Today Christians the world over celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, a Greek word that means manifestation and symbolizes the day when Christ was manifested to the “world” as represented by the visit of the Magi (MT 2:1-12). In a larger sense, the word has come to mean the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something (Urban Dictionary).
In the second reading for today’s feast Paul writes to the Ephesians: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. (EPH 3: 2-3A). The phrase “stewardship of God’s grace” amplified for me the meaning of epiphany by adding to it an element of responsibility. Paul had a private revelation of Christ, certainly a powerful and sudden realization of the meaning of Christ to the world. What it caused in him, however, was the necessity of spreading the news of what he had come to know, spreading it as far and wide as he was able with the passion engendered by that one moment of recognition.
Just before I began to write this reflection, I read a passage from Thomas Merton’s Book of Hours that came originally from his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. Merton is offering morning praise to the God of creation and gives another perspective, I think, on the vastness of an “epiphany” of God’s presence.
Today, Father. the blue sky lauds you. The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you. The distant blue hills praise you, together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light. The bickering flycatchers praise you with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there. I, too, Father, praise you, with all these, my brothers, and they give voice to my own heart and my own silence. We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices. You have made us together, you have made us one and many, you have placed me here in the midst as witness, as awareness, and as joy. Here I am. In me the world is present, and you are present. I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.
If we are also links in the chain of God’s presence to the world, how do we, how will we in this new year perhaps, manifest that presence in our own unique way that will help to spread that recognition to someone somewhere who is ready and in need of the light?