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An epiphany

January 6, 2011
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On this day, with Twelfth Night over, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, and I suddenly thought about this exchange from the 1991 movie Hook, between Captain Hook (one of Dustin Hoffman’s best performances, I think) and his 1st Mate Smee (a fun Bob Hoskins):

Smee: I’ve just had an apostrophe.
Captain Hook: I think you mean an epiphany.
Smee:  [gestures his fingers to his head] Lightning has just struck my brain.
Captain Hook: Well, that must hurt.

And so do many heads, who just can’t wrap around that event, where – at some time estimated between the year 6 and 4 BC – an infant, born in a manger, is given unto us as the Savior – the Light of the world.  Even though Jacob wrote about it, and David, Isaiah, Daniel and other prophetic accounts, the only ones to follow the inspiration of Scripture and a heavenly phenomenon were the Magi, wise men, the Tres Reyes

So God reveals his Son, not to Israel, but to make his appearance to the Gentiles.  To us.  The word epiphany itself, in the original Greek epiphanei, signifies appearance or manifestation. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary deftly defines epiphany as a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking. An intuitive grasp of reality.  Wonderfully put.

So this Epiphany we celebrate is a physical phenomenon of the revelation in Scripture, the celestial appearance of the star, and the birth of the child, the Son of God – as St John will refer to him as – who is manifested to the Gentiles.  This is all followed by an Epiphenomenon: a secondary phenomenon caused by the first; specifically mental, spiritual phenomenon that is ongoing to this day: conversion.  Church tradition holds that the magi, returning to the east, told all of what they had witnessed, even becoming baptized in India by the Apostle Thomas.  My own, less spectacular conversion was a spiritual conversion of heart after witnessing something physical as an ignorant tourist during Holy Week 1982 – incense rising up before the South Transept of St Stephen’s stained glass window of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It spoke to me of truth itself, and in my weakness, I plowed ahead through secular ebbs and flows for many years, until that truth manifested itself in me.  If it sounds un-miraculous, don’t knock it until you see it.  Imagine the lightning-struck brains of those three wise guys…

So may we all nurture our own epiphenomenon as we carry the notion of Christ’s birth – like the warm feeling of a Flash Mob scene from this Christmas on You Tube – through the whole year, for 353 shopping days, and see what miracles manifest around us.  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!



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