On the Epiphany

«Marys Faith becomes the First Fruit and the Model of the Faith of the Church»

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus address delivered from the window of the Apostolic Palace to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I apologize for being late. I ordained 4 new bishops in St. Peter’s Basilica and the rite lasted a little while. But today we celebrate above all the Epiphany of the Lord, his manifestation to the nations, while many Eastern Churches, according to the Julian Calendar, celebrate Christmas. This slight difference, which superimposes the 2 moments, makes us see that the Child, born in a grotto in Bethlehem, is the light of the world, who directs the journey of all peoples. It is a combination, which makes us reflect, also from the point of view of faith: on the one hand, looking upon Jesus we see the faith of Mary, of Joseph and the shepherds; today, the Epiphany, we see the faith of the 3 magi, who came from the East to worship the king of the Jews.

The Virgin Mary, together with her husband, represent the “stump” of Israel, the “remnant” foretold by the prophets, from which the Messiah was to come forth. The magi represent the peoples, and, we can also say, the civilizations of the earth, the cultures, the religions that are, so to say, on their way to God, in search of his kingdom of peace, justice, truth and freedom. There was at first a nucleus, personified above all by Mary, the “daughter of Zion”: a nucleus of Israel, the people who knows and has faith in that God who is revealed to the Patriarchs and along the path of history. This faith reaches its fulfillment in Mary, in the fullness of time; in her, “blessed because she believed,” the Word became flesh, God “appeared” in the world. Mary’s faith becomes the first fruit and the model of the faith of the Church, the People of the New Covenant. But this people is from the beginning universal, and this we see today in the figures of the magi, who arrive in Bethlehem following the light of a star and the instructions of the Sacred Scriptures.

St. Leo the Great says: “There was once promised to Abraham countless descendants who would be begotten not by the flesh but by the fecundity of faith” (Sermon 3 for Epiphany, 1: PL 54, 240). Mary’s faith can be joined with Abraham’s: it is the new beginning of the same promise, of the same unchanging plan of God that now finds its completion in Christ Jesus. And Christ’s light is so limpid and powerful that it makes the language of the cosmos and that of the Scriptures intelligible so that all those who, like the magi, are open to the truth can recognize it and arrive at the contemplation of the Savior of the world. St. Leo continues: “Let the great mass of the nations … all peoples …  enter in, indeed, let them enter into the family of the patriarchs, let them adore the Creator of the universe, and may God be known not only in Judea but in all the earth” (ibid.). We can also consider the episcopal ordinations that I had the joy to confer this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica from this perspective: 2 bishops will remain in the service of the Holy See and the other 2 will depart to be pontifical representatives in 2 other countries. Let us pray for each of them, for their ministry, and that the light of Christ shine upon the whole world.

[Following the recitation of the Angleus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

As I already indicated, tomorrow the Eastern Churches who follow the Julian Calendar will celebrate the Birth of the Lord: in the joy of our common faith I address to them my most heartfelt wish of peace with a special remembrance in prayer.

Today in Italy is the Day of Holy Childhood, dedicated to the children who engage in the spread of the Gospel and concretely help their peers who are most in need. Dear children, I thank you and I encourage you: bring the love of God to everyone!

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present today, including the boys of the Palestrina Choir of Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, who sang this morning at the solemn Mass of the Epiphany. At that ceremony I had the joy of conferring episcopal ordination upon four priests, including Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu of Nigeria. May the new Bishops be faithful successors of the Apostles, always bearing witness to Christ, who today reveals the face of God to the nations. May the Lord bless all of you and grant you his peace!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a happy feast day and a good year. Thank you. Happy feast day and have a good year!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]
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