Today, Christians of many traditions observe the Feast of the Epiphany: the manifestation of Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem, as the Savior for not only Israel but also the world. The visit of the magi (Matthew 2.1-11)–those Persian, non-Jewish astrologer-priests who followed a star to the newborn king of the Jews–signifies the revelation of God’s love for all people, made flesh for our salvation.
Peter Chrysologus, fifth-century bishop of Ravenna, proclaimed on Epiphany: “Today the magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky. Today the magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars.”
Epiphany’s emphasis on the magi’s star trek makes me think of this moment from an original “Star Trek” episode, “Bread and Circuses.” If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that the Enterprise visits a planet on which a society resembling the Roman Empire has emerged (thanks to a brain-boggling but budget-friendly law of parallel planetary evolution). As Kirk and company return to the ship at the episode’s end, however, they ponder one key difference–so they think:
If ever there were a “Star Trek” episode to watch on Epiphany, this is it.
Another ancient Christian, Ephraem the Syrian (d. 373), offered this reflection on Epiphany’s proximity to the winter solstice: “Lo! It is twelve days since [the sun] began to mount upward, and today is the thirteenth day. It is the perfect symbol of the Son and his twelve apostles. The darkness of winter is conquered, to show that Satan is conquered. The sun conquers, so that all may know that the only-begotten Son of God triumphs over all.”
“Over all”–even this “Rome” among the stars.
On this day of Epiphany, may you see and feel the light and warmth of the manifested Savior shine upon and through you!
Both ancient Christian quotations from Mary Ann Simcoe, ed., A Christmas Sourcebook (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1984), pp. 108, 149.