It is the evening before winter storm Elliott is about to break, cold and dark, yet stars still glimmering. We are driving through the mountains to meet distant friends. Traffic is almost non-existent ahead of the coming storm, the night, hushed. It’s as if we travel through this space and time alone.
Returning home from almost empty pre-Christmas gathering rooms, the temperature is chillier. We ride in the car muffled with gloves or hats or scarves. The night has become even more still, if that were possible. Periodically in this remote forested area holiday lights appear. Only, they are not an intrusion. They feel warm with company and anticipation.
Slowly I become aware of the Presence. Holiness envelops in one of those skip-a-heartbeat moments. It was, it is, it will be Christmas when everything and nothing changes at the remembrance of the coming of the Messiah. Time splits; it pivots. Time at once, then, now and forever. I settle into the experience, aware of each breath, each fraction, a mystical epiphany as we wait.
This is not one of those periodic flashes of insight or light-bulb moments of fully-realized clarity one needs to progress forward in life. It isn’t the commonplace, downgraded use of “epiphany,” like the degradation and overuse of the word, “awesome.” This is true transcendence, something above the transitory realm where one normally functions.
Later, I ponder the encounter, and now think of this moment as “Theophany,” as the Orthodox Christian Church refers to the moment humanity became aware of the One God in human form, visible, touchable, hearable by us, but still paradoxically not fully knowable by our limited selves.
Yet there are these “feelings,” mystical — epiphanous — encounters experienced as one waits with (or without) intention, living into a Christ-infused day tomorrow and each day thereafter.
I did not that evening in the car and do not today understand it all, cannot explain it, nor would I, should I try. Today, is. Epiphany. Immanuel. Ah, awe, holiness, grace.
At the Threshold of Time
God was here.
In a moment, out of eternity, bound by our time;
The source of all things,
the infinite, creator, life and breath, limitless energy, unbounded love;
Like exploding stars, comet tails, and pounding tide,
trickling creeks, a puff of air, the whisper of firefly wings;
Condensed, compressed to finite
to be one of us;
still seeing, knowing all but
to fit our image;
to see as we see and hear as we hear.
To stumble beside us,
along with us, around us, throughout us,
yet without becoming
the dark of us,
Extraordinary inside of ordinary;
once only, but forever.
We anticipate the remembering,
Aera Christus eternum.
* Aera: A fixed point in chronological time from which an era of years are counted — the Christian era began at the birth of Christ — the beginning of a system of time.
Watch a Greek Orthodox festival of lights for the Epiphany video, or listen to chants of Theophany at https://www.goarch.org/epiphany
Lexiann Grant is a retired writer & author, a former chalicer and layreader, but still an Episcopalian who enjoys encountering God in the mountain backcountry.