Today is Epiphany, a day on which Christians commemorate the revelation of Jesus’ divinity as evidenced by the Three Magi who traveled to Bethlehem bearing gifts for the newborn King. Epiphany was recognized as an official celebration in the church calendar before the end of the second century, even before the Christmas holiday was established. In fact, until the fourth century, January 6 was the day set aside to celebrate Christ’s birth, and the Armenian church still celebrates Christmas on January 6 ~ so Merry Christmas to my Armenian family and friends :)
Aside from its religious connotation, the word epiphany also refers to revelations in thought, and often conjures that cartoon image of a light bulb appearing overhead. For readers, many epiphanous moments come from books. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the words of writers and thinkers inspire us to open our hearts and encourage us to think.
Last week I read Help Thanks Wow, Anne Lamott’s new book about what she terms “the three essential prayers.” Lamott’s writing always reveals something to me, at the very least a totally different slant on a familiar subject. I’m such a straight arrow thinker, reading Lamott is like standing my familiar concepts on their head and seeing that they suddenly make a lot more sense.
And that what epiphanies are all about – seeing something we knew all along, but in a different way, opening our eyes to a truth we’ve been too blind or stubborn or fearful to notice.
“Revelation is not for the faint at heart,” Lamott writes. “Some of us with tiny paranoia issues think that so much information and understanding is being withheld from us – by colleagues, by family, by life, by God – knowledge that would save us, and help us break the code and enable us to experience life with peace and amusement. But in our quieter moments we remember that (1) there are no codes, and (b) if you are paying attention, plenty is being revealed. We are too often distracted by the need to burnish our surfaces, to look good so that other people won’t know what screwed up messes we, or our mates or kid or finances, are. But if you gently help yourself back to the present moment, you see how life keeps stumbling along and how you may actually find your way through another ordinary or impossible day. Details are being revealed, and they will take you out of yourself, which is heaven, and you will have a story to tell, which is salvation that again and again saves us, the way Jesus saves some people, or sobriety does. Stories to hear or tell – either way it’s medicine. The Word.”
Our stories hold so many revelations, tiny epiphanies sent to reframe the truth as we’ve known it.
What stories are you reading this week? Any epiphanies for you in them?