The meaning of Epiphany is the perfect subject for a pilgrim to explore on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. First, and most fundamentally, it is the manifestation of the divine. Specifically, Epiphany is the revealing of the birth of Christ to the non-Jewish world through the Adoration of the Magi. But, it is more than that and accessible to all.
We encounter many epiphanies in nature. My wanderings lead me to the manifestation of the divine along the road. I see it and share it with you, for instance, in caves that contain fanciful sculptures obscured in darkness until discovered, majestic mountain ranges that seem to float in the sky, and rippling water stained with the colors of sunset. Even the desert surprises the pilgrim with a sense of holiness.
Churches and shrines, whether large or small, also manifest the divine. Religious architecture and art draw us to the infinite through beauty, peace or majesty. A pilgrimage to religious sites is a search for the divine. Ideally, it leads to an experience of epiphany.
Three Kings and A Star
The Epiphany we celebrate on January 6 – that of the three Kings who visit the infant Jesus – takes place through a sign in the sky. The wise men, kings or astrologers, followed the light of a bright star. By studying nature and Scripture, and seeking where they led, the Magi found God. To delve more deeply into this mystery, click here.
Thus, the Christmas star is a symbol of Epiphany. Some people believe that the star was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn like that recently seen on December 21. Others view it as a unique phenomenon independent of science or astronomy.
In either event, the image of light in the darkness leads us to the light of the world. It compels us to follow the deepest yearnings of our hearts. Consciously or not, we search for the love that created us and cherishes us through all eternity in communion with itself and other seekers. All our love for or from others is a pale shadow of that great One.
Epiphany As Wisdom
Moreover, “epiphany” also means a sudden realization, an insight, an understanding of the essential nature of something. In this sense, it is wisdom that bursts upon the mind in a whole perfect picture as if always there. As wisdom itself is divine, so again this definition encompasses the notion of the coming into the world of truth, of wisdom.
How marvelous that wisdom becomes incarnate in a vulnerable child! Christ, called Wonderful Counselor, Logos, Light of the World, Teacher, Wisdom of God, and Holy Wisdom, is the fruit of this epiphany. May your mind and heart open to allow you to receive Him through the beauty of this world. May your own epiphany seize you, fellow travelers, through the piercing loveliness of clouds, of birds in flight, of quiet paths sheltered by whispering branches.