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Epiphany Revealed


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The Epiphany Revealed!

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio 



Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio


Epiphany of the Heart - Adoration of the Magi

This commentary on the Feast of the Epiphany uncovers the meaning of the term epiphany and explains why the Magi -- Caspar, Balthasar, Melchior, the three kings of Orient -- are found, complete with crowns and camels, in every nativity scene.


Caspar, Balthasar, Melchior.  These “three kings of Orient are” found, complete with crowns and camels, in every nativity scene.


Yet if you look closely at the gospel account of the Magi (Mat 2:1-12), you won’t find these names. Actually there is no mention of how many Magi there were or that they were kings riding camel-back.


This is a testimony to something some Bible Christians would like to deny: that all who read a text of Scripture do so in the light of some tradition, through some lens.  If it is the right lens, it magnifies the text and allows us to get at its true meaning.  If it is the wrong lens, we get a distorted image.


Adoration of the Magi - EpiphanyIt just so happens that the lens the Catholic tradition uses to read the story flows from Scripture itself–to be precise, it flows from the connection between holy words written hundreds of years apart.  But despite the many years and different human authors, the texts were inspired by the same Divine Author, the Holy Spirit.  In chapter 60 of Isaiah (Is 60:1-6), it is predicted that at a time of darkness, the glory of the Lord will shine over Jerusalem.  The heavenly light will be a beacon to the pagan nations and even to their kings.  Here we find mention of camels whose job it will be to bring the wealth of these nations, including frankincense and gold, to the city of the Lord.  Psalm 72 agrees that far off kings will bring gifts to the Son of David.


The tradition of the Church has always seen the story of the Magi as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and Psalm 72.  Hence the crowns and camels.


But hold on.  Isaiah 60 mentions only two of the gifts mentioned by Matthew: gold, fit for a king, and frankincense, for the worship of God.  So what about the myrrh–where does that come from and what does it mean?


Three Kings Bearing Gifts - MagiMyrrh, an aromatic resin, was used in preparing the dead for burial.  Gold reveals that the babe in the manger is actually a king; frankincense tells us that is he God incarnate; myrrh tells us that he has come to die.  That someone would redeem God’s people through suffering and death was foretold by Isaiah a few chapters earlier (Is 53).  This was the really hard thing for those living in Jesus’ time to comprehend–that the same person who fulfilled all those prophecies about a glorious new king also fulfilled the prophecies about a suffering servant.


All three gifts of the Magi are necessary to convey the true revelation, the true epiphany of who this child is and what he is destined to do.  That’s why for hundred’s of years we’ve sung of three kings, not two or four.


OK, so where did the names of the three come from?


adoration of the magi - EpiphanyThe ancient feast of the Epiphany actually celebrates three events, tied together by the meaning of the word epiphany as “appearance” or “manifestation.”   Jesus suddenly appears as who He really is–messiah and God–to the Magi, at Cana when he works his first miracle, and when he is baptized in the Jordan.  In the early Church, Epiphany was therefore second only to Easter vigil as the time to celebrate the sacrament of baptism.  Blessed water from those baptisms were used to bless the dwellings of the faithful, and it became customary to write over the doorposts of blessed homes “C+B+M” meaning “Christ blesses this house (Christus bendicat mansionem).”  Since the three kings were also remembered at the same time, someone decided to give them names, and to use CBM as their initials–Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.  The names stuck.


But the fact that Matthew gives them no names is telling.  They may be kings, but in this story they are merely supporting actors.  They follow the true Star, the King of Kings.  Only His name is important.  Epiphany is not about the Magi–it’s all about Jesus.


For Spanish, click here!


This article on the Feast of the Epiphany originally appeared in OSV and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


For other resources on The Feast of Epiphany be sure to check out:

The Feast of Epiphany by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Epiphany of the Heart by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Epiphany - Star Invites All Nations by St. Leo the Great

Epiphany - Magi, Cana and Jordon by St. Peter Chrysologus


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Feast of Faith - 2 DVD set | Resource on the Eucharist

Feast of FaithIn this enlightening, four-part adult faith formation series developed for the Eucharist, Dr. D’Ambrosio offers profound reflections on the nature of the Holy Eucharist – the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith. Don't forget the amazing workbook for FREE this week only!



Nicholas - Catholic Saint DVDsCatholic Saint DVDs -

In a world of magic, violence, and phony superheroes we have found a series of videos with phenomenal music, faithful storylines and animation.  These are guaranteed to hold attention of kids 5-12 or your bucks back!  Bring Mary, the saints and angels to life in the lives of your kids, grandkids, nieces & nephews! Each DVD contains English, Spanish, and French!! Let your children grow with saints like: Nicholas, Bernadette, Patrick and others – come check these out TODAY!

A lot of children on your list? Be sure to check out the special s-a-l-e on the complete series! 



How to Book of Catholic Devotions
 Catholic Devotions, RCIA Everything You Need to Know But No One Ever Taught You

What do you say when someone asks, "You're a Catholic. So tell me, what do Catholics do when they pray a novena?"... Or when they "offer it up."... Or "wear a medal."...
Or "go to Confession."... Or any of the dozens of other devotions that set Catholics apart from other Christians.



I BelieveI Believe - The Heart of the Catholic Faith - DVD Set
In this dynamic, four-part faith formation series, on the Creed, Dr. D'Ambrosio explains how this expression of the basic beliefs of Roman Catholicism is relevant to our personal relationship with God. Remember the dynamic workbook that follows this series for FREE this week only!



Exploring the Catholic Church - DVD Exploring the Catholic Church - DVD

When you have questions about the Catholic Church, where do you turn? This mini-series is one of the best places to begin looking for the answers. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio's presentation style is perfect for seekers and inquirers, new Christians, for RCIA candidates or for Catholics who just want to refresh their faith and practice. An ideal gift for your friends and family - PERFECT gift for anyone going through RCIA!



Small Steps for Catholic Moms - Gift Set
 Small Steps for Catholic Moms - Gift Set This wonderful gift set includes both the Small Steps for Catholic Moms Book and Journal - This book includes thought provoking quotes, prayers and simple actions to take day by day. The journal has ample room to record thoughts, prayers and actions with supplemental material! Great gift idea for Mom for Christmas or to do with your study group through out the year!

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