This season of Epiphany has been luxuriously lengthy!
I’m sure you know that Epiphany can be as short as 4 weeks or as long as 9, and this year we are enjoying 8 beautiful weeks of increasing light.
Light that began with our following a star in the night sky that stopped and stayed over a house, where Jesus was. Three kings ushered us in, and we have stopped and stayed, too, basking!
God is in the house and we know it through
ordinary substances that bring us God,
like Manger hay that cradles God, and the human face that bears God’s image;
like water in the font and fire on the wicks of prayer candles,
and bread and wine on the table for a feast.
Physical Substance that makes us know Spiritual Presence.
This is an Epiphany kind of knowing:
that the spiritual resides in the physical, the Holy in the Human.
We have been practicing the spiritual truth that the Ordinary mundane life ~ is filled with God!
We’re coming to the crescendo of light!
Peter, James and John, on a mountain top with Jesus and he is transfigured before their eyes, full-on light, white as snow, fuller’s soap, even ‘bleached linen’ one gospel says. Blinding light that makes us close our eyes for its holy brilliance.
This Incarnate Christ, this human Jesus, this God in the body. . .in transfigured glory.
The story is even set as a mountain top experience ~ to signify that we have reached the height of insight. An ultimate knowing of things about truth, beauty and goodness.
And this is that truth for us:
when Jesus is transfigured, we realize that we have been transfigured, changed by the ‘new light that shines in our hearts’; a revelation of self, to show us God within, God in, around, beneath, above, behind and in front of us.
Eight weeks (plus two for Christmas) and we finally know we are God’s holy habitation, God’s house, a temple for the holy spirit. God’s happy abiding. God, In Us.
It’s just the very assurance we need before going back down the mountain with this Incarnate One, who is about to lead us into the wilderness, to get a deeper understanding of our humanity. He can do this, because his humanity is like ours. [He was born of a woman, remember?]
We need that truth, that particular light, before we descend the mountain into the depths.
We need that light, down deep and certain, to risk a look at our humanity, in particular, at our mortality.
For me it is the only context in which I can near the edge of the grave, close enough to withstand the smudge of ashes on my forehead as a taste of death.
It is only in the taste of death, that I can actually get a whiff of the resurrection.
Up close, sensory.
Smudge on skin.
Burning, ash, scent of singed fibrous palm branch, substance in dust.
And so, it’s worth going there, to the edge of my grave in the ashes of Wednesday, because ironically, it gives me hope.
Funny thing to think that maybe my heart skips a beat on Ash Wednesday because we play with it: Our death.
And we play with fire and holy spirit, who will get in my grave and gather me from the dust and ash, and raise me with holy spirit breath, from the dead;
and call me Ruth again.
Lent will focus on the wilderness and the journey of wending our way through the depths and crevices of our own humanity and indeed our mortality, to the passion of our lord, and our shared grave, and . . . our shared resurrection.
No matter how long Epiphany lasts, it always finishes with the same Sunday gospel:
~ the story of the Transfiguration ~
And this year it will happen on March 3rd, the last Sunday after the Epiphany.
Let’s savor these final weeks of Epiphany and the beautiful new light that shines in our hearts, because that light goes with us, into Lent. It is our knowing, in the midst of our not knowing.
Savoring, basking, gathering light,
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.