Saturday, January 07, 2006

Continuing on the theme of Epiphany

I'd like to thank Joe and Eric for so graciously inviting me to contribute to this project. I've been a great fan of theirs for some time, and it's good to know that my efforts at self-promotion are finally bearing fruit.

My post for today was inspired in part by yesterday's feast, the poem Joe posted, and something else. I came upon this, my favourite picture of Chesterton, while searching for something earlier today, and it struck me as being a fitting illustration, perhaps, of the spirit of the Epiphany.

In the events commemorated at Epiphany, we can see much that is symbolic as well as literal. On a basic level, there is the arrival of the three magi and their subsequent adoration of the infant Christ, the baptism of the adult Christ in the river Jordan, and the wedding miracle at Cana.

In the first, we see the initial turning of the Pagan world towards the Lord, though they know it not. They come bearing gifts, and guided by mystery. It is what one might call the culmination - or almost a purgative vindication - of the moral, philosophic and aesthetic efforts of the Pagans. They are guided by the great Star of David into the House of Israel at last; towards what St. Leo the Great called Israelitica dignitas. The old world looks down upon the rising son and offers up riches in supplication.

In the second, we witness the breathtaking - we could say scandalous - entry of Jesus Christ into the contemporary public eye. He stands before John the Baptist and insists upon the baptism of repentence. There is a hesitancy to John's eventual agreement to do this thing, but he is compelled to. Then the Dove of the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, and He is proclaimed as the Son. He receives the gift of baptism, though He does not need it; just as He received the sweet spices and gold of the magi, though they were without value to one such as He. A gift from John of the Levites - the Israelites turn towards the Lord.

In the third, He attends a wedding in Cana. It is important to see this as a reflection of the social, familial nature of Christendom; indeed, Jesus attends the wedding with His Mother. In what is His first miracle, Christ turns water into wine, the party's supplies of wine having long since been exhausted by the jubilant guests. It is thought by some that the groom intentionally saved the best wine for last, so delicious did it prove. What has this wrought, then? We can see the importance of the Mother Mary to the Lord; an importance we would do well to remember. Christ brings forth wine, the drink that fires the emotions and enflames the spirit, and at a wedding no less. He has reached into the heart of fellowship, both romantic and filial, and kicked it up a notch. And, though it may seem as though the point is being belaboured, the wine that flows is better than any that had e'er come before. The New Love burned like the sun in a room of candles.

The important consideration that joins these narratives - and the reason for the use of the image above - is that the boons of these stories run both ways. The magi brought gifts; John the Levite gave a baptism; the wedding gave Christ the opportunity to step fully into the world in His most glorious aspect. All of this, indeed, without any of the benefactors being fully aware of the significance of their actions. But, for all of this, Christ grants an even greater gift to each in return. He is the respite at the end of the journey; He is the vindication of a life's work; He is, if we may be so glib, the life of the party.


"If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God." - G.K. Chesterton

1 comment:

Joe said...

Nick, you have "kicked it up a notch" here. Thanks for your post.