Every story we tell represents a light. That light, your story, represents you. But what about all the light we cannot see? What about other people’s story and stories? What about their lives?
Epiphany teaches us that our narratives are wrapped up in God’s ultimate narrative. And even though we cannot see all the light in the world, or know all the stories out there, by following the light of God – the light of the epiphany star – we are being led to Him: The light of the world – who does know the stranger, the neighbor, the other. He knows us all by name; and along that journey to wherever the star leads us, we meet others who bear the light – who know the story – because, really and truly, it’s everybody’s story: both believer and seeker alike.
For centuries the Church has taught that the magi represented the Gospel of Jesus Christ being spread to the Gentiles. They brought him gifts fit for a king, for the Divine, and for his ultimate sacrifice. Nowadays, we might say that the magi represent spiritual seekers who have heard of this person named Jesus, but are unsure as to who he is, or what his church truly represents? But instead of shooing seekers away, the Church must embrace all, and the gifts brought forth – the gifts of mystery, questioning, and humility. The Church must respond with love, compassion, and grace. After all, life together is recognizing the light in one’s self and the other, which then stems from the source of all life and light.
The magi were true seekers: They didn’t know where they were going, but they knew they had to get there. They at least had a guide (represented by the Epiphany star). They had some sort of discernment within themselves to say, ‘Yes,’ to every step along the Way. Like a moth to a flame, like a carnal desire, we often don’t know where we’re going, but we know we have to get to that source, to that light, to that life.
The beauty of the Church, I believe, is that it can help seekers (and believers both) discern where they are on the spiritual path, and not necessarily how to get to where they’re going, but how to get some help stumbling along the Way. The church can be a friend helping you up again and again and again when you trip up and fall down. And the church does this with simple things like a calendar (we mark off days in the middle of the week, where we get together and do strange things with everyday materials like: water, oil, wine, bread, laying on of hands, confession, spiritual direction, centering prayer, silence). That’s some seeker stuff right there, but it’s also some believer stuff too. A believer is a bit more specific or tangible with their faith. A seeker doesn’t want to get mixed up in all the details, but is still intrigued by them. Intrigued by that star, by the mystery of what believers say that water, wine, and bread actually are, or do. That’s some believer/seeker stuff mixing and mingling, showing their light to one another, and wondering if the story is true? They wonder together because they know what it’s like to have something born anew in them. They know what it’s like to have an epiphany. They know what it’s like to start over, and to turn over a new leaf.
Seeker and believer. Jew and Gentile. Human and Divine. Every light has to have a source, just like every person has a story. The Season of Epiphany reminds us that the source of our light – the source of our life – points to the Divine.