So today is the day that we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Traditionally, the day is centered on the arrival of the ‘magi from the East,’ as we read in the Good News according to Matthew 2:1-12. While often times much is made about the Matthean passage and the ambiguous number of magi, their particular origin and their specific social status, I am struck by another aspect of today’s scripture. The First Reading.
Continuing the Advent-Christmas seasonal scriptural theme, today’s first reading comes to us from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Today’s passage, while on one hand reads as foreseeing the arrival of the ‘magi from the East’ depicted in Matthew’s narrative account, can also be read in a more general way, in a manner that might better reflect the intention and audience of the prophecy (seeing the world as it really is) in Isaiah’s time. Subsequently, this approach to the text might open up our own spiritual horizons.
The text (Is 60:1-6) reads.
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
Like the magi who see the light of the Lord in the West and travel toward it, we too are challenged to see what light we gravitate toward. Do we see ‘the glory of the Lord’ as that which shines upon us? Do we choose instead to dwell in darkness?
There is also a sense in which we are told that to allow the light of the Lord to shine on us will result in a reality that is beyond the ‘riches of the sea’ and the ‘wealth of the nations.’ Although some will inevitably read this passage in a materialistic light, seeking a Gospel of prosperity in light of the seeming wealthy lavished upon the would-be Child, I think that we are better served with a reading that directs us to face the challenge to follow the star and find Christ in the world.
How will we reflect the Light of the Lord?