Thursday 6 January 2000

1. "Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come. The glory of the Lord is rising on you" (Is 60: 1).

The prophet Isaiah turns his gaze to the future. He is not looking so much at the secular future, but, enlightened by the Spirit, he directs his gaze to the fullness of time, to the fulfilment of God's plan in the messianic age.

The prediction uttered by the prophet concerns the Holy City, which he sees brightly shining: "Though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples, above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears" (Is 60: 2). This is exactly what happened with the incarnation of the Word of God. With him "the true light that enlightens every man came into the world" (Jn 1: 9). From now on everyone's destiny will be decided by whether he accepts or rejects this light: for the life of men is found in him (cf. Jn 1: 4).

2. Today the light that appeared on Christmas extends its rays: it is the light of God's epiphany. It is no longer only the shepherds of Bethlehem who see and follow it; it is also the Magi Kings, who came to Jerusalem from the East to adore the newborn King (cf. Mt 2: 1-12). With the Magi came the nations, which begin their journey to the divine Light.

Today the Church celebrates this saving Epiphany by listening to the description of it in Matthew's Gospel. The well-known account of the Magi, who came from the East in search of the One who was to be born, has always inspired popular piety as well, becoming a traditional part of the crib.
Epiphany is both an event and a symbol. The event is described in detail by the Evangelist. The symbolic meaning, however, was gradually discovered as the Church reflected more and more on the event and celebrated it liturgically.

3. After 2,000 years, wherever Epiphany is celebrated, the Ecclesial Community draws from this precious liturgical and spiritual tradition ever new points for reflection.

Here in Rome, in accordance with a custom to which I have wanted to remain faithful since the beginning of my Pontificate, we celebrate this mystery by consecrating new Bishops. It is a tradition that has its own intrinsic theological and pastoral eloquence, and today we joyfully introduce it into the third millennium.

Dear Brothers who will shortly be consecrated, you come from various nations and represent the universality of the Church which adores the Word made flesh for our salvation. Thus the words of the responsorial psalm are fulfilled: Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Our liturgical assembly expresses this catholic nature of the Church in a remarkable way, thanks also to you, dear Bishops-elect. For around you are gathered in spirit the faithful from various parts of the world to whom you have been sent as successors of the Apostles.....

Be ever mindful of the grace of this Epiphany day! May the light of Christ always shine in your hearts and your pastoral ministry.

5. Today's liturgy urges us to be joyful. There is a reason for this: the light that shone from the Christmas star to lead the Magi from the East to Bethlehem continues to guide all the peoples and nations of the world on the same journey.

Let us give thanks for the men and women who have made this journey during the past 2,000 years. Let us praise Christ, Lumen gentium, who guided them and continues to guide the nations down the path of history!

To him, the Lord of time, God from God, Light from Light, we confidently address our prayer.

May his star, the Epiphany star, continually shine in our hearts, showing to individuals and nations the way of truth, love and peace in the third millennium. Amen.


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