The first reading for Sunday’s Mass of the Epiphany comes from the prophet Isaiah. A reading that describes the restoration of Israel after the exile in Babylon, is now heard in the context of the saving of whole human family by the Incarnation.
Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.
Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.
Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and your daughters being tenderly carried.
At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you,
the wealth of the nations come to you;
camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.
The celebration is of a community restored, and it is effected in the gathering of peoples from across the world.
The traditional Western image of the Magi symbolises this – three men, one old, one young, and one of middle age; one African, one European, one Asian. We might these days be aware of plenty other diversity not represented by the three fellows, but as they gesture towards inclusivity and community, the real challenge is ours: to form community, or to be formed into community by the gift of the Lord. He chooses, calls, and accepts us in our diversity – and chosen, called and accepted we are in our turn to do the same.
Photograph of capital showing the wise men come to Mary and the child Jesus. St Trophime, Arles. (C) 2014, Allen Morris.