Monday, January 07, 2013

Epiphany 2013

Epiphany is the last milestone in the progression of the faith of Abram to the conjunction of faith and reason that now marks the final age of the world. Abram was told: “Look at the heavens and, if you can, count the stars… So shall your posterity be. Abram believed the Lord, who credited the act to him as justice.”

Benedict XVI at Regensburg speaks of the next step in the progression of faith, from Moses until the Exile in the 6th century. There, exiled in Babylon, the God of Israel who had been deprived of his land and worship (the Temple), was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth whose name was revealed to Moses as YHWH: “I Am Who Am.” In that exile of Babylon, this God of the Jews who had been understood only as the God of the Promised Land, now was understood (under the impetus of Isaiah and Jeremiah) to be the God of Babylon as well,  and, therefore, the God of all lands.  He is now clearly understood to be the Creator.

In this 6th c. encounter between Judaic faith and the best of Greek thought (the “Axial Age” according to Jaspers), there emerged a mutual enrichment: The Hebrew Old Testament, composed in Babylon, was translated into Greek - The Septuagint - while Greek philosophy became metaphysics. Faith becomes universalized as reasonable while reason impacted by the absolute of YHWH becomes  a metaphysics of the absolute. The Septuagint becomes an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation.

We come now to the Magi, secular men – agnostics – who are open to and searching for the Transcendent, who experience the Messiah and will testify to the “Manifestation” (Epiphany) of the God-man to the Secular world. This is the definitive encounter of the faith of Abraham that had been limited to Judaism, rendered intellectually universal by the encounter and translation into Greek for the  secular, non-religious world, and now plunged into the universality of the secular that is open to the epiphany of the God-man to the ends of the earth.

This encounter between faith and secular scientific reason became the basis of European civilization and the entire West. Now, in the Epiphany, we celebrate the historical and liturgical moment when scientific secular men from the East come to worship the God-man of the Jews and usher us into the last age of the world. This last stage that began with the birth of Jesus Christ, will consist of discovering like the Magi (in the words of Escriva) “something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations.” What the Magi discover in Bethlehem, each one is to discover in himself. The “something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations” is the asceticism of becoming “ipse Christus” in the exercise of ordinary work and family life. The covenant made with Abraham is now entering its final phase with this universal call to holiness through work.

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