Thursday, January 6, 2011

Liturgy: Two Meditations on Epiphany

Today is the Feast of Epiphany. As Fred Clark over at Slacktivist pointed out, this seems like a strange name for a holiday. How does one schedule an epiphany? The answer is that epiphany, in this sense, does not mean precisely deep revelation in the sense it means today. Rather, it derives from a term which signified the appearance of a god to men. Thus, Christ's appearance and His revelation as the incarnate Deity was an epiphany. Of course, it was also an epiphany in the current sense, since in Christ "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"(Colossians 2:9)  and so the mystery of God was made known to the world. Here are some meditations on what this glorious day symbolizes.

The Suffering of Job

Job is a confusing book. All to often, individuals try to reduce it to a theodicy - an explanation of why there is suffering in the world, but I think it resists that move. Job's friends and the youth Elihu offer explanations of Job's suffering, but then God shows up... and He doesn't give an answer. He says, "hey Job, I'm God, I made stuff."

It's awfully confusing.

Fred Clark, who is perhaps one of my favorite bloggers, recently did a post about Epiphany. In that post, he discusses an idea that God learned something from His incarnation. As often with Clark, I disagreed with his primary premise, but he made a very interesting connection in his post I don't think I ever would have made.

Job suffered, and God appeared. Yet, despite His revelation He remains mysterious, He doesn't give an answer to Job's suffering.

Then God became man, Jesus died on the Cross, and Job's suffering was answered.

The Last Shall Be First 

One of the events celebrated on Epiphany is the the visit of the Magi. Three wise men from faraway lands came, and bowed before the baby Jesus, demonstrating His kingship, the manifestation of God to men. Wealthy men came from faraway lands and bowed before the Nazarene son of a carpenter. The poorest of the poor lifted up above all mankind.

Truly, the last shall be first.