Friday, January 05, 2007

Epiphany – journeying by faith to a known goal

In contemporary “spirituality” a lot is made by some of “journeying” and keeping a journal of daily feelings and religious experiences. However, much of this emphasis on one’s journey is not specific on such basics as from where the journey began and to where the journey is headed! Regrettably, it can be more about the experience of being en route to wherever one may be going than what is there at the end of the road as the goal of the effort.

In contrast, when the wise men, the sages of the East, set off on their journey Westwards they knew where they were going and for whom they were looking, even though the specifics were not clear until they got near to their destination (Matthew 2). No doubt they had both uplifting and depressing experiences on their long journey; yet they kept going in the one direction because the goal of the journey was what made the journey necessary. They intended to see and worship the One born to be King of the Jews and they were not satisfied until they could present him with their precious gifts and worship him.

On the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) Anglicans pray:

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy-only begotten Son to the Gentiles:….

We read the biblical account of “the wise men from the East,” we meditate upon it and we marvel how non-Jews could be so inspired and so dedicated in their determination to see and adore the Messiah of the Jews, whom they came to see is also the Saviour of the world. We note the sacrifice and time they were prepared to offer in order to gain knowledge of God’s salvation and we compare it with what we are prepared to make and give—and we feel ashamed, but also inspired.

Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The sages knew Jesus by sight and by faith; but we know him only by faith. Certainly we can know about him by education, instruction, reading and study; certainly we can be very well informed about his titles, commandments, teachings, ministry and saving work; but in and above, and through, this knowledge about him we must know him by faith—that is to be practically and experimentally (experientally) in touch and fellowship with him. To know God requires knowledge about him from his self-revelation but the real knowing is by faith, a saving faith that works by love.

In this mortal life and in this evil age, the baptized people of God are on a journey, and it is a journey which has a goal, a real goal, and it is a journey in which faith in the Incarnate Son of God is the primary means of staying on the road, which is a narrow way towards the end of that road. The end of the road is to gaze upon the glory of the Father as it shines in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ and to serve the Holy Trinity unto ages of ages. For inside the gates of heaven faith will be fulfilled in sight of Jesus and hope will be fulfilled in the beatific vision. As the star led the pilgrims from the East towards the Saviour, so the revealed word of God as taught in the Church of God, our “Mother”, teaches the people of God to walk by faith in the light of Christ Jesus towards the land of promise. There they will taste the glorious fruit of perfect communion with the Godhead, that is with the Person of the Father through the Person of the Incarnate Son by the presence of the Person of the Holy Ghost. And they will be immersed in LOVE.

In its original medieval form in Latin this Collect prayed that we “may be led onwards, until we come to gaze upon thy Majesty by sight.” The journey is important for by it we are prepared in heart and mind (through testing and chastisement) for the contemplating, adoring and gazing upon the Majesty of God as this is reflected through, by and in the Incarnate Son. However, let us be clear, the journey is not important in and of itself but only as it is the means, the pilgrimage, ordained by God to bring us through this evil world into the world of pure delight, the heavenly Jerusalem.

The sages of the East saw the Majesty of God clothed in humility and in relative poverty and then they returned home to live by faith until they were given the sight of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ at death. But the baptized people of God head for the Goal and when they reach it they remain there for ever, going from “glory unto glory” in the glorious light of the heavenly Lamb of God, and surrounded by the redeemed people of God and the hierarchy of heavenly choirs.

The “fruition of thy glorious Godhead” is the GOAL for herein is and will contained everything to satisfy creatures from everlasting to everlasting.


January 5, 2007

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