, fire-proof straw are neatly swept up. The last trace of a do-it-yourself Bethlehem has disappeared into carefully labeled boxes. The signs and symbols are gone. We are left only with the great invisible Reality. Shine on Christmas Star, Light of the World, throughout the whole year; lead us to cleaner, kinder, nobler, holier lives! THE NEW YEAR DESERVES A NEW ROAD, AND WISE MEN TAKE IT.