Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Remember we are intricately woven in the depths of the earth’
In the Season of Epiphany there is a focus, in part, on the birth of Christ, for while we have just celebrated his birth at Christmas, Epiphany, which follows reminds us or emphasizes that the Christ child is the manifestation of the divine. In this context epiphany means manifestation or revelation. Linked to this understanding and celebration of Christ as revelation is what’s sometimes called the spiritual ah ha moment, where, through pain or joy, it is as though a curtain has been pulled back and we realise our own divine nature. It might be that we are struck by awe at a wild storm, a magnificent sun rise, a beautiful piece of music, and we know as that tear rolls down our cheek there is more to our lives than the material. These are moments of epiphany, and what is surprising about them, is that in the pain, joy, or awe we feel something familiar? It is as though our realization, our epiphany, big or small, was already resting somewhere inside of us, just waiting for the right conditions. Could it be that it was planted like a seed by God in our creation, and therefore possibly the only proof we need of our divine nature?
In his psalm number 139 David proposes something similar when he says:
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works: that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you -
This is such a powerful prayer and an incredibly important reminder in these strange and disorienting times. For we have all been intricately woven in the depths of the earth, and in this way every part of us touched and known by God!
Moving forward to the New Testament in John’s story of the trip that Jesus and the Apostles made to Galilee, he describes Nathanael saying something similar, when Nathanael asks Jesus: “Where did you come to know me?” Philip and Nathanael had been walking together and talking about going to Galilee when they met Jesus, who said of Nathanael “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” This is then when Nathanael asked Jesus how he already knew him, as they have never met before. “I saw you under the fig tree” Jesus responded and then proceeded to speak in a prophetic way saying that Nathanael would see “heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of God”. What follows after their trip to Cana at Galilee are the miracles at the wedding in Cana.
However one understands miracles I think our sense of something more than the material, and its manifestation in our lives, is so needed in these current times. It may not be that we experience water transmuted into wine, but those moments of epiphany where we realise our divine nature are so incredibly important now. The German mystic poet Rainer Maria Rilke also speaks of realizing our divine nature, echoing David’s praise of the way God weaves his divine nature into us, Rilke writes:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
Then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
Go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
I believe we need to go to the limits of our longing because as Rilke says it is the way to embody the divine. Also as he so beautifully advices – flare up like flame to create big shadows that the divine can move in. In these unsettling times I pray that we can all just keep going, knowing that no feeling is final and remembering, if we’re challenged in the country called life, to give God our hand. Amen.
The image below is called “Epiphany” by the artist Claire Mack: https://www.clairemack.com/gallery/image/epiphany
Dr Patricia Morgan