Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Epiphany - Divine Revelation

The Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord (January 6) focuses us on “divine revelation” - God revealing himself to us in Jesus Christ. Throughout scripture there is testimony to divine revelation: angels to Abraham, a burning bush to Moses, in the temple to Isaiah, an angel to Mary, angels to shepherds, a star to wise men, angels to women at tomb, Christ himself to the disciples on the Emmanus road, a voice to St. Paul, and God continued to reveal himself to us throughout history and in our era in myriad and wonderous ways.

Despite this history, the Feast of the Epiphany is not universally celebrated in our day because divine revelation does not seem to be expected or accepted as a reality of faith. Anyone claiming to experience divine revelation is often met with doubt and ridicule, for such a claim creates uncertainly in those who are reluctant to understand such “supernatural” happenings.

According to the narrative of the Epiphany, the wise men were scientists who watched the stars. The science of astrology was understood to provide insight to workings of gods, and human beings could chart lives by movement or position of stars. This science is given credibility even today.

These wise men observed a star that was different from all others. They knew of the prophesies of the Messiah, the Annointed One. As the story goes they saw the star as a divine revelation and followed its movement to find Son of God.

Who believes in divine revelation today? – Many if not most believe that it is not possible. Many if not most believe they have never experienced divine revelation, and that it is nothing more than a part of the “sweet mythology” of Christmas, something that could not be a pragmatic reality for them.

The problem for many seems to be the way God revealed himself to the world, not with great ceremony and panoply, but as a tiny, helpless infant., born in squalor and threat to his life. In that day God was expected to come with the sounds of trumpets and surrounded by the hosts of heaven. But God revealed himself in quiet and simplicity and the revelation was not discerned because very few paid any attention. It is the same today.

If the Church does not proclaim God’s divine revelation of himself to us in myriad and wonderous ways, then what is the sense for us to be church,  other than an exercise in futility with the delusion that salvation not possible?

Who today believes in and acknowledges experience of divine revelation?  I confess without reservation that I believe. I have experienced and continue to experience revelation of God in my life and see God revealed in the lives of others through quiet yet powerful experiences. Each week God is revealed to me anew in the Holy Eucharist in the taking of of body and blood of Christ who is present in, through. and under the bread and wine

I believe in divine revelation! This belief has come over many years of spiritual pilgrimage which has led me to an ordered life of prayer in a community that lives by a common rule of discipline. I have discerned that  this is how God reveals himself to me and others. I have also heard the witness of those whose experience of divine revelation is their witness to God speaking to all his children in myriad and wonderous ways

Divine revelation is the reality of faith. God revealed himself in Christ. God comes to us in Christ through Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament. God will come to us in Christ at the end of the age when all things are made new.

One revelation in my life came during my years as a singer of opera. I had the opportunity to sing many performances of Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera composed exclusively for television by Gian Carlo Menotti.

It tells the story of the Three Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem to see the new born Christ, and how they stopped to rest at the home of the poor woman and her son, Amahl, born with a withered leg. The mother attempts to steal the gift of gold for the Christ Child to use for Amahl, and is caught by the servant of the visitors. Melchior, the role I performed often, sings the following lines which more than fifty years ago was God revealing himself in a wondrous way and eventually led me to discern the reality of God’s call to ministry:

O Woman, you may keep our gold;
The child we seek doesn’t need our gold.
On love, on love alone he will build his kingdom.
His pierced hand will hold no scepter;
His haloed head will wear not crown.
His might will not be built on your toil,
Swifter than lightning he will soon walk among us;
He will bring us new life, and receive our death.
And the keys to his city belong to the poor.

Hodie Christus Natus Est

Richard Hammond Price, OCC
© January 2011

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