I’ve never really placed much importance on the celebration of Epiphany. I used to think of it simply as another day on a Church calendar that is already brimming with a feast and fast days. I never knew just how important it was until this past week.
“Oh,” said Guadalupe Reyes when I asked her about Epiphany. “It’s for us like a second Christmas.” Ms. Reyes and her family leave their shoes out, she said, so that they can be filled with gifts.
“When I was a child, in Mexico,” she said, “we would leave the straw out for the horses the Three Kings rode.”
“La Befana!” exclaimed Angela Marino. “My grandmother was Italian. She would tell us stories of La Befana and how she would come down from the mountain to bring gifts to the children. I’ve continued the tradition within my family.”
“In Ireland,” says my cousin Clare, “It’s Nollaig na mBean, Women’s Christmas.” It’s a day the woman gets to watch the men make dinner and clean the house, all while they relax.
Epiphany or the Feast of the Epiphany is January 6th . There are as many ways to celebrate Epiphany are there are countries. Traditions that range from gifts, gatherings, and public celebrations.
Beyond that, what is the true meaning of Epiphany? For that, I visited with Father Gonzales, a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) at Sacred Heart Church.
“It is the realization, the manifestation of the true reality of who Christ is, for us and our world,” says Father Gonzales.
One of the major events of Epiphany is the visitation of the Magi, the three Kings. These three Wise Men set out to see, to meet the baby, Jesus. Who were they, the three Kings? Melchior is believed to have been a Persian scholar; Gaspar is thought to have been a scholar from India; Balthasar, a Babylonian scholar.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’ ”
These three Wise Men, these Kings out of the East has an Epiphany of just who Jesus was and what it meant for Him to be born. So, they searched him out.
Today, many of us continue to search out God, be it within the Christian tradition or any of the other spiritual paths out there, we are searching. When we find Him and get to know Him, it is truly a life-altering event.
“Although we’ve never met the risen Christ,” says Father Gonzales, “we know the resurrected Christ.”
Prayer, retreats, personal reflection, and Bible study can lead us to who Christ is. It can also lead us to the truth of His love, something we tend to forget, diminish, or simply ignore.
“Sometimes, all of a sudden,” Father Gonzales said, “through infused grace, we have this ‘ah-ha’ moment, a realization of who God is, a sense of His love, all-encompassing. Kind of a very powerful experience most of us can point to in our lives. The Epiphany.”
After speaking with Father Gonzales, and others, I realized, for Christians, Epiphany represents a responsibility to reveal Jesus as the Son and Savior sent by God the Father to atone for the sins of humanity. It is a time of healing and fellowship, where the Christians come together in a covenant of brotherhood to love one another as Christ commanded. To share His love with all, regardless of who they are or where they are from.
Love that is the meaning of Epiphany.
The realization of who God is, His love and how it’s all-encompassing is the meaning of Epiphany. So, how did I miss the point all these forty-seven years of my life?
Like so many others I have been looking for physical manifestations of God’s love. For a long time, my thought had been that if one is to receive a blessing from God, and expression of His love it would take some physical shape. Think of prosperity theology that says God wants you to have a new car, house, money.
Another way I missed it was by cluttering my life in such a way that I couldn’t hear the “still, small voice” of God. Movies, video games, work, all have taken time from my spiritual life. In some cases, sadly, it replaced my spiritual life.
“There’s a lot of distractions,” said Father Gonzales. “Unfortunately, those distractions we think that they will bring us hope, and peace, and healing, and happiness, and fullness. But what we’ve discovered…there’s only one thing that can bring us that peace, that hope, that joy, that happiness and that’s Christ Himself.”
Father Gonzales did say that because of all the distractions around us we can miss what is right in front of us. It’s easy when you are busy posing updates to Twitter, Facebook, or trying to compose the perfect video for Snapchat.
“We miss what is right in front of us,” says Father Gonzales, “this simplicity of the birth of Jesus into this world, which is amazing. The infinite becoming one with us.”
All else aside, be it dogma, theology, denominational beliefs, Epiphany is a day to remember the love of God. It’s also a good day to search for that love if you’ve not yet found it. The Wise Men searched and found the embodiment of Love. Why can’t we?
Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy.
This is the first in a yearlong series collectively called A Year of Faith. Throughout the year Steven Cottingham will be meeting with, and bringing the stories of faith found around the Borderland.
If you would like to be a part of this series, you can contact Steven by calling 915- 201-0918 or sending an e-mail to Steven@StillGoingSomewhere.com