The Other Two Epiphanies
2nd Sunday after Epiphay
We’re all very familiar with the story of the Epiphany, I’m sure. If I asked any of you to tell me what Epiphany was all about, there’s no doubt I’d hear everything there is to hear about the Three Kings following a star, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And all of this would be perfectly true. When God lead the three Wise Men to the newborn Child of Bethlehem, he did so by means of a miraculous star in the heavens, and this was the Saviour’s first Appearance, or Manifestation, to those who were not of God’s Chosen People. These were Gentiles, non-Jews, whom the Jews looked down upon as inferiors, pagans, the non-chosen ones.
It was the first outward manifestation of the Son of God to the world, but it was not the last. On the feast of the Epiphany, we also celebrate two other events in the life of our Lord, in which he once again showed himself to the world as the Son of God. At Vespers last Monday, the Octave Day of the Epiphany, the antiphon at the Magnificat describes all three manifestations as follows: “Now do we celebrate a festival in honour of three days when Christ was made manifest: the day whereon a star led the Wise Men to the manger; the day whereon water was turned to wine at the wedding feast; the day whereon Christ was pleased to be baptized of John in Jordan that he might save us, alleluia.”
We celebrate the Epiphany of the Three Kings on January 6 and the week that follows. However, on the Octave Day of Epiphany, our attention is drawn by the Gospel describing our Lord’s baptism in the River Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a dove, and abode upon him. And now, today’s Gospel, that of the Second Sunday after Epiphany, takes us to the scene of the Third Epiphany, when our Lord performs his first miracle, changing water into wine.
Three events, three Epiphanies. What they all have in common is that they illuminate the understanding of men, bringing light to those who dwelled in darkness, making it manifest that the thousands of years of obscurity, doubt and confusion since Adam is now over, that a Messiah has been born and now dwells amongst them, recognized by God above and made manifest to man by his miracles.
When the Three Kings made their perilous journey across field and fountain, moor and mountain, it was no ordinary star they followed. It was a star that not only gave off light to the world, but gradually moved into place over the stable in which was born the true Light of the World. Here the light of the star remained still, shining forth over the Child of Bethlehem from whom it derived its light.
When Christ was baptized, the heavens opened and a voice spake forth, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” At the start of our Lord’s earthly ministry it was no longer enough that a chunk of space rock should bear witness to his coming. This time, it was God the Father himself who spoke from heaven to declare it. And with the visible descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, who abode upon him, all the Persons of the Blessed Trinity came together to leave no doubt that this was truly the Son of God.
People saw these events and they wondered. This was a man to be watched, at whose birth stars moved and stopped, Kings came and adored, and then voices were heard from heaven. And they watched and they waited, looking for some sign that this man was going to be as special as the omens and portents foreshadowed. And so we come to the wedding feast of Cana. Nothing special at first. Christ was just another guest, showing up with his mother. But then something rather embarrassing occurred. They ran out of wine. Running out of wine was something you just didn’t let happen at a wedding feast, and there must have been some very red faces. But then something even more unthinkable happened, and news swiftly spread abroad. The carpenter’s son had changed regular water into wine, really good wine. It was a miracle. This man had abrogated the laws of nature, something only the very Creator of nature could do. He had turned one substance into another.
These three manifestations, or Epiphanies, each showed the world that Christ was the Son of God, the Messiah who had finally come to save the world from its sins. Anyone with a rational mind and of good will would surely follow this man and take advantage of the Redemption he offered. And yet, as we have seen as recently as these past few years , and on a daily basis, there is no end to the determination of people in the political sphere who are either not of rational mind, or more likely, not men of good will, and who seek to destroy the efforts of those who so far have brought us nothing but improvements, prosperity, and peace. When we turn on our TV sets and behold the daily chorus of condemnation against one man in particular, it should, if nothing else, remind us of the treatment our blessed Lord himself received at the hands of his chosen people. And while God may have wanted to ‘put Israel first’—they were, after all, his chosen people—he knew from all eternity that his Son would come unto his own, but his own would receive him not.” Despite speaking himself from the heavens, his people would reject their Messiah. God knew this and prepared for it, by leading those non-Jewish Wise Men from their pagan lands to Bethlehem, there to bow down and worship, for the first time in their lives, the One True God.
Our response to this should be a simple one. We must listen to the voice of God, we must accept in our hearts that his Son is indeed our Redeemer and our Saviour. Most importantly of all, we must obey his commandments. For if we do not, why on earth should we dare to expect his blessings upon our enterprises, our good health, our marriages, our families, our homes, or anything else? Why should we even expect that we might save our souls if we ignore the graces he sends us? The three Epiphanies of this Christmas season give us every reason to believe and, having believed, to live a good Christian life.