LECTIO DIVINA: Epiphany
Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believe in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God (s. 128,4).
With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by the.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “ In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’ After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew:
“The date invites us to speak to you, as we do every year, of the solemnity today, known throughout the world, which is festive for us and which we commemorate on this annual celebration. Epiphany is a Greek word that we can translate as “manifestation.” We are told that on this day the magi adored the Lord, made aware by the appearance of a star that went ahead of them guiding them. On the very day that he was born they saw the star in the east, and they recognized who it was whose birth was indicated to them. From that precise day until today they were on the road. They frightened King Herod with this announcement and they met with the Jews, who, with the prophetic Scripture in hand, answered them that Bethlehem was the city where the Lord had to be born. Recovering the same star as their guide, they later arrived at the Lord himself and when he was pointed out to them, they adored him. They offered him gold, frankincense and myrrh, and journeyed back by another road. On the same day of his birth he manifested himself to some shepherds notified by an angel, and on the same day, far away in the orient, the magi received the announcement by means of a star, but only on this day was he adored by them. The whole gentile Church has accepted to celebrate this day with great devotion for, what else would those magi be if not the first fruits among the gentiles? The shepherds were Israelites, the magi were gentiles; those came from a nearby place, these from afar; and yet the one and the other coincided in the Corner Stone. The Apostle says: When he came he announced peace to us, to those who were far and to those who were near. As the Word, he shines as the unchangeable truth before the inhabitants of heaven, and yet he lies in a manger because of the pettiness of the inn. He made a star appear in heaven that manifested him on earth as one deserving adoration. Despite being an infant so powerful, so great yet so small being carried by his parents, he fled to Egypt because of Herod’s hostility. This way he was already speaking, not with words but by his actions, and in silence he was telling us: ‘If they persecute you in one city, flee to another.’ He had human flesh by which he prefigured us, and in which he had to die for us at the appointed time. This was the reason why the magi offered him not only gold and frankincense, as signs of honor and adoration respectively, but also myrrh because he had to be buried. In the children killed by Herod, he manifested how those who would die for him should be, innocent and humble. In the children’s two years of age he also signified the number of precepts on which the whole Law and the Prophets depend. After recognizing the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who to console us then lay in a narrow grotto but is now seated in heaven to elevate us there, let us proclaim him in this earth, in this country of our flesh, in such a way that we do not go back to where we came from, nor again follow in the steps of our old life; let us proclaim him, we whose first fruits were the magi; we, the inheritance of Christ until the confines of earth, for whose sake a partial blindness came upon Israel until the fullness of the gentiles would arrive. This is the meaning why those magi did not return by the same way they had come. The change of road is the change of life. Also for us, the heavens proclaimed the glory of God; the refulgent truth of the Gospel like the star in heaven also conducted us to adore Christ. We also have heard with believing ears the prophecy proclaimed to the Jewish people as testimony of the Jews who do not join us. We also have honored Christ as King, Priest and Victim who died for us, as if we also had offered him gold, frankincense and myrrh. To proclaim him only one thing needs to be done: that we also take a new road and that we do no return by the same road we came” (s. 202, 1,2,4).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
- “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? Because we have seen his star appear and we have come to adore him” (Mt. 2:2).
- Why are the magi from the Orient models for the searchers for God?
- How can you make real in your life the desire of the magi, who arrived to adore Christ?
- “Here is the meaning why those magi did not return by the same road in which they came. The change of road is the change of life” (s. 202, 4).
- Why is conversion necessary in your life?
- If you really have found Christ, as did the magi: what elements prevent you from living with greater depth your encounter with Christ?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you do not need to follow all of it, rather you can choose what best fits your personal experience.
- Contemplate the magi who arrive to adore Christ and offer him gifts. Unite yourself with them and adore the Lord in your heart.
- Contemplate the new born Christ and contemplate what you can offer him as did the magi. Offer to God your gifts and adore him in your heart.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God especially about the adoration of Christ, the conversion and offer to God your own gifts, as the magi did. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
G. Final prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord:
Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as my littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, and give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
“He is the priest and he is the sacrifice; he who changed the route of the magi, he who also today changes the life of the wicked” (s. 374,3).