Today marks the opening of the Church’s season of Epiphany, which focuses on the coming of Jesus as God’s servant to fulfill the ancient prophecy: “I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Is 49:6; echoed in Acts 13:47) The word Epiphany comes from a Greek word that literally means to shine upon, and is associated with the manifestation of God’s salvation to the gentile world. Light is an apt symbol to convey the multifaceted reality of God’s saving work. The light from our nearest star, the sun, provides the energy and warmth that makes possible all life on earth. It constancy is something we can rely on. Yet light manifests itself to us in myriads of ways. Have you ever been fascinated by the dancing flame of a candle, the ever-changing reflections of light off water, the sparkling of a diamond?
Light is not something that I generate for myself. It comes from outside, an external source. It illuminates, making manifest what was obscured by darkness. The Psalmist likens God’s Word of Scripture to a guiding light: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps. 119:105) The word here refers to God’s torah, His instruction, His law. Words provide understanding and guidance. But to do so they must be appropriated, “inwardly digested” as the Prayer Book says. Words have both an exterior and an interior aspect. The former refers to the common shared meaning, the “literal” meaning, which, like the light of the sun, is available to all. The latter refers to the meaning for me, as the words are heard in the particular circumstances of my life. No two of us experience God’s Word in exactly the same way, any more than we see exactly the same reflections of light from the surface of a lake. The words of Scripture are sacramental, pointing beyond themselves to the reality on which they bear. May your prayer be that of the psalmist: Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Ps. 119:18). Then you can say with him: I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart. (Ps. 40:8)
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