Twelfth Day (Twelfth Day of Christmas): Coming to an Epiphany

Twelfth Day (Twelfth Day of Christmas): Coming to an Epiphany January 5, 2018

RevelsTwelfth001Our revels are coming to an end, but this is good.  Shakespeare owns our Twelfth Night where he reminds us about music, food, love, and playing on, then cleaning up from the feasting dominates our Twelfth Day. Cleaning up comes with decorating for the rest of the year!

The Church helps us recover from our revels by moving into a time of profound, joyful reflection on His work: Epiphany. During this season we will recall the revelation (epiphany) of Christ to the rest of us with the coming of the magi. We will also celebrate the baptism of Jesus when He was revealed as the beloved Son of God. In the East, this comes with a blessing of the waters.

Why bless water?

We are not talking about magic here, but a revelation of reality to us. Our act reveals that nature, including the element of water, is sacred. No human can force God to bless anything, instead we expose the inner reality of the world God has made. The matter of water does not change or the form, but the humans see part of the purpose of water when we bless the element.

We rip aside the mundane mask that we put on nature and see what is real: all of nature is sacred.

There is a useful mental division between the sacred and the secular, yet we must never forget that this is no true division between disciplines in the University. Philosophy bleeds into mathematics at the frontier of logic, religion into philosophy of religion, history into ancient philosophy, and the natural sciences into philosophy of science. The borders are useful for organizing our thought, but they are unreal. Truth is unified. In the same way, all the world is God’s world. No Temple can hold God, not even Nature, but God is present in His creation and all of creation moves Godward.

We have water, because God willed life and when we see this truth, meditate on it, then a small epiphany can come to us!  This state of mental readiness to deep truth is not just for one season, but for a lifetime. I have learned that an epiphany, spiritual or otherwise, comes when my mind has been prepared.

God is a person so He does what He wills as He wills. We cannot force His consent by our actions, but we can prepare for when our loving Father, who delights in good gifts, might come.

There is no substitute for reading. Here is my plan for this year. 

I have to read to prepare for class and this means early Church leaders,  Augustine, Burke, Emerson, Austen, Shelley, Gregory Nanzianzus, Dickens, Douglass, Boethius, Longfellow (amongst others) this term. If you do not have a job like mine, then it is a good idea to find a book (Christian or not!) from each great period of human history that has influenced your mother tongue. Make sure that includes literature from the last twenty-years as well.

Try a serious book a month. Of course, since I have to read deeply for my job, my goal is a serious book a week.

Because my school is in the English speaking world, we tend to focus on readings that have shaped that language. As a result, I also try to read some books from outside the Western world or the parts of the West that I know less well. One year my reading focused on Singapore, another on the First Nations here in North America, and this year I am thinking about China and Chinese history. This certainly is not to become an expert on any of these topics or peoples, but to broaden my thinking.

I read through the Bible every year using different plans in my Olive Tree Bible software. As part of my devotional reading, I look for short, spiritually uplifting books. This year I am beginning with My Life in Christ by the spiritual father John of Kronstadt.

Great art or beauty puts my soul in readiness. 

Hope and I try to go listen to great music in addition to making (on my part) some not-so-great music. We will visit some art galleries. We should never forget nature. Going to a “beauty spot” if you can is restorative. If you cannot, find a tree and just look at it mindfully.

Part of finding beauty is making sure that my surroundings are orderly and neat. Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but cleanliness helps lift our minds to godliness.

I try to do good, including acts of charity.

Good breeds goodness. If hurting people hurt people, then loving people help them. I have not always done as I should, but I can keep asking God to help me to do better. We do not save ourselves or the world by our good works, but we do good work out of love for God. When our family gives of time, talents, or treasure to other people, then insight comes.

Find a spiritual father or mother and talk with them often.

I do not do as well here as I should. One goal for my year is to talk to my pastor more often! (Father Richard: are you reading?) I also get together with a group of men about once a month and we talk about many things (Celtic Evensong!). This is good for me.

When I finally grasp a hard idea in Plato, that is a small mental epiphany. When I get an insight into a problem at work, that is an epiphany. When I grasp the humanity of those around me, seeing them as being in God’s image, that is a bigger epiphany. When I see the Good God who created and sustains all things in every element of my life, natural, mental, spiritual, then that is greater still. Finally, there comes a time when I grasp that the greatest epiphanies are outside of me: Christ and Bethlehem, Christ and the Magi, Christ in the Jordan.

God is great and I am small. When I see this, I am content and understand the meaning behind the song at the end of Twelfth Night: 

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.
But when I came to man’s estate,

With hey, ho, & c.
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain, & c.
But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, & c.
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain, & c.
But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, & c.
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain, & c.
A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, & c.
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.

What I do is what I do and is not so great, not even if I were to be a Shakespeare. We use the unchanging tools God placed in the cosmos to do our bit. We are small and God is great. This reality is a great comfort and a good epiphany here at the end of the Hols. We shall spend the rest of the year striving to please every day . . . Hey, ho! Hurrah!



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