The Twelve Days of Christmas end with the celebration of the visit of the Wise Men to the Holy Child.

This "Epiphany" is the showing of Christ to those who were foreign to Judaism.  Very little is said of the Wise Men, and we cannot even be sure that there were just three.  It may have taken them upwards of two years to make the journey, and — given their familiarity with the Jewish scriptures and astronomy — they probably were Zoroastrians, monotheists who were open to the wisdom and writings of other religions.  They would have been wealthy and influential in a culture that esteemed high learning.  They certainly were wise in being able to detect the cunning of King Herod.  Their saga is so exotic that it is the very stuff of romance, which makes it difficult to believe that they really existed.  Yet they were very much a part of the nativity narrative and were the first to take the unwritten Gospel to distant places.

In "The Journey of the Magi," T. S. Eliot portrays them as utterly changed by what they saw and more than uncomfortable with their homeland — present-day Iran — when they went back:

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
All lives that truly encounter Christ are changed.  The sublime and most potent examples of that are the saints, heirs of the Wise Men.  Pope Benedict XVI canonized some of them this past year as models for what he has called the New Evangelization.

Father Jacques Berthieu, who died in 1896 at age 57, was a French Jesuit missionary martyred in Madagascar.  Pedro Calungsod, who died in 1672 at 17, was a Filipino lay catechist martyred in Guam.  Father Giovanni Piamarta, an Italian priest who died in 1913 at 71, counted among his works the establishment of technical training schools for disadvantaged youths.  Marianne Cope, who died in 1918 at age 80, had come from her native Germany to upstate New York and, as a Franciscan nun, worked among the lepers in Hawaii with St. Damian.  Kateri Tekakwitha was an Algonquin-Mohawk who suffered much for the Faith she embraced and died in 1680 at the age of 24.  Anna Schäffer, who died in 1925, spent over half of her 43 years in her Bavarian home as an invalid with mystical gifts as a visionary and miracle worker.

Like the Magi, these saints were never able to call their old home their true home, for they set their sights on their promised home in Heaven, and that hope made them all the more useful in this world.  "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). 




Father George William Rutler. "Epiphany."  From the Pastor (January 6, 2013).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001. 

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2013 Father George W. Rutler