The Taser's Edge

Epiphany, Part II

I initially wrote the following post for my church’s blog, which I administrate, but then I liked it:

Throughout the history of Christianity, Epiphany has been about many things and it has been about one thing.

About many things…
In the East, there has long been a connection between Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, when the Spirit descended in the form of a dove.  In the West, we tend to focus instead on the coming of the Magi, who followed a newly appeared star and brought gifts to Jesus.  In fact, in Spain and much of Spanish-speaking Central and South America, today is known as El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings).

Building on the story of the Wise Men, Epiphany is also worth celebrating because those non-Jewish gift-givers represent all of us Gentiles whom God came to save in Jesus.  And one final meaning: a connection has often made between Epiphany and the Wedding Feast of Cana, where Jesus began his public ministry by performing his first miracle–turning water into wine.

About one thing…
However Christians have remembered Epiphany throughout history, we have always remembered and celebrated together the revealing of God in Jesus, who is very God and very Man, the Light of the World.  As Isaiah first put it and then Matthew repeated…

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

A Prayer for Epiphany
(An Eastern Orthodox Post-Communion Prayer for Christmas Day)

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness.
And to know Thee the Orient from on high,
O Lord, Glory to Thee!



The Journey of the Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot

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