The following reflection comes from Peach McDouall:
My first Episcopalian Epiphanytide was in Durango, Colorado. I had only recently started identifying as a Christian, and I wrote down the words that are the title of this reflection on a little scrap of paper. I put the scrap in my brand new BCP. It is now an old BCP, and that scrap is still there.
The rector of that Durango parish was teaching us how my newly-embraced faith tradition understands and passes on the transformative revelation humanity encountered in the Logos Incarnate. I was learning the difference between what I’d been told Christianity was and what my encounter with the Risen Christ had actually led me into.
Epiphany wasn’t just a season of the Church Year after Christmastide was over and before Lent began. It was what had happened to me. My life had been peremptorily hijacked by God. And now I was learning how to live into my new understanding of Reality.
I was heartened by a story about Thomas Aquinas, a saint whose feast we celebrate during Epiphany. Just before he died, the man whose Summa Theologica stood for centuries as the distillation of Western Christian theology had an experience – perhaps like my own. He didn’t describe it. No one could. But what he did say was, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”
Aquinas was transformed by his Epiphany, and realized that being a lifelong scholar and a prayerful and prudent monk only take a human so far. These pursuits might prepare a soul for Epiphany, but Epiphany is a gift. It cannot be bought or taken. Epiphany is given when 0ur God-seeking souls are given a gracious taste of what they seek, and that sweetness transforms our lives forever.
Repentance – thinking in a new way – is Epiphany’s less popular brother.
Today, our governments flounder, seeking to turn all the information about the behavior of a mutating virus and about our changing climate into life-saving policy. World leaders struggle to lead their citizens out of a global pandemic and climate catastrophe amid a mounting death toll – but are told they must do their job without further disturbing an economic system which resists changes when those changes risk profits, and without further inconveniencing citizens who are exhausted by the discipline that’s been required so far.
Humanity is dying of Knowledge without Insight. We resist both Epiphany and Repentance. In Epiphanytide, angels announce to the shepherds and to us that God’s glorious revelation is meant to heal and to bind us together in one Whole and Holy Body.
All we think we know is like straw in a manger.