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Why Epiphany is a feast of light

magi wise men three kings ephiphany


Philip Kosloski - published on 01/03/24

The feast of the Epiphany focuses in a special way on the reality of Jesus being the light of the world that shines in the darkness.

While Christmas is often seen as a great feast that honors the light of Christ, the feast of the Epiphany appears to highlight this reality even more.

Pope Benedict XVI points this out in his Epiphany homily in 2012:

The Epiphany is a feast of light. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is 60:1). With these words of the prophet Isaiah, the Church describes the content of the feast. He who is the true light, and by whom we too are made to be light, has indeed come into the world. He gives us the power to become children of God (cf. Jn 1:9,12). 

One of the reasons light is closely associated with the feast of Epiphany is the story of the Magi and how they followed a star to find Jesus:

 [W]e may well look to these figures, the first Gentiles to find the pathway to Christ…No doubt there were many astronomers in ancient Babylon, but only these few set off to follow the star that they recognized as the star of the promise, pointing them along the path towards the true King and Savior. They were, as we might say, men of science, but not simply in the sense that they were searching for a wide range of knowledge: they wanted something more. They wanted to understand what being human is all about.

Pope Benedict XVI continues with this reflection, pointing in a particular way to the saints as being beacons of light that lead us to the true light of God:

The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs. 

As we celebrate the Epiphany, may we follow the stars of the saints, who lead us to the light of Christ.

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