By Scott Baker
Although there is not, technically speaking, a “season of Epiphany,” the weeks following Jan. 6 and leading up to Ash Wednesday (this year Feb. 17) all have a common thread that runs throughout. Each Sunday, as the Christian Church gathers, the lessons appointed are all revelatory in nature. Each Sunday there is an occasion to glimpse the divine in Jesus of Nazareth. It begins with the first Sunday after the Epiphany and the baptism of Jesus with a dove descending out of nowhere and a divine voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus as God’s own Son, and culminating on the Sunday just before Ash Wednesday in the Transfiguration and the dazzling sight on the mountaintop. In between, on each Sunday, the gospel lesson is a witness of how Jesus is the manifestation of the divine.
Perhaps it is not inconsequential that we are introduced to the “epiphanal” moments as the light in nature around us grows and grows. In fact, the root of the Greek word “epiphany” is the Greek word for light. As in, to bring something to light or out into the light; or to reveal.
Over the years I’ve spent no small amount of time thinking about Jesus’ saying, “ears to hear and eyes to see.” One of the cornerstones of the Christian faith is the notion that God is a revealing God. In short, God is always trying to communicate to God’s creation and longs for our attention. All too often we are too distracted with this or that and fail to recognize and honor the holy that surrounds us. It is interesting to note the rise of attention deficit disorder in our society. It is almost as if we are hardwired to be distracted from the world around us.
Some years ago, I read a quotation that poetically expressed this: “Ours is a transient life, lived on the run, with an endless sense of process, of movement, of chasing the future. We seldom pause to shine a light upon the ordinary moments, to hallow them with our attentiveness, to honor them with our gentle caring. They pass unnoticed lost in the ongoing rush of time.”
In this year following the horrors of 2020, it is going to be especially important to focus our eyes on the divine that surrounds us and saturates creation. Often it is in the ordinary that God reveals God’s light and presence. In sacramental churches, we have a saying, “God takes the ordinary and makes them extraordinary: bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ; water is transformed from that in which we bathe, to that which washes away the old self and makes way for the new.”
I am convinced that these “holy moments” happen all the time every day if we just cultivate “the ears to hear and the eyes to see” them unfolding around us. In this time when more and more are identifying as “spiritual and not religious,” perhaps it is the longing to encounter the divine and holy outside of religious institutions is what really is expressed in that moniker.
If it is true that God is a revealing God, and if the ears and eyes are well trained, we will indeed “see God” all around us; and if we are truly blessed, we will see God within ourselves as well. For in doing so we will ultimately affirm that we have indeed been made in the image of God and see the holy in every human being.
FATHER SCOTT BAKER is the pastor at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 757-562-4542.