On this feast of the Epiphany we might rename it the “Feast of Beauty” or the “Feast of the Glory of God.”
Our scriptural readings speak powerfully of how God is manifested in history. Just not in the language referring to beauty and glory: “We observed a star …”; Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you;” “… over you appears his glory”; “… your shining radiance”; “God’s secret plan … was revealed to me.” Here we have the language of light, splendor, radiance, revelation, manifestation — language pointing us in the direction of God’s beauty.
Our culture is not friendly to a contemplative spirit that recognizes God’s glory in our daily lives. We tend to live a hurried, non-reflective existence; we lack a broad vision because our age is one of specialization; we stress doing and activism at the expense of a quiet receptivity. Our liturgy invites us to gaze lovingly upon the person of Jesus and to ponder God’s secret plan of salvation that comes through Christ to all the nations. Our personal prayer creates space for God’s word to be heard as it touches our lives and calls for an obedient response.
On this feast of Epiphany we are given a mission as God’s people, his church. Our mission is to radiate and reveal God’s glory and splendor to our family, friends, society and the world. We do well to ponder this fifth century prayer that expresses our mission so well: “O Divine One, to thee I raise my whole being, a vessel emptied of self. Accept O gracious God, this is my emptiness, and so fill me with thyself — thy light, thy love, thy life — that these thy precious gifts may radiate through me and overflow the chalice of my heart into the hearts of all those with whom I come in contact this day — revealing unto them the beauty of thy joy and wholeness and the serenity of thy peace, which nothing can destroy.”
It is somewhat audacious of the church to celebrate all this glory and light in winter. It is rather bold to proclaim all this splendor and radiance in a world filled with war and suffering. It is close to arrogance to claim that “all will be well” because of the coming of Jesus. Yet that is exactly what we do. Our faith in a God who is true to his promises gives us the courage to see beauty and glory in the messiness of human history.
Questions for reflection
1. What is your understanding of “glory” and “beauty?”
2. In what ways can you be an agent of God’s light and love?
3. How is God’s beauty revealed in your daily circumstances?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.