It is probably safe to say that most of us love the season of Advent and that Christmas is one of our favorite celebrations of the year. But what about Epiphany?
The word ‘epiphany’ is the English transliteration of the Greek epiphaneia, meaning appearance, revelation, manifestation. In our Christian context the word refers to the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God. This feast which has traditionally been celebrated on January 6 is now often celebrated on the first Sunday of January. Its origins can to traced back to the Church in the East and is older than the celebration of Christmas on December 25.
While Christmas focuses on the Birth of Jesus, the feast of the Epiphany focuses on the Baptism of the Lord in the East and the visitation by the Magi in the West. In both instances, Jesus is revealed to the world as the Son of God. Both of these revelations were rather grand experiences. At Jesus’ baptism, e.g. a voice from heaven proclaimed him to be the beloved Son of God. And the Magi successfully followed a star in search of the Son of God.
In addition to the Gospel stories, saints too seem prone to great and life altering revelations. Sometimes I wonder why such experiences have not befallen me. This has led me to think that saints have reached such a high state of holiness that God deems them worthy to receive such revelations. But maybe it is better to look at it a little differently. Maybe revelations are not a reward for saintly lives, rather saints reach such a high spiritual sensitivity that they have an extraordinary sense of God’s presence in the world so that small revelatory moments can become great experiences. By contrast, many of us are so dulled down by the hustle and bustle of our lives that we might not even recognize God, even if we were breaking bread together.
That is why the celebration of the Epiphany is so important. It is an invitation to all of us 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: in the love between to people; in the beauty of a mountain range; in a playful herd of sheep and in a lonely row of cypress trees; in the people who risk their lives to save the life of others and in those whose lives are being save; in the people who work toward justice for all; and above all in the liturgy and the sacraments.
And if we are able to pause long enough, we might even recognize God’s presence in ourselves? After all, we are created in the image of God and by virtue of our baptism we are called to be a manifestation or an epiphany of God’s love in this world.
Thus the solemnity of the Epiphany not only celebrates that God was revealed in Christ some 2000 years ago; the Epiphany also invites us to open ourselves up to discover God’s presence among us today; and the Epiphany remind us that each one of us is are called to be a revelation or epiphany of God in our world.