Today is the solemnity of the Epiphany. It celebrates the revelation of Christ the Saviour to the gentile world in the persons of the 3 Kings from the East. His earlier revelation to the people of Israel happened at his birth through the local shepherds.
This is the essence of my homily for today.
My favourite Christmas carol is Silent Night. Its poetic words and music communicate something of the sublime awe and mystery of God descending from heaven to become a little baby in a manger. No essay or mere words could compete with its effectiveness in this regard.
My second favourite carol is Little Drummer Boy. The 3 kings are on their way to see the baby Jesus. Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh indicate that newborn is kingly/divine, a priest who will offer sacrifice to God and who will die prematurely. They encounter the Little Drummer Boy who goes along with them. When it’s time to present gifts, the Drummer Boy feels bad that he doesn’t have any appropriate gift. He asks Mary if he can play his drums. She nods her assent, the ox and lamb keep the beat and when he finishes the baby Jesus smiles his approval. The message is that Jesus is as pleased with the drums as he was with the kings’ great gifts.
This teaches us that divine worship is all about offering ourselves to God through what we have in life – our gifts and possessions. Worship of God is the only fitting response of the creature to the Creator. Through our baptism we rightly claim a certain familiarity with God: Jesus is our friend and big brother. His Father we may relate to in terms like our natural father or grandfather. But we can never approach God as an equal because his standing as Creator is as far above us as the heavens are above the earth. We need to approach God with perfect humility, submission and obedience.
This is illustrated in the homage given by the 3 earthly kings to the divine king. The psalm response says: All nations shall fall prostrate before you O Lord. In church we show this homage to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by genuflecting to the tabernacle before and after leaving the pews. We genuflect on both knees when Jesus is exposed in the monstrance. The greatest expression of homage is on Good Friday when the priest prostrates himself before the cross at the start of the Liturgy. In this way the priest makes himself as low as possible in the greater divine presence.
Offering ourselves to God takes place in a special way in the Mass. The gifts of bread and wine when brought forward in an offertory procession indicate we are giving to God “the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands”. This symbolism would be easier to see if we were first century farmers and growing wheat & grapes where the main work of our hands. At the offertory we should include with the bread and wine whatever the work of our hands is – that of being a mother and housewife, a farmer who looks after the crops and animals, or whatever we do for our vocation.
At the consecration the bread and wine (the work of our hands) is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ – his sacrifice, his self-offering on the Cross. In this way everything in our lives is offered to God the Father – through, with and in the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. This is indicated at the end of the Eucharistic prayer when the priest holds us the Body and Blood of Jesus. He says: Through him, with him and in him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours forever and ever. When we say AMEN, we are giving our assent to this.
In summary: The 3 kings and the Little Drummer Boy show us that our lives are to be offered to God through our work, gifts and possessions. In this way we creatures render fitting adoration to our Creator.
For the offertory I played this version of the carol over the PA system.