When I caught up with some friends during the week to celebrate a mutual friend’s birthday, the conversation turned to the Feast of the Epiphany and the celebration of Christmas. Mainly this was because one of the guys was a deacon in the Coptic Orthodox church, and he was gently berating me and the other Catholics present for celebrating Christmas on the wrong date and for not keeping the fast before Christmas (as we hoed into barbequed chicken, beef and pork ribs); meanwhile the high Anglican was talking about his church and the tradition of celebrating the season of Epiphany, rather than a single Sunday. This started me thinking about the different meanings of epiphany (meaning manifestation or revelation) and the way that each Gospel in turn really does present a different aspect of the ‘epiphany’. Although we are most familiar with Matthew’s story of the magoi coming to visit the ‘new-born king’, Luke’s gospel tells a similar story with very different characters in the angelic vision to the shepherds; meanwhile, Mark’s gospel reserves the epiphany for the Baptism of Jesus and John has his at the first sign that occurs at the wedding feast in Cana. So, since we will celebrate the Feast of the Baptism next week, and will read from John 2 the following Sunday, in some ways the church still celebrates the season of Epiphany, even if we don’t name it as such.
What all this points to is that there are many ways that Jesus is revealed to us. If we spend too long examining the gospel account in Matthew and pondering on the nature of the stellar events, counting the magoi, determining the date that they arrived in Bethlehem, making names for them, or speculating why they brought such un-practical gifts, we will miss the true beauty of this season of Epiphanies.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (8’25”)
Solemnity of the Epiphany