Is this the right day for the Solemn rites of Epiphany?
When I was a little boy, Church of England but very high church, I used to practice genuflecting. It all seemed a bit naughty – not the sort of thing the mainstream did, and yet I’d read a bit and observed a lot. As I’ve said before, I was a peculiar, very churchy little boy. And having perfected my pious gesture, I would go to St Joseph’s and genuflect with the best of them. They’d think I was one of them, a real Catholic.
At the heart of the mystery of Christ’s manifestation to the whole world, the Epiphany, is the symbolic gesture of kneeling. We read in St Matthew’s gospel, ‘Falling to their knees the Magi did him homage’. We instinctively know this act as a sign of worship and adoration and this instinct is no less the experience of the mysterious visitors from the east.
Of course, that worship also has something of the spontaneous reaction within and easier to do if others are doing it with us. But worship goes deeper than reaction. So let us talk of instinct, at least instinct refined and purified by grace. By this grace my instincts can cease to be base and puerile and warped and twisted! In the light of grace they can become beautiful, profound, worshiping and true.
On every page of the gospel the Lord wants to raise us up, clasp us to Him. But this can only happen if we have first learnt to submit our instinct to Him and love Him and, in loving Him, worship Him. And in our worship of Him, which is itself His gift, we will know a new found dignity about ourselves and each other before and under almighty God.
Surely this is the dignity we feel when we return from Holy Communion, having knelt before Him. This is that dignity we know when we leave the church having visited the Blessed Sacrament and prayed for just a few snatched minutes to take our warmed heart into the air of a cold, loveless world. And then it will become our instinct, our graced nature, to offer the same gifts. Gold as we own the Source of Grace as King; frankincense as we worship Him the only True God; Myrrh as we see Him as one like ourselves, even to the point of sharing our inevitable death.
To love almighty God, to worship Him, to offer all that we are, to Him – these instincts of the human, graced heart hallmark the life of the Catholic Church. To strive in work of worship, the best celebration of the liturgy we can offer and with the best of dispositions, this journey is what the Magi did of old, it is what the Church is called to do especially at the annual celebration of the Feast of the Manifestation of Grace and Truth, and it is our journey as filled with delight, we enter the house, fall to our knees and worship.