In the Catholic church, the time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday which begins Lent is named “Ordinary Time.” In Protestant churches that follow a church calendar, Sundays in this period are named the First Sunday after Epiphany, the Second Sunday after Epiphany……until Ash Wednesday. No matter what a church calls the season, there are two foci in it. The first is Christ’s manifestation to the world through his life and ministry. The second focus is contemplation.
Perhaps nowhere in the Bible is Jesus identified as a Savior for both Jew and Gentile than by the vignette in the second chapter of Luke. There, Joseph and Mary met Simeon. When Simeon saw Jesus, he took Jesus into his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:28-32, NIV). Simeon’s comments likely came at least a year before the Magi arrived to give gifts to the Christ-child; yet, he knew the purpose of the young infant.
On the first Sunday after Epiphany Day, liturgical churches celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John in the river Jordan. At Jesus’ baptism, God spoke from heaven saying that Jesus was his son (Matthew 3:17). Some churches include a feast day to remember Jesus first miracle at the wedding of Cana in Galilee.
In almost all liturgical churches, the last Sunday of the Epiphany season is a celebration of the transfiguration of Jesus. At this transfiguration, Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus’ changed appearance from the human they know into God. For many years I wondered why Jesus took apostles with him to the transfiguration mountain. Now, I believe it happened so Apostles could give first-hand testimony that Jesus was the son of God.
Writing in The Liturgical Year, Sister Joan Chittister11 emphasized the importance of taking a deep breath in Epiphany season. According to Sister Joan, the “Ordinary time” of Epiphanytide, allows Christians to take a “time out” after the busy twelve days of Christmas and contemplate faith based on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Sister Joan averred that “contemplation is the center of the Christian life.”11 Contemplation is the place where our mind gets to know the mind of Christ. In contemplation we integrate our worldly concerns with the promise of an eternal, heavenly life. This integration permits us to make sense of occurrences on earth, or at a minimum to accept them as part of God’s plan, even when we don’t understand what and why they are occurring.