Epiphany is considered to be a time of revealing, of things being seen for what they really are. Christians understand by this that our poor, incomplete and highly subjective view of reality is met by God’s revealing of himself in the person of Jesus as the ground of that reality, as the creator, redeemer and sustainer of it, and as the one who gives us our identity.
Whilst as humans we still remain incomplete and highly subjective, seeing, as St. Paul puts it, ‘through a glass darkly,’ as Christians we can expect to share a little in seeing something of the reality of how things are.
I am sure we would all agree that the pandemic has been a terrible trial for the world. Our country has been profoundly impacted by it. As I write, excess deaths are reaching 100,000. Swathes of the economy are devastated. Young people feel their futures blighted. Domestic violence is increasing, mental ill health is rising and the resources to address it are decreasing. Arts, music and culture are disappearing, leaving artists with no easy means of earning a living and audiences unable to experience the enrichment of life that performance brings. Our friendships are distanced, barriered behind screens. Intimacy and touch within families who live apart have become rare privileges rather than the fabric of everyday life.
And yet in many ways the pandemic has also helped us to see the reality of things more clearly. It has let us see who and what we really value, in stark contrast to the value society at large has placed on these things. One of the ways we can ‘hold on’ during this extended crisis is to project ourselves to the other end of it; to ask ourselves what, as Christians, we would want to see when the pandemic is over and to pray that God would bless us as we seek to move towards a new reality.
We could start on a personal level by examining our own priorities, and with Lent fast approaching it could be a very timely exercise. We could look at how we spend our time and our resources. We could look at how we consume and how our choices affect others and affect the environment. We could look at how we can build our own awareness of the hidden darknesses around us. How can we ensure that the things we value and which make life worth living for us can be protected and also shared more widely? How can we include those in this vision who are so manifestly suffering at the present time?
Being prepared to ask ourselves such questions is to share in the prophetic work of the church and to extend our understanding of our mission. It is not always comfortable because we may have to let go of some of the things we hold onto for our own security. But it is the calling of all Christians to build hope, and hope requires vision.