Our planet has come full circle: 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 North, is winter.
But the church has entered a different season – Epiphany.
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 unveilings, it starts with a glimpse of baby 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.
In the dead of winter, the church gives us God-sightings, gives them as if to persuade us that our world only appears solid, still, dark, and cold, but is in fact stirring all the time, ardent, vivid, and porous. As if to say that this stretch of predictability we call our daily life is really, as Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, a startling game of hide-and-seek with the divine. As if to say that heaven’s flame burns hot here too, not just on the other side of Peter’s gate.
Starfire, dream-clouds, baby’s flesh, garments of light, kings on their knees and disciples on their faces — Epiphany is the church’s way of impressing on us that discipleship is as much being spoken to as it is speaking, as much adoring as serving, as much perceiving as doing, as much finding as seeking.
Seeking is never over, there is always more to find. But in Epiphany, the Spirit seems to desire for us a momentary end of seeking. She brings us to an encounter with the immense and saving beauty that burns in Jesus, the bright beauty destined for us all.
She lights the lamp and leads us: “Come closer,” she says. “You’re getting warm. Now over here. A little more. Yes, yes. Now do you see…?”
And if we are attentive, we do perceive it. We fall on our knees.