January 6, Epiphany.
To read of the evolution of Epiphany as a part of the church year is to witness crazy things. Epiphany--"manifestation"--is associated symbolically with the historia trium regum (My Latin duly corrected by son #1) the advent of the three kings or magi from the East. Because the first manifestation of Christ's ministry was the miracle at Cana--water morphed into the finest wine--this event also has come to be associated with Epiphany. An early Christian writer-- ironically, named Epiphanius--claimed that on January 6, water is miraculously turned to wine all over the world.
So check your water bottles sometime today.
Because after the birth of Christ so much happened--his circumcision, his eventual baptism by John, the appearance of angels and the arrival of shepherds, the appearance of the magi--it was considered that his nativity was not of such importance because: absconditus est, et non apparuit --"He was hidden, and did not appear" (St Jerome, who had a wonderful imagination in his own right). But the idea of manifestation naturally became associated with those times when He showed himself as the Christ.
The whole idea of epiphany came from the East, where it seems most of the best theological ideas came from in the first millenium of the church.
Epiphany in a more general sense is a wonderful word; wonderful concept. Somewhere last year I found myself writing that epiphany is what makes life worth living. It is breakthrough, insight, the thing long-sought now finally at hand.
It is resolution. It is Springtime after a long, dull, overcast Winter. May Sarton* writes about it in a poem: "Even a year's not long, yet moments are/This moment, yours and mine, and always given..." Epiphanies are God's little gifts to us, given in moments we don't expect and can't anticipate--and therefore are truly gifts.
One hears, "I had an epiphany", and understands that something clarifying has happened. "Life can breathe again", writes May Sarton.
Sometime on Tuesday, my friend Allen, a black man who has spent the last nine years behind bars, will be released out into the world. This is epiphany writ large! Allen hopes to be a street preacher, and I can testify that he has tasted the sting of the Law, and has ears to hear the Gospel. I pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit he continue to live his life in freedom.
On Being Given Time by M Sarton