"The star they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was" (Matt 2:9).
Winter light has a special clarity. The angle of the southern sun enters the house unfiltered by the cold air and spreads along wood floors and walls. From the cat napping in its warmth to the homeowner pausing to absorb its beauty, it is easy to understand why light itself holds so much significance for life.
The scriptures use the image of light to describe God's presence. Ancient philosophers devised theories of emanating light to convey the levels of being in creation. Thomas Aquinas wrote that the intelligibility of all created things was visible to the human mind as a direct encounter with the Creator, the source of all reality. The Nicene Creed proclaims that Jesus, the Son of God" is "Light from Light," and in the Gospel of John, the Word of God appears in our darkened world as Light. Jesus is the "light of the world."
The beautiful story of the magi coming from the East, the land of the rising sun, to find the promised Christ, celebrates the mystery and meaning of light in our lives. Scientists say that the human eye has evolved to apprehend the visible portion of the light spectrum, including its array of colors. Analogically, the human mind grasps the meaning of things with insight. Faith is a particular kind of insight that enables us to know the Creator through creation, to respond to the revelation about God's activity and purpose in our lives.
The magi, also known as "wise," traveled afar from Gentile lands to Israel, because their study of the heavens convinced them that the bright star in the sky portended the birth of a special child. Ironically and tragically, King Herod in Jerusalem was blind to the wonder contained in the prophecies and saw only a threat to his power. The magi recognized that the Christ promised to the Jews was a universal gift, meant to bless the entire human family with God's glory.
The Solemnity of the Epiphany invites us to pray for sight, both physical sight so we can see clearly the beauty of life around us, and also spiritual sight so we will grasp the meaning of God's presence in all things. Light prompts us to respond to the all-encompassing love of God, present even when our lives pass through shadow or encounter darkness. Faith provides its own inner light, especially in difficult times, drawing us forward one step at a time through crisis and loss.
Lord, we pray to see your face, know the warmth of your loving gaze, obey the light of your wisdom within our minds and hearts. Your light will never fail us.