–Adoration of the Magi, Gentile da Fabriano, 1423
Our planet has come full circle, and things should feel new; yet for many people, the calendar is cleared only for business as usual, and the soul’s season, like the weather outside here in the northern hemisphere, is winter. But the church has entered a different season. We call it Epiphany, from a Greek word meaning to point out in a striking way, to reveal.
Epiphany is a season of signs. It starts with a Star in the East and ends with fire on a mountain. A season of voices, it starts with directions in a dream and ends with acknowledgment from a cloud. A season of unveiling, it starts with a glimpse of a baby’s skin and ends with a display of gleaming garments. A season of worship, it starts with the homage of kings and ends with the prostration of disciples.
How generous and wise the liturgy is to gives us this string of bright, hot God-sightings in a cold, dark time. It is the church’s way of showing us that our world only appears solid, still, dark, and cold, but is in fact ardent, vivid, and porous. As Barbara Brown Taylor says so eloquently, Epiphany reminds us that we live in a world that is leaking light, and that this long stretch of predictability we call our daily life is really a wondrous game of hide-and-seek with the divine.
Starfire, dream-clouds, baby’s flesh, garments of light, kings on their knees and disciples on their faces—in Epiphany we learn, again, to see, to listen, to worship, and to be called; for discipleship (we know, but too soon forget in our drive to be useful and productive) is as much about being spoken to as it is about speaking, as much about adoring as serving, as much about perceiving as doing, as much about being found as searching. Discipleship is born in awe, it arises from encounter, it is a consequence of worship.
Our planet has come full circle; but for us this does not mean just another round in an endless, futile turning of things. In this new year, we are not so much going around again as we are spiraling down and in, deeper and deeper. Spiraling down and in on a mystery. A mystery that calls to us to duck under the surface, to come and see, to taste and hear, to feel and know, to adore, and thus to follow.