January 5, 2003

Today, we conclude the twelve days of Christmas and we usher in the new Kalendar season of Epiphany or Theophany – both Greek words which refer to Jesus making his life and work known to the Gentiles -–that is, to all peoples and not only to his fellow Jews. Epiphany-Theophany is then a manifestation, a making clear, a showing forth of Jesus’ life and purpose. We begin to learn about the Good News of Jesus through this mystical celebration. Epiphany-Theophany – the portrayal of Jesus to our world, gathers up the teachings of Christmass when we saw the coming of Our Lord Jesus as a human baby and contemplate His coming again at the end of time to judge the world. Epiphany-Theophany is esteemed with the other two greater feasts – Easter Pascha (when Jesus died and rose again from the dead) and Pentecost Whitsun when we think of God the Holy Spirit who comes to be our Comforter during these end times of the Church. Ever since the second century Christians have been impressed by this festival of Epiphany-Theophany. Greek boys dive in the ocean today to retrieve their bishop’s ring.

Christians in the eastern world concentrate on Jesus’ baptism by his cousin St John – and what that symbolized, “Ecce Agnus Dei”: Behold the Lamb of God! In the western Church, our tradition observes Jesus’ baptism next Sunday but the idea of baptism carries over today to the blessing of holy water for the faithful. Today, we also prayed for the ecology of the waters; ocean, rivers, lakes, the creatures who live in them and the fishers and workers in the deep. We paused for a blessing at the shrine of Blessed Mother Mary who figures so strongly in this season and symbolically, our search for truth and wholeness like that of ancient kings, took us again to the stable cradle for a prayer.

In the western Church, our teaching focuses on the trip of the three wise men, these sages, seers, Magi, philosophers, who, by the messianic sign of a star lead them to the stable’s manger. There, Jesus God Emmanuel with us, was shown to agents of our world who were illuminated by His gracious presence. They brought Him gifts even though Jesus is pure gift to us. Visitors brought to the crèche gold, frankincense and myrrh: such presents honoured Christ the King and myrrh has been used in embalming, a reference to Jesus’ later death for our salvation.

There is Epiphany-Theophany, of a sort, in the history of religions which are observed in natural theology. God has hidden Himself as in the burning bush (Exodus 3). In His incarnate birth as a baby at Bethlehem, God has, in a sense, also concealed Himself. In the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, God hides Himself and none of these manifestations become clear and fulfilled until the end of the world. Just as the three inquisitors sought out the Lord Jesus, so must we once we have grasped the’ joy to the world’. From out of all this, the revelation of God in Christ must be our paramount awareness.

Rightly, our Lutheran friends think of missionary activity at this time. Once we have captured the truth of reality in Christ Jesus, we will be anxious to demonstrate this in our own regular worship and witness. What does it really mean to be a Christian? What difference does my Christian profession make to me personally and how does it impact other people? That is the real challenge for each one of us that Epiphany-Theophany poses. Christ is shown forth in me by His grace; how do I project the powerful love of God to my world? In prayer to the Holy spirit we shall discover these treasures, the gifts of Jesus’ Epiphany- Theophany


Father Al