Today, January 6, marks the Feast of Epiphany. 

I pointed out in a recent DM that the feast days our religions celebrate are invariably archetypal and address deep questions of what it means to be human.  This certainly applies to the Christian story of the Epiphany that marks the end of the “12 days of Christmas.”  The story tells of three magi from the East who come to pay homage to the child Jesus also called “Emmanuel” or God-with-us.  This story has many layers but what stands out for me are these:

“Enlightenment” Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

The name epiphany which in Greek means manifestation, appearance or showing (thus Julian of Norwich’s book title, Showings).  We all have epiphanies or manifestations of the divine in our lives, we all undergo moments of opening to the divine, Hildegard of Bingen called them illuminations and painted many of hers for us.

The global or international and inter-ethnic dimension to the story of three gentiles from different lands coming to modest Bethlehem.  Tradition tells us one of these men was African.  Inter-racial and inter-ethnic diversity is celebrated.  The story underscores how in Matthew’s day the early Christians were gentile as well as Jewish.

“Adoration of the Magi” by Andrea Mantegna c. 1500) On Wikimedia Commons.

Deep Ecumenism and interfaith are also inherent in the story.  These three magi are not Jewish– they come from other spiritual lineages.  They are pre-Christian seekers of illumination who come to offer gifts to a “new-born king.”

This “king” is meant to be a king of peace.  Compare the words in Luke’s gospel from the angels: “Peace to men and women of good will.”  All men and women of good will seek peace, this seeking brings them together from all lands and races and faith traditions.

 Cosmology plays a big role.  A star rises from the East.  Some interpretations over the centuries say the magi followed a bright star.  “Was it a supernova explosion?” some ask.  “Was it a comet?” others ask. “Was it a convergence of two planets?”  It was something beyond the human agenda alone.  Beyond the earth alone.  It involved the cosmos (as do the references to angels in Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth).  Angels after all are cosmic beings.

Epiphany mosaic, anonymous artist, Chelmsford Cathedral. Photo by fourthandfifteen
on Flickr.

Science, astronomy, astrology too are included in this story that includes both the revelation found in nature and in Jewish Scriptures.  A cosmic event is at work.  The Cosmic Christ story of the Nativity is wrapped once again in a more-than-human world.

A humble baby in a humble setting is honored as a prince, a “prince of peace.”  In contrast, the current ruler of the great Roman empire is pictured as an evil figure.  A different kind of political leadership is heralded, the “kingdom of God” vs. the empire of the moment.  The puer, the child, shall lead to a purer human reality.  The youth should be honored and adults must learn from the young (Jesus: “Until you adults turn and become like children you will never receive the kingdom.”)  

to be continued

See Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 99-101, 188-198, 228-244.

Banner Image: “The Star of Bethlehem” by Edward Burne-Jones. Photo uploaded to Flickr by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

What does Epiphany mean to you?  Have you had numerous epiphanies?  How do they affect your life and your work and your view of the world?  Which elements of epiphany listed here support your own?  Challenge them?

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

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2 thoughts on “The Feast of Epiphany, 2021”

  1. Avatar

    “Truth goes out the window, and hypocrisy moves in.” That is universally and eternally true. The U.S. has been more and more revealed to exemplify this, sadly, in my opinion. Thank you for your wisdom,

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