The word “epiphany” means “manifestation,” “striking appearance,” or “to make evident,” and happens to be the name of one of the Church celebrations that traditionally falls on Jan. 6 — the 12th day after Christmas — and this year the Season following Epiphany Day will last eight Sundays).
Epiphany acknowledges the revelation of God the Son, the Christ, as Jesus born of Mary in Bethlehem. Christians commemorate such epiphanies as the incarnation (the coming of God as one of us, in the flesh), the Wise Men’s visit to the Baby Jesus — and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the gentiles. Epiphanies in the life of Christ that might be celebrated during the season will include the marriage feast at the Wedding of Cana (changing of water into wine, Jesus’ first miracle), His baptism, and the presentation of Christ at the temple.
Another ancient Greek word that helps us to describe these manifestations of God in Christ is “theophany,” which means “vision of God.”
In this season we can take time to reflect on our own personal epiphanies, our theophanies, when God has made Himself present to us, manifested Himself, and given to us a revelation of Himself that has caused us to acknowledge and affirm the truth of our faith.
When God who loves us, sustains us, and embraces us, has broken through worldly constraints and limits to affirm His relationship with us, those times the power of God’s love and grace seems to have flooded our senses, and peace wells up in us, and God is apparent. It is as if everything is alright, everything will all be OK, for “God is with us” (Emmanuel).
We feel God with us, beside us, but also within us. These manifestations or Epiphanies of God are not every day experiences, but we know they are real, and we carry them with us — as did Our Lord’s mother: “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart…(Luke 2:19.)”
We know God is with us from these personal experiences and don’t need a feeling to affirm us, or a description by others of what our feelings should be like… We know what are feelings are, because we know God. We know God personally through the person of Jesus Christ.
My relationship to God, and your relationship to God, are each unique, as are all relationships with God, because God made us all to be unique, and we have been known of God before the world began. Yet what makes us unique also graces us with a “sameness,” a “oneness,” a “commonality” — God’s image imbued to each of us. So, we are many, though yet we are one.
An Epiphany Prayer:
O God of love, we pray that our relationships and interactions with one another are reminders of our relationship with You — that we might be windows into your closer presence — Epiphanies. May each and every encounter with another be as a prayer when two or three are gathered in Your name, and made holy by Your presence, Your image that dwells in us. May we bring manifestations of Your love, grace, and peace into the lives of others, and a sense that all will be well — in quiet and in chaos, in faith and in doubt, in fear and in courage, in all things. Amen.
The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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