What is Epiphany All About?
Sometimes it seems like spiritual life is all about waiting and hoping for insight, for an epiphany.
Some of us believe contemplative practices help us get out of our own way and hear the wisdom of spiritual life. As we take time to breathe deeply and listen to sacred stillness we allow ourselves to recognize deep truths.
We are convinced how we think is essential to spiritual life. We read and research and work to reason our way to fresh insights. Spiritual life is like an intellectual puzzle waiting for us to solve it.
I know people who are certain spiritual life is an analytical undertaking.
Others of us experience spiritual life as primarily emotional. We may not think much about spiritual life but we know how it feels. When we experience spiritual life it is affective. We feel comforted or loved or belonging.
For other people spiritual life is primarily physical. We may experience spiritual life when we are walking or running, lying in the sun or practicing yoga. Physical activity allows us to appreciate things in new ways and find new insights. Spiritual life exists in relationship to our physical health and bodies.
Each of us seeks spiritual insights and illumination in our own unique and personal ways. Some of us may be open to trying new approaches or practices even when we think we already know what works best for us.
Contemplative practices are based in a belief spiritual life is working in us whatever we do. We may be more comfortable with our thinking or our feelings or our physical activity. Spiritual life lives in us no matter how we understand or experience it.
If spiritual life is always with us, what is the epiphany we are hoping and waiting to experience?
A Season of Epiphany
I am a member of a liturgical church. When we get together we remember our story and we share a meal.
Epiphany is a liturgical season which follows the twelve days of Christmas. It begins on the morning after Twelfth Night. During Epiphany we remind ourselves through our shared story about spiritual life being manifest in our everyday lives.
Epiphany is about how the world and everyone in it reveals spiritual life and how our everyday lives are inseparable.
Each moment reveals spiritual life woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. We cannot tear them apart.
Wherever we look spiritual life reveals itself to us. Whether we are walking on a beach along an ocean, hiking a trail in a forest, rocking in a chair looking out over mountains, or watching snow or rain fall, our story carries us forward. Sun and stars, clouds and wind, stone and earth and plants and animals, light and dark; the primal elements draw us toward deeply sacred truths.
The voice of sacred stillness is in the sound of flowing water or rain on the roof, the rhythm of our footsteps. We recognize the face of spiritual life as we watch the flame of a candle or the sun coming over the horizon. Spiritual life is in the sun on our skin and in a warm embrace. It is in the aroma of fresh air and of fresh, warm bread. We taste spiritual life in an excellent meal, well-crafted brews, and the bread and the wine we share.
Our stories are filled with things which direct our attention to the sacred in our lives and in the world around us.
Epiphany reminds us to stop, breathe, and remember the sacred which infuses our everyday life.
We are practicing Epiphany when we take time to listen and pay attention.
I experience Epiphany as a light coming on, as illumination and enlightenment. It is as if we sit in the dark hoping for insight and when it arrives a lightbulb starts to shine.
For a long time I was convinced spiritual life was mainly analytical. If I could just sort out the pieces of my questions I knew I could think my way to an answer.
I spent a long time in the dark with only the focused laser of analysis to light my path. I stumbled often before I realized there were more sources of light, more ways to find epiphany.
We limit ourselves because we are convinced we already know what we need to know. It is impossible for us to see what is waiting for us in the dark because we choose to look in only one way.
Opening ourselves to Epiphany opens our eyes to more ways of seeing and new illumination.
We practice Epiphany as we open ourselves to ways of seeing which may be less familiar to us.
Each epiphany we experience shows us new ways of seeing and gives us new insight into deep truths.
How Will We Practice Epiphany?
We do not only experience epiphanies during this liturgical season of Epiphany.
it is easy for liturgical churches to become caught up in traditions and history. There seems to be a sense of doing things the same way each year because it is how they have always been done.
Epiphany, shedding new light and new insight, can be an antidote to maintaining traditions.
Each year, each season, each day is filled with new insights and new illumination for us. Our experiences, the people we meet, our thoughts and emotions, spark new epiphanies for us.
We practice Epiphany by not allowing ourselves to fall into established habits and ways of thinking. Each epiphany illuminates new possibilities for us.
Epiphany may be unlike other spiritual practices. Our practice of Epiphany is not about developing consistency or regularity every day. Each day holds insights of its own.
We practice Epiphany when we appreciate how spiritual life is woven into our everyday lives. Each experience is a new window into deep wisdom.
As we wait and hope for illumination the lightbulbs come on in new epiphanies.
How are we practicing Epiphany today?
Where will Epiphany spark new light for us this year?
[Image by manbartlett]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.