January – Epiphany

Epiphany is the revealing of the Son of God and Son of Man, the true God and true Man. The truth of Jesus’s identity is revealed through the events in which he grows to manhood and takes on his public identity and mission. He is the leader promised to Israel who receives from God the anointing of Israel’s king. Israel is the witness of God to all nations, and so is the model to the gentiles of the life that God intends for all humanity. 

What is man that thou art mindful of him, the Son of Man that thou carest for him?

The gospel we have inherited is good and true, and reliable and trustworthy. It has brought us a very the high account of mankind. It is ambitious for us in a way not rivalled by another other tradition. It gives us the hope of love and truth and freedom. It insists that we are people who live for one another, in communities bound by love. It insists that we learn what is true, and develop good judgment so that we can discover and recognise what is true. It insists that we should abandon fantasies and let reality be our judge. We should acknowledge that creation is good, and that nature and biology give us our role, and so are to be feared or defied.

We are human. We are men already. But also have to learn how to be men or how to be women. ‘Man’ and ‘woman’ are roles that we have to grow into, in the same way we grow into any other set of skills. We learn and practice a set of disciplines until we have learned a certain facility and freedom within them. We are not up against nature, and not bound to struggle against everything it represents for us. Nature gives us our starting point. Without accepting the starting place that nature represents, we cannot launch into becoming either a man or a woman and so cannot become truly and fully human. In the same way, the formation and enculturation we received from our families and neighbours are our starting place and our opportunity.

The gospel is good, and like whatever else is good, it attracts emulators. The fake versions look like the real thing at first. The fake gospel tells us that each Christian is an individual, able to look for and find their own self-fulfilment without effective relationship with any other Christian or source of Christian refreshment, and in defiance of our nature and place in creation. Such fake gospels suggest that each one of us is on his own, without any organic link to Christians around them, or to the Church of the past or future, or to their nation and culture. It is not so. God is with us. we live in his company, and the life that we regard as our own comes to us from that company. Each Christian is a member of this company, and so is accompanied, taught and enabled by this company to grow up into their full status. The company of God does not leave us on our own. Their presence and support enable us to become sovereign individuals, to take up our responsibility, learn to form good judgments and give our reasons for them. With their aid we become more able to exercise our conscience, and no matter what the pressures on us, to do what is right and grow up towards the full human stature promised to us.