January 15, 2017
What is the Epiphany and, therefore, what is the season after the Epiphany about?
The Epiphany, or the Visit of the Magi, is the fancy Greek way of saying that God has been revealed in the person of Jesus, therefore, "Incarnation (Latin)" or embodiment (English). The magi, men from lands not historically part of Israel or Judah, and, therefore, people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph, recognize the universal transformation and unique change effected by God in the birth of Jesus.
The readings from the Feast of the Epiphany through the Last Sunday after the Epiphany focus on this theme of God being revealed in the work of Christ. It is in this way that this "green" season differs from the green season after Pentecost.
Over the next seven weeks the Gospel readings are: John 1:29-49, the acknowledgement by John the Baptist of Jesus as the Lamb of God and the call of Cephas (Peter) and his brother Andrew; Matthew 4:12-23, the account of the call of the first disciples in Galilee; Matthew 5:1-12, the account of Jesus giving the new law in the Beatitudes; Matthew 5:13-20, more of Jesus revealing of God through his continued Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus' raising the ante on the law by challenging God's people to live the law in their hearts as well as their actions; Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus raising the ante again on the Lex Talionis (the law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth); and finally Matthew 17:1-9, the traditional ending to the season after the Epiphany with God revealed in the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain before Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John.
This is a lot of theology packed into a short period and a review of the texts shows a thematic more than a semi-continuous retelling of the mighty acts of God. If God is in the call of the disciples and the new teaching of the law, the people and teachings take on divine and eternal import.
Certainly, Jesus reveals God's presence in all his he does. That is the whole point of the Gospels and an essential point of the letters of the New Testament. But to concentrate this idea with the force of a season and to support this revelation with readings from the Hebrew Bible, and to explicate the narrative with the theology of the letters, drives home more fully this understanding: God himself was acting as he promised through the prophets, time and again.
Pay close attention to this time of year. It is often overshadowed by Christmas and Lent, but it is vital to a fully rounded theology of God's power, Jesus' purpose, and the foundations of our faith.
The Rev. David Lucey