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  • Devin O'Donnell

Epiphany & The Revelation of the New Year

Updated: Jan 5

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, friends. It is still Christmas, everyone—even if only for a little longer, until the whole liturgical season, which lasts twelve days and not one, concludes on January 5 (Twelfth Night). Immediately following Christmastide on the church calendar is the celebration of "Epiphany" on January 6th.


Historically, the church recognizes three images in Scripture to mark Epiphany, each of which reveals some aspect of Jesus' identity: the visitation of the Magi from the east (Luke 2; Matt. 2), the baptism of the Lord by John in the Jordan (Matt. 3:13-17), and the first miracle of Christ's ministry, the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Each of these scenes in the life of Jesus reveals something about his true nature. The word "epiphany" (epiphainein) occurs several times in the New Testament, and it simply means a sudden revelation of truth. At root, the word has to do with "light." In other words, we shed light on something so as to bring greater recognition and realization. In literature, for instance, the manifestation of a character’s true identity has become a stock literary device, one which we can observe all throughout Scripture. For instance, the three Magi are the first gentiles to whom Christ is revealed as king. Similarly, when Jesus is baptized, we see a picture of the entire Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) represented.


But it is the last of the three scenes from the gospels I want to contemplate. Consider how the Wedding at Cana shows forth Christ's essence:


1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory [ephanerōsen]; and His disciples believed in Him. (John 2:1-11)


What does this mean? On its own, this event inaugurates the series of signs and wonders that authenticate Jesus as Messiah. But in light of its typological meaning, this Epiphany scene complements and completes another revealing Christ figure from the Old Testament. In Genesis 41, we find Joseph put in command of Egypt, solving problems and making the land prosper. Joseph is also called upon at a critical time, when the land runs out of food:

Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.” The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands. (Genesis 41:53-57)


Thus, Jesus is the one to save the people from spiritual famine. Jesus is the greater Joseph, giving them not the leftovers from the storehouses but the "best" wine at the end of the feast. Epiphany reminds us that God can still be revealed to us, in the same manner he was to the Gentile Magi, in the same way he was to the Israelites at the Jordan, and in the same way he was to those at the wedding feast. God can still be seen acting in the world today. But he works through his people. In a lesser sense, we too can reveal Christ in the world. As Joseph was a “type” of Christ, a shadow of the Jesus later revealed in the New Testament, so we too can be “types” and shadows of Christ, becoming more and more real as we become more and more like Jesus. We, who are made in the image of God and stamped with His likeness, are called to be the revelations of Christ in the world.


It's fitting that the Feast of Epiphany coincides with a new year. Consider how we might be an "epiphany" of Christ in this new year. How is the Light revealing our true character to those in our family? How are we revealing Christ's identity to those around us? How do we "show forth” his rule in the world?


To conclude, here’s a prayer for the season of Epiphany from the Book of Common Prayer. Let’s ask the Lord to show forth His nature in us this new year:


O GOD, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech you, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Ghost, he lives and reigns ever, one God, world without end. Amen.


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Agenda for Monday:

  1. Prayer and catechism

  2. What is "Epiphany" and why does it matter?

  3. Work on POL recitations (work with a neighbor)

  4. Class Competition on Thursday (1/6)!

  5. Hermeneutics: Beatitudes Worksheet

  6. Work with neighbor

  7. Review notes on the Iliad

  8. Read the Iliad


Agenda for Tuesday:

  1. Prayer and catechism

  2. Tintoretto's Epiphany

  3. Hermeneutics: Continue the Beatitudes Worksheet

  4. Work with neighbor

  5. Review the Iliad Illustration assignment

  6. Review more notes on the Iliad

  7. Read the Iliad pick up in Book 6


REVIEW HW:

  1. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.

  2. Bring Iliad books (We read Homer!)

  3. Continue to work on memorizing Poetry Out Loud (POL) selections

  4. Class Performance on Tuesday Jan. 4, 2022

  5. Finish reading Book V; begin thinking about creative project.


__________________


As we consider the significance of Christ's Baptism, note the apocalyptic imagery in Tintoretto's Baptism of Christ. It suggests that this event was not merely a detail in the life of Christ. Note the contrast. Note the cataclysm. It was a fulfillment of ages-old prophecy, as we see in this depiction. Consider this destructive imagery in light of its typological significance that relates to the great Deluge of Noah's time. The Flood was always seen as an archetype to baptism, God in effect "baptizing" the world and cleansing the wickedness that had become so ubiquitously strong. Similarly, the Israelite's passage "through" the Rea Sea, in haste to avoid their captors, as well as the Israelites' second passage through the Jordan, which becomes the fulfilling symbol of John's baptism of repentance. What Tintoretto brings out, however, is the turbulence of baptism, the typological significance of death and destruction, as well as cleansing and newness of living.



TINTORETTO, The Baptism of Christ, 1579-81 Oil on canvas, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice

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