06 January 2015

On the Epiphany, having returned from Bethlehem

Here in the Eternal City, we still celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord on its proper day, January 6th. In doing so, we remember that wondrous day when the Magi from the East "were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother" (Matthew 2:10-11).

Adoration of the Magi, Edward Burne-Jones

Today, one simple thought continues to run through my mind: I have been to the place where the Magi prostrated themselves before the King of heaven and earth. It is a humbling thought, and still somewhat difficult to believe, so wondrous and undeserved were the many graces of this pilgrimage.

Beneath the present Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem is preserved the cave in which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to the Christ Child:

The silver star marks the place where Our Lord was born.
Naturally, an altar has been erected above the place where Mary gave birth to her Son. If you stand facing that altar today, a few steps behind you and a few steps down is preserved the cave where the Blessed Mother placed the Son of God in the manger:

The cave in which the baby Jesus was placed in the manger.
On the left, the site of the Lord's Birth; on the left, the site of the manger.

The Magi "departed for their country by another way," it is true, to avoid the wrath of King Herod, but also because in their adoration of the Child of Bethlehem they themselves were changed (Matthew 2:12). And because they were no longer the same, they could not return the same way they came.

Like the Magi, I, too, have left Bethlehem - and the rest of the Holy Land - changed, with a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and a greater love of Him who made that land holy. But we need not go all the way to Bethlehem to adore the newborn King (though I highly recommend doing so). As Benedict XVI observed at the World Youth Day in Cologne:
Dear friends, this is not a distant story that took place long ago. It is with us now. Here in the Sacred Host he is present before us and in our midst. As at that time, so now he is mysteriously veiled in a sacred silence; as at that time, it is here that the true face of God is revealed. For us he became a grain of wheat that falls on the ground and dies and bears fruit until the end of the world (cf. Jn 12: 24).

He is present now as he was then in Bethlehem. He invites us to that inner pilgrimage which is called adoration. Let us set off on this pilgrimage of the spirit and let us ask him to be our guide. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment