THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, which marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas each year on January 6. The word EPIPHANY comes from the Greek meaning a manifestation, an awakening, a showing forth, - and in Matthew’s Gospel of the Magi’s visit, what is made known can be called an “epiphany moment”. In their visit with the Christ child, the Magi experienced a sudden spiritual intuitive awareness, a mystical insight that God has come to more than the people of Israel. In Christ, God comes to all people in the fragility of newborn child, a reflection of God’s unconditional love for the world.
During the Season of Epiphany, which runs from the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6) through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, our gospel stories describe various events that manifest the divinity of Jesus. The visiting Magi are celebrated on the Epiphany. The Baptism of our Lord is observed on the Sunday after Epiphany. The gospels for the other Sundays of the Epiphany season describe the wedding at Cana, the calling of the disciples, and various miracles and teachings of Jesus. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany is devoted to the Transfiguration. Jesus' identity as the Son of God is dramatically revealed in the Transfiguration gospel, as well as the gospel of the baptism of Christ.
Whereas Advent themes have to do with hope filled waiting, the themes of Epiphany highlight our response to the showing forth of God’s presence in our lives, beckoning to us to move beyond our human limitations into the realm of Devine Presence. We are called to respond to Christ in faith through the showings of his divinity recorded in the gospels of the Epiphany season.
Richard Rohr once wrote, “An epiphany is not an experience that we can create from within, but one that we can only be open to and receive from another. Epiphanies leave us totally out of control, and they always demand that we change.”
Many of us are entering the year with uncertainty about where we are headed. 2020 upended our lives and exacerbated our insecurities. It exposed our vulnerabilities, as individuals, a society and people of the Way. So, in 2021 I invite you to join me in centering our individual and collective efforts on the Divine Presence in our lives. We all belong to God no matter what external physical or cultural differences there may be between us. We all belong to God no matter what religious convictions or lifestyle differences there may be between us. Our God is inclusive, imaginative, compassionate, forgiving, unconditionally loving and we are his beloved.
So, during this Season of Epiphany, let us embrace the graces of the gospel readings and like the Magi be awakened to the Divine Presence in our lives. As President John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said, “If you look throughout human history the central epiphany of every religious tradition always occurs in the wilderness.” So, let us go forth in 2021, as God’s beloved, and not be afraid.
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