An Epiphany Message from the Dean
By The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III
Poor Epiphany: squeezed in between the glory of the season of Christmas and the austerity of the observance of Lent. And, perhaps not so many even know what the word "epiphany"* means.
Perhaps many of us know the dramatic basis of this "in between" season: The account in Matthew's Gospel of mysterious visitors coming to visit and pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews. (Matthew 2:1ff). The Greek word to describe these mysterious visitors is not "king" (i.e., "basileus") but rather the Greek word for "astrologers" ("Magi" - the Greek noun indicates male), sometimes translated as "wise men." The first thing we know about them is that they were star-gazers; their workaday world was to study the motions of the stars and to offer interpretation of the meaning of their movement.
These Wise Ones (perhaps more correct for our time) were alert to the appearance of a new star in their everyday life and were determined to find out what it meant. The second thing we know about them is that they had the imagination to see God amid the routine of their lives and they possessed the curiosity to follow wherever that might lead. And they found the Treasure! They were called wise because they listened: to their dreams, to the routine of their everyday lives and to the world around them.
The Wise Ones were also adaptable. They didn't sit in one place - they got up and moved. They were willing to explore and take risks, to head off in a new direction. They were able to let their goals and their work change to fit new moments.
The Wise Ones asked questions; only unwise people don't ask questions. The Wise Ones met people along the way who could assist them - and were unafraid to ask questions, even of the evil King Herod.
The Wise Ones were good stewards of the wisdom and wealth they possessed. They brought gifts to God, not out of duty but out of love and adoration.
The Wise Ones were flexible and prudent. Yes, they did consult King Herod for whatever help he could give in finding the newborn king. But the Wise Ones were not naive and took Herod's advice for the self-serving ends in which he offered it. They said "Thank you" to Herod, found the newborn king and then went home by another route avoiding King Herod all together. Their flexibility arose out of prudence and knowing better than to trust everything the treacherous Herod said to them. Perhaps that is one more reason the writer of the Gospel calls them wise.
The Epiphany - the essential meaning of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in this coming year is precisely what the Wise Ones hold out to us as the way of becoming wise: listen; adapt; ask; give; be flexible; be prudent. Let us pray and act in growing wisdom in this coming year.
And surely, surely, the Wise Ones were a merry band. For joy is one of the surest signs of wisdom and the presence of God. Let it be so for us!
* Definition: "a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something" Merriam-Webster Dictionary