The day after Christmas my little ward told me that he wrote Santa to ask for another gift. I told him Santa was done with gift-giving, since he made his last rounds the night before Christmas.
Then I told him that he could ask the Three Kings for the gift, and that Sunday, the Feast of the Three Kings or the Epiphany, is the day the gift will be given.
He seemed disappointed at the thought of having to wait for a good 10 days, but soon his face lighted up. He looked at me with wide, excited eyes and said, “Can you tell the Three Kings to bring it on New Year’s Eve? How do we tell them? Can we e-mail them?”
Leave it to children to update age-old traditions! Or give them a different interpretation altogether!
One of the greatest “reinterpretations” of the Three Kings and the Star was made over 75 years ago in the poem “The Star of the Kings” by Horacio de la Costa, SJ.
In the classic poem, Fr. De la Costa says that “Melchor was King of Tondo, Gaspar ruled Sampaloc and Baltazar Binondo.”
They “set sail out of Manila Bay to follow the starry call… when the Kings came home again from Bethlehem afar, they lost their camels in the sea and they forgot the Christmas tree, but they brought home to you and me the Secret of the Star.”
It’s time to renew the Secret of the Star as we face a challenging year ahead: the task to rebuild not just in Eastern Visayas, but also in Bohol, Zamboanga, Davao/ComVal, Central Luzon; and deal with unfinished business in the Napoles-pork barrel scam.
Where to find the key to the secret? It is, I think, always in the quiet of the morning after: when the eating and the drinking are done; when the music and the fireworks are over; when we slow down again, and quietly, almost sluggishly, prepare to return to work and face a new year.
It’s a good time to synthesize the holidays, our reflections and experiences the past Christmas and the past year. It is still festive, but somehow the reality of the day-to-day is beginning to set in.
The Feast of the Three Kings, the Epiphany, reminds us that Christ is the Divine Manifestation. He has arrived and He is with us. Then, next Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, He manifests Himself again as “the Beloved Son” in whom God the Father is well pleased.
Christ sets out on his life mission with the Baptism narrative and, on cue, the next day we return to ordinary time in our liturgy.
It’s a good time to prepare to return to ordinary time, carrying with us the assurance that God is with us. As we celebrated Christmas we remembered the Emmanuel and, today, the Epiphany, this is reaffirmed. Yet the eternal, enduring message seeks to address the most contemporary issues and concerns of the world. God is with us as we face a challenging year.
As we rebuild communities, start livelihood projects, fix schools, restore the environment, God is with us.
As we heal lives, counseling traumatized children and families who lost loved ones and property, providing hope through support for education and basic healthcare, or simply making them feel they are not alone, God is with us.
As we return to face the issues of corruption that have deprived us of the most basic services, a deprivation that is most foul and evil as it affected the greater numbers in the economically marginalized classes, we must deal with these issues with courage and resolve that stems from the faith that God is with us.
Yes, we must not be vindictive, but it must not also dim the light of justice that guides us and the process to set things right, because our God who is with us is a God of justice who has a bias for the poor, oppressed and suffering.
As we do battle in the arena of institutions and with fidelity to the rule of law—the former ravaged by the corrupt and the latter distorted by these same scalawags for their selfish ends —we must do so with a firm hope and unshakable faith that the work against corruption will be brought to completion by the God who is with us.
This is the grace of the Epiphany, of the God with us, that in all we will do this year, we will discover God’s presence.
Fr. De la Costa continues, “That is why the simple folk think Christmas incomplete unless they can make a Star of paper… the newborn King to greet. The simple folk, the childlike folk, with their dim little paper star! But these are happier far. Ah, we have lost the Star of the Kings.
“ … But if through the quiet evening streets we follow the Wise Kings’ Star, where it beckons and swings from the sills of the poor, it may lead us yet through a low church door where we, too, may kneel, as the Kings long before, where the Child and His Mother are.”
We must renew the manifestation of Christ in the world this year, in our nation and to our people in need of healing, justice and love, hope and compassion.