The Mystery of the Epiphany January 4, 2024

 The word “epiphany” is the English translation of the Greek epiphaneia, meaning appearance, revelation, manifestation.   The origin of the Feast–which was traditionally celebrated on January 6–may be traced to the Church in the East and is more than likely an older celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation than December 25.  When December 25 was adopted as the celebration of the Birth of Jesus, the feast of the Epiphany changed focus to the Baptism of the Lord in the East and the visitation by the Magi in the West.  Other names for the Epiphany in the West are the “12th Day of Christmas;” “the 12th night;” “Three King’s Day.”  In the East the feast is known as the Theophany, or the “revelation of God.”

When it comes to revelations or manifestations of God, we often think of miraculous experiences like the ones described in the Gospels: God’s voice is heard at Jesus’ baptism or water is changes into wine our Lazarus is raised to life, to name but a few.

Some saints are said to have had similarly grand life-altering experiences of the presence of God.  Those who look for an explanation for these experiences might argue that saints have reached such an elevated state of holiness that God deems them worthy to receive such revelations. Others will say that true saints reach such a high spiritual sensitivity that they have an extraordinary sensitivity to the presence of God in the world.

Most of us are so dulled down by the hustle and bustle of our lives that we would not even recognize God if God joined us at the dinner table.  The celebration of the revelation of God (Epiphany) is an invitation to open our hearts and minds to God’s presence in the most ordinary as well as in the most extra-ordinary aspects of our lives.

The mystery of the Epiphany invites us to experience God’s presence in the Word Proclaimed and, in the Bread Broken during the Eucharist as well as in the gathered assembly with the priest as our celebrant. In addition, we are invited to experience God’s presence in those who are most in need; in those who risk their lives to save the life of others; in the people who work toward justice for all; in the love between two people; in the beauty of a mountain range; in a playful herd of sheep and in a lonely row of cypress trees; and even in ourselves.

For indeed, what if we truly believed that each one of us is created in the image of God, that God dwells in each of us, and that our most profound calling is to be a manifestation or an epiphany of God in the world? Isn’t that what it means to be a saint. And wouldn’t the world be a very different place if all of us took that to heart.

As we complete Christmastide with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany let’s make it our goal and our mission to be a true manifestation of the love of God in our world, both individually and collectively. Now that is a worthwhile New Year’s resolution.