During this first week of the new year 2022, Epiphany will be celebrated. It is traditionally known as the Twelfth Night—the day the Magi brought gifts as they recognized the birth of Jesus and the manifestation of the Triune God—and it is also known as the prelude to the baptism of the Christ Child.
Worldwide, Christian cultural communities honor Epiphany in distinct worship services and rituals, gift-giving and with special foods and baked goods. Both the French Gallete de Rois and the Spanish and Latin American Rosca de Reyes and King’s Cakes throughout Europe feature a feve (bean) or small baby Jesus hidden in the dough. Finder of the child hosts another celebration on Candlemas on Feb. 2, commemorating when the infant Jesus was presented at the temple. In places like Ecuador, the Christ Child is removed from creches and taken to Catholic churches for a special mass and blessing.
Epiphany derives from the Greek word epiphanaeine or reveal. Epiphania signifies the manifestation of someone divine, or simply the appearance or acknowledgment of something quite special or even miraculous apart from what we know and live as mundane. Even now, when something new occurs to us we say, “I had an epiphany just now.”
In one classical sense, the condition for an epiphany is an open heart, mind, spirit to be receptive to wonderment or an illuminating insight. It is an experience open to all people. Even Zen Buddhism teaches the concept of Shoshin, the concept of a “beginner’s mind,” a willingness to see or perceive something as if for the first time. They are the “aha” moments, perhaps of awe and amazement, that can offer new possibilities and pathways for our lives and new ways to respond to one another and to community.
As the new year begins, we are still hopscotching back and forth on COVID precautions and reeling from daily incidents of gun violence in our urban areas, the erosion of our environments from the Oregon coast to our high deserts, the proliferation of pop-up tents everywhere, and the horrific images and shattered expectations for our country’s well-being incurred by the assault on our nation’s Capitol building by insurrectionists. On one level, these all pale in comparison to the myriad issues, suffering, and challenging situations in our homes and families.
From whatever reality or place we inhabit, how best do we allow those astonishing ideas and solutions to surface? Relinquish preconception or judgement? Be courageous, open and forge ahead? Live with a sense of wonderment and appreciate the miraculous apart from what we know and experience as mundane?
May we discover and embrace the hidden gift and universal grace of Epiphany.