By Randy Limbird
Epiphany is one of those dates on the Christian calendar that has multiple meanings and observances. In the Western tradition, Jan. 6 marks the visit of the Magi bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. The Eastern branches of Christianity mark that date (or Jan. 19 for those who the Julian calendar) as the commemoration of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River.
On a more secular level, it’s often considered the deadline for taking down Christmas decorations. Here on the border, it’s celebrated with Three Kings’ Cake (rosca de reyes) that has a figure of the baby Jesus hidden inside.
As for me, I just like the word ”ephiphany.” It suggests a special revelation from God. That’s the common link between the Western and Eastern traditions: In one case, “epiphany” suggests the presentation of the infant Jesus to the Gentiles as one who has come as savior of the entire world. In the Eastern sense, it focuses on God’s pronouncement at Jesus’ baptism that “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
In Mark and Luke, the account has God the Father speaking directly to Jesus: “You are my Son.” Some believe that it was at this moment that Jesus fully realized who he was. That’s an interesting idea for theologians to deal with. For the rest of us, I suggest that just thinking about “epiphany” awakens a hunger for some kind of special insight from God that will inspire, motivate and even transform us.
When we read stories of great Christian leaders, we often discover they had such moments. For St. Augustine, it was hearing a voice that said, “Take up and read,” which led him to a verse in the Book of Romans that changed his life. For Martin Luther, it was also a single verse from Romans (1:17, “the righteous will live by faith”) that catapulted his life in a new direction. And of course there was St. Paul, who encountered the famous vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, which turned him from persecutor of Christians into the greatest evangelist in history.
I don’t know the psychology of any these historical figures, but I suspect that all of them were wrestling with God in their own way before their moment of epiphany. I doubt any of them could be described as complacent or content with their life and the world around them.
The first beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount is “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is kingdom of heaven.” There are many interpretations of “poor in spirit,” but for me, I think of a spiritual hunger that is open to revelation.
Randy Limbird is editor of
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