I bet we all know the exclamation of “eureka” attributed to Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer, Archimedes. As the story goes, Archimedes was taking a bath. He noticed that the level of the water rose as he got into the tub, and realized in that great epiphany moment that the volume of water displaced by his body could, with a little mathematical maneuvering, be used to determine his body’s density. According to rest of the story, he was so excited he jumped out of the bath, and ran naked through the streets shouting “eureka,” which translated into English means, “I’ve found it!” History doesn’t seem to have any comment on his lack of clothing!
Let’s take a moment to get oriented to this spiritual season of light and life, transformation and growth. Christ’s presence in our lives and in our world is front and center. For Christians, the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas is the feast of the Epiphany celebrated on Jan. 6. This is the time when Scriptures tell us about wise men or magi from the East following a star to Jesus. This important feast celebrates the revelation of Jesus, the Word made flesh as the Son of God. It’s also celebrated as the first revelation of Jesus, our Savior and Lord, to the gentiles. The weeks following Jan. 6 are called the season after Epiphany and conclude on what we often call Transfiguration Sunday, before we begin the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday. In spiritual terms, Christ has just been born anew in our hearts and lives, and the Word made flesh is living among us. On the first Sunday after the Epiphany, which was Jan. 12 this year, we remembered the baptism of our Lord. After Jesus was baptized, the Scriptures describe the period of testing, trial, or temptation when Jesus is driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit. We might think of that period as Jesus’ own time of reflection and growth, preparing Him for His ministry to the world.
In the same way, at our own baptism we are welcomed into the Body of Christ, and begin a lifetime of spiritual growth and transformation. The season after Epiphany is such a time for us. Most of us will have at least some epiphany moments in our lives. These are times when we experience new or profound insights in our spiritual lives, or our working lives. It’s as if all is suddenly clear, and our intuitive abilities are at a peak, rather like a train moving smoothly along the tracks when all the lights are at green. Yet for most of our lives, our spiritual growth is much less about peaks, or even valleys, and more about gentle slopes and gradual changes, rather than huge leaps. We’ve found Christ, and been found by Him. After the initial rush of excitement, we might imagine Archimedes finding himself a few streets away from home, surrounded by a crowd of curious onlookers, quietly muttering to himself “now what?” Our own questions for the season after Epiphany might be similar. Christ is here with us, now what?
Unlike Jesus, who spent an extended period of intense spiritual trial, most of us can take this gift of time to settle into a new routine of prayer or Bible study. We can use this season of light and growth to invite Christ to reveal His will for our lives more fully to us. We can stretch ourselves by trying a new spiritual discipline, or use our spiritual gifts more fully in some new form of service to God and our neighbors, or a different ministry. If we spend time listening, the Holy Spirit will guide us to greater depths of faith and love. If we make ourselves more available to Him, the Lord will use us in new ways this year, for our own spiritual growth, as well as the growth of the church, and the spread of God’s kingdom.
Advent shows us the surprising and unexpected ways of God. Christmas reminds us that God comes to be with us in the midst of all life’s circumstances. The point of the season after Epiphany is that we can all jump into the living water without fear, knowing that our mission and ministry as Christ’s body makes a tangible difference for good in this world. Take time to experience the depth and clarity of God’s light and life revealed in Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Eureka!
• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is priest-in-charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (480) 345-2686.