I love the feast of Epiphany.

Not only is it one of the six Christmas dates we should not forget, but also it’s a reminder that we should search for the “Little Epiphanies” in our own lives – the times that our Lord reveals himself to us in sometimes mysterious and often not-so-mysterious ways.

There’s another reason, I love it so much.

I love it because I believe Mary is the real “Star” at Epiphany.

Per some accounts, the Star of Bethlehem likely was formed when three stars joined in conjunction. The Magi – astrologers from the area of Iraq, Iran, Yemen, or Saudi Arabia – observed the conjunction and saw it as a sign that the prophecy was being fulfilled. The King of the Jews would soon be born. They became known as the Three Kings because of the three expensive gifts they brought to honor the Christ Child: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Eager to pay this new King homage, the Magi set off on their journey, following the Star to Bethlehem where they found the King and his parents.

In the process, I believe, they discovered another star – the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In this case, I don’t mean “star” as in a celestial body; I mean it in terms of Mary’s role in salvation history.

Mary was the first to hear (and believe) the Good News. She was the first and most perfect disciple of Christ. By agreeing to become the Mother of God at the Annunciation, she set off the formation of the Star of Bethlehem, figuratively speaking. Of course, only God’s power can form and move stars, but he would have had no reason to move the stars to form the Bethlehem Star if Mary hadn’t become pregnant and given birth to the Savior. If the Star hadn’t formed, the Magi would have had nothing to follow and there would have been no Epiphany.

Go ahead, take a breath. I know that’s a lot to consider in one paragraph!

Ready? There’s more.

The word “Epiphany” means “revelation.” Yes, we celebrate Epiphany as the revelation of the Christ to all humankind, represented by the Magi. But, who was holding the Christ? Who showed him to the Magi?

Mary!

To be honest, if I put myself in Mary’s place, I wouldn’t have been very eager to allow perfect strangers, complete foreigners, to visit my Baby. Still, she did and she did it because she understood that this Child was born for a specific purpose with consequence for all peoples for all eternity. The Magi were just the first of countless strangers to whom she’d have to let her Son be revealed.

Mary was perfectly pure, grace-filled, good, and unparalleled in her love of God. Because of that, God chose her to become the Mother of Jesus. Wanting only God’s will and nothing else, Mary said yes to his request. She bore the Baby despite the dishonor (and possibility of being stoned to death) it brought her as an unmarried mother. She traveled the arduous journey while full-term with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem and gave birth to her Child in a cave used as a stable for animals. She wrapped him in what was available – swaddling clothes, which aren’t much more than rags. A feedbox, or manger, served as a crib. All of this because she understood her responsibility as Mother of the King of Kings and the meaning of the Star that hovered above her family.

The Star of Bethlehem is most certainly a central part of the Epiphany story. But for me, Mary is the real star.