What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the mysteries of Jesus’ infancy (including the Epiphany) and hidden life:
The Mysteries of Jesus’ Infancy
Jesus’ circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham’s descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Lawand his deputation to Israel’s worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign prefigures that “circumcision of Christ” which is Baptism. CCC 527
The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs,” and acquires Israelitica dignitas(are made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”). CCC 528
The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord. With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior—the name given to this event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the “light to the nations” and the “glory of Israel,” but also “a sign that is spoken against.” The sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples.” CCC 529
The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light: “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.” Christ’s whole life was lived under the sign of persecution. His own share it with him. Jesus’ departure from Egypt recalls the exodus and presents him as the definitive liberator of God’s people. CCC 530
The Mysteries of Jesus’ Hidden Life
During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God, a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to his parents and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” CCC 531
Jesus’ obedience to his mother and legal father fulfills the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: “Not my will. . . .” The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed. CCC 532
The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life:
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus—the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us . . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character . . . A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the “Carpenter’s Son,” in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work. . . . To conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern, their brother who is God. CCC 533
The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus. Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?”Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary “kept all these things in her heart” during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life. CCC 534
Catechetical Teaching Points on the Incarnation and Nativity of our Lord
As we reflect upon Christmas, December 25th, it is good to focus on the central point of this Holy Day – that is, the manifestation (epiphany) of the God-man, Jesus Christ, to His people Israel. During the Christmas season we also celebrate His epiphany (manifestation) to the Gentiles.
Jesus came into the world out of love for us, to save us from sin and death and to reconcile us to the Father so that we might share in the life of the Holy Trinity through grace and have unending joy with Him in heaven.
The Incarnation actually happened when, at the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her “fiat”, her “yes,” to God’s saving plan by saying to His messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” It was then that Mary conceived Jesus in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate this great Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th. However, it is nine months later, on December 25th, that we celebrate the first manifestation (being made visible) of Jesus, Eternal Word of the Father.
Keeping this in mind, here are a few key catechetical points regarding the Lord Jesus and His Incarnation.
- Jesus is true God and true man.
- He is the 2ndperson of the Blessed Trinity in human flesh.
- He did not cease being God when he became man.
- He is still true God and true man and always will be.
- It was at the moment of the Incarnation that the Eternal Word of the Father took to Himself a human nature.
- Jesus is not a human person. He is a divine Person who has two natures – divine and human.
- He always had the divine nature.
- He did not always have a human nature.
- He took to Himself a human nature approximately two thousand years ago at the moment that our Blessed Mother, Mary, conceived Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- The theological term for the union of the divine nature and a human nature in the Second Person of the Trinity is “the hypostatic union”.
- Jesus is not part God and part man. He is fully God and fully man.
- It is incorrect to say that Mary gave birth merely to the human nature of Jesus. Women do not give birth to natures, they give birth to persons. That is why we rightfully call Mary the Mother of God. *Hint – We should frequently refer to Mary as the Mother of God when we catechize. Like all truths regarding the Blessed Mother, it helps to show forth the truth about Jesus.
- There is not a human Jesus and a divine Jesus. Mary did not give birth to twins. Jesus is one Person, viz. the Second Divine Person, with two natures – divine and human.
- Jesus did not merely take the outer appearance of a man. He became man – like unto us in all things but sin.
- Jesus was born in a stable, into a poor family. Mother Theresa of Calcutta was fond of saying that the greatest power in the world is “the humility of God.”
- God the Son, Who first came into the world in poverty, will, when He comes again, come in glory.
- God became man to reconcile us to the Father, that we “might have life and have it to the full.” He became man to save us from sin and death, so that we may be happy with Him forever in heaven – in the love that never ends!
- For more, please see paragraph #’s 456 – 530 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.