Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come
The glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
And thick clouds cover the peoples
But upon you the Lord shines
And over you appears his glory. (Isaiah 60:1-2)
The author of the Third Book of Isaiah was addressing the people of Jerusalem when they were in the midst of rebuilding the city after their return from exile in Babylon. This passage is commonly read on the Feast of the Epiphany. As such, it addresses the people of Jerusalem at the time of the arrival of Christ, the Light. We can also read this passage as being addressed to us in our own time. If we replace “Jerusalem” with our own name (Doris) or the name of our family (Brodeur family) or our church (people of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) or our nation (people of the United States), the message becomes very personal. “Upon [you and me], the Lord shines.” What a hopeful message!
The Feast of the Epiphany retells the story of the mysterious Magi from the East who bring gifts to the Christ Child. I loved this story as a child, as I think many children do. The tale has all the elements of a great story: stangers from a faraway land, travel, stars, getting lost and finding your way, a birthday party with presents, and even a feared villain! As an adult, I still love this feast for all the symbolism it represents: stars and light, recognition of Christ in ordinary situations, redirection on one’s path.
Epiphany, meaning manifestation, celebrates the moments in our lives when we recognize that God is revealing God’s self to us. The people of the East saw this manifestation at the Nativity. Some Bible scholars believe that other manisfestations (epiphanies) occurred at the Baptism of the Lord when a voice was heard saying, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” and at the wedding in Cana on the occasion of Jesus’ first public appearance and miracle as recorded in the Gospel.
After the Magi encountered the Christ, they “went home another way”, that is, they were changed people after the encounter. They recognized the Holy One in human form and their direction was changed because of it. Similar responses occur today. When we recognize the Lord in our ordinary encounters with people, we are changed in some way. We go on “in another way.”
Q. Am I driven as the Wise Men (Wise Women) to seek out God in my life?
Q. Where do I look for light?
Q. When I recognize God in ordinary life events, do I then go on “in another way?”
The song that resonates with me today is I Am the Light of the World by Greg Hayakawa, from Journeysongs, 3rd ed., v. 20, 1979. (You can find a performance of this song by googling the title and artist.)
“I am the Light of the world,” says the Lord;
“They who follow me will have the light of life.”
1. “Arise,” says the Lord,
“Have no fear within you;
for in my presence there will be no darkness.
I am the Light of the world.”
2. “Walk in the light,
there is no cause to stumble;
I have come to light the path before you.
I am the Light of the world.”
3. “Listen to my words;
they are from the One who sent me:
For you, my friends, are called to share God’s glory.
You are the Light of the world.”