Today marks the observance of ‘little Christmas’, or Epiphany (God appearance or God vision). In the western church, this day is meant to remember the visitation of the Magi to the Christ child, which could be understood as the first appearance of the incarnate Christ to the Gentile world. In the last few years, the word “epiphany” has made it into common usage. I have heard many people, celebrities and ordinary folks alike, say this or that certain event was an ‘epiphany’ them. What do you think they mean? I asked this on facebook and a few friends replied. Margaret Terry thougth it might mean an “aha” moment; Jeanette Thomason suggested, “Seeing the Light.” My friend and niece Jodi Raisanen offered this:
“I never made the connection between Epiphany and epiphany. I bet it doesn’t mean a whole lot to most people, that it is used quite broadly. I have been waiting for Epiphany to take all the Christmas decorations down! I have a friend whose nativity set is so beautiful that she leaves it out all year.”
I like that idea – leaving the Nativity set out all year – Christmas every day! And, if you have the three kings as a part of the Nativity scene, you can have an Epiphany everyday, too, whether it is narrowly or broadly interpreted.
Epiphany played a large part of my Christmas as a child, although I didn’t realize it for a long time. My maiden name is King. My Dad’s three sisters were Holy Names nuns. Each Christmas when I was little, the Aunties would send a Christmas card featuring the Magi. I was in highschool before I got their darling joke.
T.S. Eliot has a wonderful poem about Epiphany called “The Journey of the Magi.”
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 was 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 gong 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 lead all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I have 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.
You can listen to him read it himself if you click on this link:
Blessings to you on this 2012 Feast of the Epiphany!
|Journey of the Magi – T.S. Eliot|