Meditation on Epiphany

Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost

Or Meditation on Light(s), Baptism(s) and Conversions in our inner life

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Epiphany is not only the feast of the waters. Ancient Greek tradition calls it ‘the feast of lights’. This feast brings us, not only the grace of purification, but also the grace of illumination (in fact baptism itself was formerly called ‘illumination’). The light of Christ at Christmas was but a star in the dark night; at Epiphany it appears to us as the rising sun; it will grow and, after the eclipse of Holy Friday, burst forth yet more splendid, on the morning of Easter; and finally, at Pentecost, it will reach its full zenith. It is not only the divine light, manifested objectively in the person of Jesus Christ and in the pentecostal flame that we are concerned with; it is also the inner light, for, without absolute faithfulness to this, spiritual life wold be nothing but illusion and falsehood.

God, who had sent the Precursor to baptise with water, had said to him: “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost”. The baptism by water is but one aspect of total baptism. Jesus himself says to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. The baptism of the Spirit is superior to the baptism by water. It constitutes an objective gift and a different inner experience. …

 

One could say that Epiphany — the first public manifestation of Jesus to men — corresponds in our inner life to the ‘first conversion‘ (or ‘purification’). This must be understood as the first conscious meeting of the human soul with its Saviour, the moment when we accept Jesus as Master and as friend, and at which we take the decision to follow him. Easter (both the death and the resurrection of the Lord) corresponds to a ‘second conversion‘ (or ‘illumination‘) in which, confronted with the mystery of the cross, we discover what kind of death and what kind of new life this implies, and we consecrate ourselves more more deeply to Jesus Christ, through a radical change in ourselves. Pentecost is the time of the ‘third conversion‘ (or ‘union‘), which is the baptism and fire of the Spirit, the entry into a life of transforming union with God. It is not given to every Christian to follow this itinerary. Nonetheless, these are the stages which the liturgical year sets out for our endeavour.

 

By a Monk of the Eastern Church

The Year of Grace of the Lord

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