Reflection on The Epiphany: 5th January 2020

Take a different way home

Benozzo Gozzoli | Procession of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence (1459-60)

An epiphany is not an idea. As D. H. Lawrence said, people can do anything they want with an idea, but a truly new experience changes everything. Before you can do anything with it, it does something with you! Most of us prefer ideas and words; we are afraid of any authentically new experience. The Magi had to do that most dangerous of things: trust and follow their own limited experience. Which is all that any of us has! And God seems humble enough to use it in our favour. Unlike the Magi, we do not tend to allow stars to divert us to a new and unknown place. Most of us stay inside our private castles and avoid such questionable adventures. Yes, we avoid death supposedly, but we also avoid birth. We miss out on the great epiphany.

The feast of the Epiphany tells us that from the very beginning Jesus was someone to be personally experienced, and not just mentally agreed upon, proven, accepted or argued about. It is fairly easy to discuss and have opinions; it is much harder to be present to another and to meet them. The first allows us to maintain ourselves as we are; the second demands love rather than mere duty, surrender and trust rather than mere obedience.  What we celebrate in the mystery of the Epiphany is that it is God who is manifest, not our formulations of God! The mystery of the Epiphany is saying that God is perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed in the same physical place! God is shining forth in the most unwanted and unsuspected of places: the material and even vulnerable world.

Epiphanies, thank God, wake us up so we can in fact experience our experiences, learn from them and be transformed by them. We now have the ability to find God in all things, even the sinful, the broken, the painful and the tragic. Reality itself converts us. The actual is what leads us to God. Epiphanies leave us totally out of control, and they always demand that we change, that we go back home by a different route, yet realigned correctly with what-is. Reality is still the best ally of God, and God always comes disguised as our life.

Adapted: Richard Rohr