Epiphanies of all sizes and shapes

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Brian Doyle, editor of Portland Magazine, is considered by many contemporary writers as one of the most creative storytellers in America today. I feel fortunate to have had him as my friend and editor for many years.

Some while ago Brian published a slight and delightful volume entitled “Epiphanies and Elegies,” a collection of life events deserving our praise and respect. I do not wish, at this point, to forestall your merriment should you decide to pick up and read this lovely set of stories; I just want to point out that the title came to mind as I opened the Roman Lectionary at the beginning of this new year and found that we are about to celebrate an epiphany on this Sunday, indeed, the very Solemnity of the Epiphany itself. As all of you know from past experience, the celebration calls to mind the surprising ways that God enlightens us.

The theology of the feast, of course, is contained in a delightful story of several Far Eastern astrologers (star-gazers) who, having learned of the birth of a king in the West, are determined to cross the barren Eastern desert and prove for themselves the very truth of this king’s ascendance. It is not inconsequential to the story, of course, that the astrologers are being guided in their travels from the East (the land of sunrise) and being led Westward (the land of sunset or darkness) by the light of a star. On their arrival, the astrologers are astonished and delighted to find a Child King whom they honor with their traditional royal gifts of the East.

Herein is the Christian theology of Christ the light of the world, the one who by his life, death and resurrection, would lead the entire world from darkness to light. In short, we are living that very story even today and will continue to do so until Christ, the Light-bearer returns in everlasting brilliance.

In the meantime, of course, it is worth our while, as with the astrologers, to continue our life’s travels from darkness to light and, in doing so, discover innumerable epiphanies buzzing all about us.

Did it ever occur to you, for instance, that life itself, the dawn of a new day is an epiphany, a segment of time not to be wasted but treasured and savored in doing good. The fact that I have the opportunity to sit at this computer console each month and attempt to break open words of Scripture with you is an epiphany, a very serious reminder that the common sharing of truth is a valuable undertaking for us both.

Interestingly, it is the astronomers, the star-gazers of today, who best remind us that there are mysterious epiphanies on the so-called limits of outer space. They invite us to ask questions like, how far do the limits of the universe extend? How did creation begin? What keeps planetary objects moving in circular directions? Why do all the heavenly objects that we can see seem to be round and not square or triangular? What keeps the entire universe from catastrophically flying apart? Are not these questions in themselves epiphanies? Perhaps it is more appropriate ultimately to admit to our astonishment that we are even able to ask such questions at all.

Anyway, good friends, epiphanies of all sizes and shapes are out there for the picking; let us fill our baskets to the brim.

Jan. 8 Scriptures

Isaiah 60: 1-6

Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6

Matthew 2: 1-12

The writer formerly served the Anchorage Archdiocese as director of pastoral education. He now lives in Notre Dame, Indiana.

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