Patterns of Epiphany
There is a pattern in the three signs of revelation that are the focal points for prayer, reflection and worship in Epiphany. The journey of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus and the Wedding at Cana reveal a movement of mind and will that is vital for all those who would see the Glory of God. The three signs all include a fourfold process – a journey, immersion in creation, engagement with human society, and obedience to the Word of Scripture.
The magi’s journey is the most dramatic, involving the crossing of culture and languages; this signifies to us the need to be aware of what Christ might reveal through a tradition of the Faith different to our own. There is a risk and a challenge in this – but nevertheless it is a necessary one. The initiation of Jesus’ public ministry at Baptism likewise involved a journey away from temple and synagogue to the seminal river of the Old Covenant – the Jordan. It is in the dangerous landscape of the wilderness that the Lord is revealed. In this sign is found a challenge to the comfort of our religious practice and an invitation to confront our needs. At Cana the Lord is drawn by invitation into a home and family not his own – other communities can be places of revelation too!
These signs are all made with and through creation; the new star, the water of the Jordan, the water of the purification jars. It is important that all Christians should immerse themselves in creation in order that the Word through which all things were made can speak to them. The gardens, the kitchen, flower arranging, a country walk can be for us a place of Epiphany. This is not the same as pantheism; we do not believe that God in contained within creation, but that it is a means through which he reveals himself. For different people engagement with creation can have different significance. For the magi it was their watching and careful observation of the sky that began their journey that ended in the adoration of Christ.
In the Epiphany signs the world and affairs of men play an essential role. The Magi visit Herod’s court and it is there that they first hear the Scriptures. In his Baptism the Lord chooses to identify with all those who had been drawn to the Jordan for the sign of repentance and forgiveness –tax collectors, soldiers, social outcasts. This Baptism was not a cosy religious meeting, it was the gathering of those who were the exploiters and the exploited, the abused and the abusers. God can and does reveal himself within the world as well as in some retreat apart from it. At Cana the first miracle is made within a wedding – the starting point of family and the bond of community. Revelation is made through human love and celebration.
There is no revelation without humble obedience to God’s Word. The Magi did go to Bethlehem, as the prophet foretold. Jesus insisted on baptism by John because the Law demanded it. The water became wine through the obedience of the servants – who followed the advice of Mary to ‘do whatever he tells you!’
Epiphany is a season of great encouragement to each of us, for all of us live in creation, all of us live within family or community, all of have access to God’s Word, and all of us are invited on a journey, the journey of faith that leads from glory to glory. In so many ways the Lord is calling you. Do not remain rooted to the spot; epiphany and new beginnings go together.