It’s weird. My favorite calendar season is autumn, but I’m for winter when it comes to the church calendar. My favorite church season is Advent, which emphasizes expectations, introspection, blooming colored lights, and reflection. Then Christmas. I love Christmas Eve, but after that, blah. Maybe it’s because I’m a Christian with a 12-day Christmas, who won’t knock down a Christmas tree until January 6, who lacks Christmas music that seems to disappear so quickly, and mass decorating everything from home to the store, often on Christmas Day itself! The season is too short for us who are still waiting for the Magi to show up.
Then there is the Epiphany, my second favorite season. I love the idea of Theophany, discovery (theophany) God incarnated in human form. The Epiphany marks the day when the coming of the sages and the offering of gifts to the Holy Family are celebrated. The season of the Epiphany is relatively long, about three times (40-63 days, depending on the date of Ash Wednesday) longer than Christmas. During this season, we are thinking about everyday epiphanies, “AHA!” moments that suddenly appear and lead us to reconsider something and maybe completely change direction.
I’ve had a few small enlightenments in my life, and I seem to remember the ones I fell on later in life – perhaps because I have more time to think about them. Some are everyday, like the realization that I really don’t need my truck and the costs that come with it. I can deliver things instead of going to the store, I can haul my trash to the dumpster by hauling a small wagon (while practicing), and I can save money I honestly don’t have. I have friends who can call for help if I need transportation somewhere, but otherwise I spend 98% of my time at home, reading, knitting and doing household chores. I donated my truck to a local classical music station, and so far my epiphany has worked pretty well.
Another enlightenment happened a few decades ago when I worked the evening shift in a more urban setting than I was used to. I dared one evening to take a break from work and enjoy the dark and colder air. I noticed the street lights across the street, under which a man was walking, pushing a grocery cart crammed with his belongings. I felt an irresistible feeling of love for this man, a desire to make his life better, as long as I knew this moment was passing too quickly. I remember that and feeling as clear and deep as that night. The Epiphany was not a rush of love, but the idea that I never paid any real attention to the people on the street, or even to the ordinary people I passed on the sidewalks. This made me aware of the need to pay attention to others instead of keeping my eyes strictly on the ground and my thoughts on personal thoughts and worries.
That time in my life was fruitful, enlightened, and I found things I could write about, consider, and do something about. Years later, I understood these epiphanies as a kind of theological reflection, a place where a person or group can consider an object or instance from four different perspectives: from the perspective of how our culture sees it; where similar things appear in our tradition (such as hymns, Scriptures, liturgies, etc.); what is the attitude of each person on the topic under consideration; and what are the implications or epiphanies we have had that would be useful in our individual ministries inside and outside the church.
I still encounter epiphanies and feel such joy every time it happens. They can be caused by something I read in a book, heard on the radio, TV or in class. Someone might say something in passing or something that looks like it came out of the blue (I think of it as God’s sparks). What the epiphanies have in common is that they make me look at something differently that I probably haven’t thought about before. After the examination, I still have the freedom to choose to do something with epiphany or not. However, very often I find that my thinking about a topic or experience has changed and changed for the better.
The Epiphany season reminds me that this process is available all year round, but I will probably be more careful during this period. Still, I’m constantly looking for my “Aha!” moments and gratitude when someone flies past me like a comet.
Keep in mind that epiphanies can come from anywhere. They are too precious to miss.
Image: Flashes of the sun between clouds and the sea, Author, Ernesto1951 (2008). Found on Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a commentator for the group Education for the Ministry, an avid reader, a lover of baroque and renaissance music and a pensioner. She runs Jericho’s Daughter blog. He lives with his three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.