3 Essential Virtues of the Magi: What’s in Your Epiphany? 2

They prostrated themselves and did him homage

They prostrated themselves and did him homage

A Gospel Reflection and Meditation on Christ for Today

Today’s Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation (or manifestation) of Jesus Christ as the Lord for all peoples.

It is a manifestation, because that is what the Greek word epiphania means. In this epiphany, God’s power is manifest in the person of the Christ Child, God the Son, who by his very being is the Power of God himself.

That last thought is a tough one to grasp, which is why we need an epiphany in the first place. How can we have this epiphany? Let us examine what is in an epiphany, like this one, to find out.

In the Epiphany we celebrate today, Christ is manifest as Lord for all peoples, who are represented by the three kings, or Magi. They traveled great distances to see the “Newborn king of the Jews,” and “Do him homage.”

In their attitude, we can observe two important virtues that are necessary in order to see Jesus Christ, as they did, and worship him. To receive the revelation, not just a barely perceived, fleeting manifestation, we must have deep humility and faith. We can sum this attitude up in one word: trust.

Trust in God is the first virtue of the Epiphany.

There is also a star. The star is not the epiphany. It is a sign, and also a calling. To perceive the call and hearken to it, we need to be in tune with God’s signs, as the Magi were, and ready to move when they appear. Certainly, there were many other people who saw the very same star, but they, like Herod, did not heed the call. Though they may have been curious, they were flippant and ignored it. What did they lack?

Obedience, the second virtue of the Epiphany.

A condition for the epiphany is attentive listening to God’s voice, hearing it, accepting it, and following where it leads. Another word for this attitude is obedience.

Finally, there are gifts. What are these gifts? Since childhood, we can rattle the Wise Men’s gifts off from memory: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And perhaps we still don’t even know what frankincense and myrrh are in the first place. But that’s not really what is important. Knowing what frankincense and myrrh are still doesn’t answer the question of what these gifts are.

The gifts in question have to be what you offer to the Lord. But what could you possibly offer the Lord – the Power of God himself – that he does not already have? It must be something he wants that comes from you. What are your gifts for God?

These gifts are the fruit of sacrifice, the third virtue of the Epiphany.

By now, it should be easy to see what these elements of the epiphany are in your life – your trust, your obedience, and the fruits of your sacrifice. If you lived the season of Advent with hope and vigilance, and the season of Christmas with peace and joy, you will be more willing to trust, ready to obey, and pleased to offer the Christ Child the fruits of your sacrifice – your love.

This is all beginning to make perfect sense: Christ the Child is the Epiphany of Love, for God is Love. That is why you should also see the fruits of love in your life when you have this epiphany.

Everything we have considered so far is what you bring to the epiphany. These are your gifts and your homage to the Lord.

But that is not all. These are elements of your epiphany, but they are not the Epiphany. The Epiphany is God himself, revealed to us as Jesus Christ. He – the one who allows us this epiphany through his summons and through manifesting himself to us – is the power of God in our lives.

If Jesus abides in your soul, he has truly entered your life. Thus, the power of God is in you and manifest through you, shining forth in real fruits of your love. This is your Epiphany: Christ the Lord! It is a personal encounter of love with its true source, the God who is Love itself.

Today, take time to look back over your journey toward this moment – what was in your Advent and Christmas? – i.e., what you lived and what you learned. Also look, not forward, but presently at the Christ Child, who is present. As you contemplate this Child in your life, ponder the question for yourself: What is in your Epiphany?


  1. Always one of my favorite times of year… and part of the reason I wrote a piece the other day on the need for us all to be The Good Samaritan:
    The Inclusion of God in our everyday lives should empower us, inform us and guide us.
    I fear that too often, folks leave church (and its teachings) in the pews.

    Nice and timely post, James…

    • Thanks, JTR. It’s a shame when people are like submarines and only surface for God one hour a week in Church — leaving the Church and its teachings in the pews, as you put it, the rest of the week. The Epiphany is such a rich feast and it is richly celebrated in many parts of the world still. We need to get more people back into these joyous traditions of our Church in order to experience that richness and make it a greater part of their lives.

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