|Portrait of Thomas Merton|
The word epiphany means manifestation. The expression "I had an epiphany," means I had a great and important realization or enlightenment. The Feast of the Epiphany links three manifestations of divinity in Christ: The magi following the star to Bethlehem, the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River and the first of Jesus' signs at the Wedding at Cana. The epiphany is the realization of who this is who is being shown to us.
We mustn't confuse a real epiphany with serendipitous events or coincidences that might even appear to be wondrous: "I was late and got a parking space just when I was starting to feel desperate." "It rained all week and then the sun came out for the kids' wedding day." "I asked for a sign and a white dove landed on the railing by my door."
Epiphanies are God-showings for the expansion of our hearts, the changing of our minds, the birthing of something new in us, a personal transformation that may take my breath away.
The monk-author, Thomas Merton writes of having a profound religious experience on the sidewalk, the likes of which he never had in the monastery. This is an epiphany!
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race...there is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God's eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all of the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, New York: Doubleday 1966
We need a make-no-mistake-about it global epiphany!