Today is Epiphany! Have a merry and happy Epiphany! It isn’t just about the wise men. It’s the beginning of a whole season in which the scheduled Bible readings on Sunday deal with “epiphanies” of who Christ is: His baptism, in which the voice from Heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mathew 3:17); His first miracle; then other Gospel stories, culminating in the Transfiguration, in which the voice from Heaven again says, ““This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 17: 5), bracketing Jesus’s ministry with the Father’s identification and favor.
I’m interested in the word “epiphany,” which is also a literary term (meaning a character’s or the reader’s moment of realization in a story) and a term referring to experiences of ordinary life, in which we suddenly see the significance of something.
After the jump, I post an excerpt from a dictionary on the various meanings and uses of “epiphany.” Read them and reflect on how even the seemingly non-religious uses of the term can apply to Jesus.
noun epiph·a·ny \i-ˈpi-fə-nē\
Simple Definition of epiphany
Epiphany : a Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ
: a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way
Full Definition of epiphany
1 capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ2: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being
3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment
Examples of epiphany
Invention has its own algorithm: genius, obsession, serendipity, and epiphany in some unknowable combination. —Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker, 12 May 2008
One day, a New York composer met an expert on Asian domesticated elephants, and together they reached some sort of freakish epiphany and decided to see if elephants could learn to play music. —Jon Pareles, New York Times, 5 Jan. 2002
One epiphany came when a dozen engineers in northern New Mexico saw a lone, fading Xerox paper carton bobbing in a swamp of old motor oil at the bottom of a pit. —Michelle Conlin, Business Week, 1 Nov. 1999
Seeing her father again when she was an adult was an epiphany that changed her whole view of her childhood.