I find it fascinating when religious words and phrases cross over into our everyday language usage. “Turn the other cheek,” “an eye for an eye,” or “being a good Samaritan” are a few examples of commonly used phrases that have sacred origins. One other example of a religious word crossing over into popular use is a word that you may hear over the next few days. The word is epiphany.
There are several dictionary definitions of the word epiphany. The definition that relates to its everyday use in our language is, “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” Think of a cartoon drawing of a person with a light bulb going on over his or head and you get the picture. An epiphany can also be referred to as an “aha moment,” that moment when intellect and intuition collide.
The religious origin of epiphany is the celebration of Epiphany which will be celebrated this Sunday, January 6th. Epiphany occurs twelve days after Christmas and is the celebration of the arrival of the Magi, the Wise Men, to Bethlehem. They had come from the East, following a star in the sky. What started out as a visit to see a newborn baby, “a simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience” turned into an epiphany for the Magi. They were changed by their visit because they experienced a “sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something.” An “aha moment” if there ever was one!
Religious words and phrases that cross over into everyday use do so because they relate to and illuminate experiences we share in common. So it is with the word epiphany. Our days are filled with simple, common, and homely experiences that form the structure of our lives. Most of the time we merely go through our days without giving much thought to these simple experiences. But then, some days, there are moments when everything seems different. The spontaneity of a child catches our attention and reminds us of the importance of living in the moment. A conversation with a dear friend or family member reminds us the importance of spending unhurried time with loved ones. Students, teachers, and parents returning to school in Newtown inspire us and give us the courage to face whatever challenges we may be experiencing in our own lives. A good run or walk reminds us how grateful we are for the gift of health and the gift of life. A beautiful sunset, or the beauty of freshly falling snow reminds us of the infinite majesty of the Creator.
An epiphany is possible whenever the Sacred intersects with the simple, commonplace experiences of life. Because I believe that the Sacred is always intersecting with everyday moments, I believe epiphanies are always possible when we are open to receiving them. We don’t have to wait until this Sunday to observe Epiphany. We can, in fact, choose to observe and receive the many epiphanies that are waiting for our recognition today, and everyday.