On January 3, 2021 we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
Epiphany! What a wonderful word. Even its secular definition is thrilling: “a sudden realization about the nature or meaning of something.” It brings all sorts of images to mind: a light bulb suddenly turning on, shedding brilliant illumination; a revelation that brings a gasp; an idea so vivid we pause and give thanks; a truth so powerful we fall to our knees. The feast of the Epiphany is all of those things and more.
We celebrate the mysterious appearance at Jesus’ birthplace of three men from the East. They had set off on a most quixotic journey, seeking what they would find at the end of a star’s dazzling rays. What, we wonder, did they make of the epiphany with which their journey ended? Did they spend the rest of their lives trying to discern what their discovery of the baby meant, or did the Christ Child gift them with “a sudden realization” of His nature? What more could they – or we – want of a life’s journey, than to find, in our epiphany, the Christ waiting for us?
The Christmas season has now led us to this place, where Gentiles from afar have discovered Christ, thereby revealing that He came for everyone, for each one of us throughout history, and not just for the Jewish people to whom he was born. The feast of Epiphany brings us to the last week of our liturgical celebration of Christmas.
But for the Christian steward, Epiphany is not an end but a beginning. This feast reminds us that the New Year beckons us to openness about the epiphanies to which God leads us if we but keep an open, prayerful heart, a heart full of deep, awed gratitude. The year ahead brings promise of an eventual “post-pandemic” season. Let us pray not to become numbed by our experiences of 2020 that we cannot see new epiphanies of Christ working in our lives. If we could resolve to keep only one New Year’s resolution, let it be this: to pay attention to the epiphanies God places before us.