It’s odd. My favorite calendar season is fall, but I’m all for winter when it comes to the church calendar. My favorite church season is Advent, which emphasizes expectations, introspection, burgeoning colored lights, and reflection. Then Christmas. I love Christmas Eve, but after that, blah. Maybe it is because I’m a 12-days-of-Christmas kind of Christian, who won’t take the tree down until January 6, who misses the Christmas music that seems to disappear so quickly, and the massive undecorating of everything from houses to stores, quite often as soon as Christmas Day itself! It’s too short a season for those of us who are still waiting for the Magi to appear.
Then there is Epiphany, my second favorite season. I love the idea of the Theophany, the revealing (theophany) of God incarnate in human form. The feast of the Epiphany marks the day that celebrates the Magi’s arrival and presentation of their gifts to the Holy Family. The season of Epiphany is relatively long, about three times (40-63 days, depending on the date of Ash Wednesday) as long as Christmas. During this season, we think about everyday epiphanies, “AHA!” moments that suddenly appear and lead us to rethink something and perhaps change direction entirely.
I’ve had some small epiphanies during my lifetime, and the ones I seem to remember the most are the ones that have come to me later in life — perhaps because I have more time to think about them. Some are mundane, like realizing I really don’t need my truck and the expenses that come with it. I can get things delivered instead of going to the store, I can haul my garbage to the dumpster by pulling a small wagon along (getting exercise in the process), and I can save money that I honestly don’t have. I have friends I can call on for help if I need transportation somewhere, but otherwise, I spend 98% of my time in the house, reading, knitting, and doing housework. I donated my truck to the local classical music station, and so far, my epiphany has worked pretty well.
Another epiphany happened several decades ago when I was working an evening shift in a more urban setting than I was used to. I ventured out one evening to take a break from work and enjoy the dark and the cooler air. I noticed a streetlight across the street, under which a man walked, pushing a grocery cart piled high with his possessions. I felt an overwhelming sense of love for that man, a desire to make his life better, all while knowing that this moment was passing too quickly. I remember it and the feelings as clearly and deeply as I did that night. The epiphany wasn’t the rush of love but the idea that I’d never paid any real attention to the street people or even the ordinary people I passed on the sidewalks. It made me conscious of the need to pay attention to others instead of keeping my eyes strictly on the ground and my thoughts on my personal thoughts and worries.
That time in my life was fruitful one epiphany-wise, and I found things to write about, consider, and action to take. Years later, I came to understand these epiphanies as a kind of theological reflection, a place where a person or group can consider an item or instance from four different perspectives: that of how our culture sees it; where similar things appear in our tradition (like hymns, scripture, liturgy, etc.); what each person’s position is on the subject under consideration; and what implications or epiphanies we each had had that would be useful in our individual ministries inside and outside the church.
I still encounter epiphanies and get such joy every time it happens. They can be sparked by something I read in a book, heard on radio, TV, or in class. Someone might say something in passing or something that seems to come out of the clear blue (I think of those as God-sparks). The commonality among the epiphanies is that they make me take a different look at something I probably hadn’t considered before. After reviewing, I still have the freedom to choose to do something with the epiphany, or not. Quite often, though, I find my thinking has changed on some subject or experience, and changed for the better.
The season of Epiphany reminds me that this process is available all year but that I’m probably going to be more attentive during this period. Still, I keep looking for my “Aha!” moments and being grateful when one shoots past me like a comet.
Be aware that epiphanies can come from anywhere. They’re too precious to miss.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.