Joy and gratitude surround the birth of Jesus. The angels sang songs of joy to the shepherds as they kept watch over their flocks. The Blessed Virgin sang in praise of God at the Annunciation. Her cousin Elizabeth embraced her with gladness when she visited her and the babe in her womb leapt for joy. St Augustine wrote, “This is the happy life, to rejoice in God because of who God is and there is no other.” The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on the 6th of January and continues that theme. The Feast of Christmas, that we have just celebrated, and the Epiphany have different emphases because of the different religious and cultural differences between the Eastern and Western Church and the contexts in which they arose. But essentially their meaning is the same; “the celebration of the birth of Christ as the dawning of the new light, the true sun”
The joy to which St Augustine refers is grounded in the internal disposition of a man or a woman towards God. It is a spiritual orientation that recognises God at the heart of all things. I am reminded of the insight of the Psalmist in verse 11 of Psalm 139 and the words, “The darkness is no darkness with Thee, but the night is as clear as the day: the darkness and the light are to Thee both alike.” The events of Christmas and Epiphany are indeed seasonal that are kept by the Church universal; yet the implications of them are lived out by millions of Christians every day of the year. The guiding star led the Magi to the Infant King. It is His light that we continue to follow as we move on into 2021 – whatever it may bring. It is the light of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity who enlightens our minds and our hearts, who removes the clouds and the darkness, who leads us into a greater and clearer understanding of the Christ and how our lives revolve around His love for us, not the other way around.
Under His guiding light St Anne’s looks forward to another year of fellowship and friendship underpinned by God’s grace and his mercy.
Keep the Faith
The month of January contains several notable dates but for me chief among them is the Feast of the Epiphany. The subtitle in the Book of Common Prayer is “The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” This emphasizes that from the moment of the Incarnation the good news of Jesus Christ is for everyone: Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white, wise and simple.
In Western churches, the Epiphany became an occasion to celebrate one element in the story of Christ’s birth in particular, the visit of the far-travelled magi, understood as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Matthew’s Gospel account speaks simply of ‘wise men from the east’. In fact, nothing in the Greek text of the Gospels indicates that the Magi were all male or even three in number and it was later non-scriptural tradition that fixed their number at three, made them kings and recalled their resonant names – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.
Set in this perspective, Epiphanytide seems a very appropriate season to pray for the worldwide mission of the Church. The feast of the Conversion of St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, appropriately falls in the Epiphany season, (25th January) as does the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Traditionally the week of prayer is celebrated between
18-25 January and in 2021 material has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. It is an annual initiative in which Christian communities throughout the world are invited to pray for one another and for greater Christian Unity.
In the Eastern churches, the Epiphany is the celebration of Christ’s baptism at the hands of John, when the heavens were opened and a voice from heaven declared Jesus to be God’s beloved Son. The miracle of Cana in Galilee, where Jesus “first manifested his glory.” The season of celebration that begins at Christmas continues through the successive Sundays of Epiphany, ending with the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple also known as Candlemas (2nd February.)
by Richard Moffatt
The Collect for the Feast of the Epiphany
who by the leading of a star
manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: mercifully grant that we,
who know you now by faith,
may at last behold your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God, now and for ever.