God made Manifest
Fr. Tony’s Midweek Message
January 6, 2021
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, a theological idea expressed in Matthew’s story of the coming of the Magi. The readings of the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday take up the great themes of Epiphany: the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ, the showing forth of Christ to the world, the shining of True Light in darkness that cannot overwhelm it. This theme of light begins in the Christmas Day reading of St. John’s Logos hymn, where the light shines in the darkness, continues with the Magi’s star on January 6, and brings the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle to a close on February 2 or Candlemas, which commemorates of the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth by a Service of Light and the blessing of Church candles on the 40th day after Christmas. The theme reappears again just before Lent with the brilliant light of Jesus’ transfigured face on Mt. Tabor.
Many Episcopal Churches begin and end the Epiphany season each year with the hymn “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”:
Songs of thankfulness and praise, Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise, manifested by the star to the sages from afar; branch of royal David's stem in thy birth at Bethlehem; anthems be to thee addressed, God in man made manifest. Manifest at Jordan's stream, Prophet, Priest and King supreme; and at Cana, wedding guest, in thy Godhead manifest; manifest in power divine, changing water into wine; anthems be to thee addressed, God in man made manifest. Manifest in making whole palsied limbs and fainting soul; manifest in valiant fight, quelling all the devil's might; manifest in gracious will, ever bringing good from ill; anthems be to thee addressed, God in man made manifest. Manifest on mountain height, shining in resplendent light, Where disciples filled with awe Thy transfigured glory saw, When from thence thou leddest them Steadfast to Jerusalem Cross and Easter Day attest, God in man made manifest.
This hymn recounts in order the Gospel lessons for the season, starting with the star and Magi of Epiphany itself, the baptism of Christ, the wedding at Cana, Jesus’ wonderful acts, and finally the glorious light in Jesus’ face on the Mount of Transfiguration on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The hymn sees all these as evidence of God made manifest in a human being.
It is right during this season to reflect on the places, people, and events in our life where God was manifest. Trinity Church’s Celtic service emphasizes these thin places, where the veil between this world and the next is almost transparent. Many of the reflections given by Trinitarians during the service have focused on single events or places that touched the hearts of the speakers.
I invite all to a practice during the Epiphany season—each day take a few minutes to sit quietly and reflect on such graces and blessings. Make a list if that helps. Imagine the scenes graphically and make them come alive in your memory.
Let us pray.
Lord God, you were manifested to us in the life of Jesus, one of us in all ways but sin. Help us show forth your love and beauty in the common, ordinary things of our day-to-day lives. Through Christ we pray, Amen.
Peace and Grace,