Epiphany II

Jan 7, 2012

Early this morning a group of five couples joined their pilot for a hot air balloon trip of a lifetime. Some on board had received their trip as a Christmas present. All would have been excited as they climbed into the basket before dawn and lifted off.

The Wairarapa weather this morning was perfect for such a journey. The balloons often take to the skies before dawn. This is the best time of the day both for conditions, and for the treat of seeing the sun rise

Within a couple of hours their balloon had struck trouble and shortly after all 11 were dead. This is a great tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who died.

How quickly things can change. A journey to see the dawning of the light, within seconds, becomes the darkness of tragedy. The highlight of the dream adventure, becomes the nightmare of pain and suffering. Suddenly life and lives are changed forever.

We know this pattern in our own experience. I might feel great one morning, then the phone rings and I receive news that changes my week and sometimes my life. The converse is true too: in the midst of anxiety, a call from a friend can lift my gloom and fill me with joy.

Today is the feast of the Epiphany. I am reminded of the words of old Simeon in the temple:
“for my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared for all nations
the light to enlighten the gentiles
and to give glory to Israel your people”.

You might also recall the reading from Isaiah 9:2:  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned”.

This move from darkness to light is the heart of the feast of the Epiphany. The Magi followed the light of the star to visit visit the infant Christ. They then took the news of the birth of the Messiah beyond the gentile world  to all people of good will. The world that was in darkness, have now seen the light.

Following this morning’s Wairarapa tragedy, family and friends, and all people of our country are living in a shadow of death. In our small nation, such loss and darkness affects all of us.

But the intense attraction to the light is a natural and enduring drive for humans as for many creatures.  It is in life’s darkest moments that we are most aware of our need for light. As Leonard Cohen sings: “there is a crack, a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

A journey to see the sunrise is a wonderful experience. But the sun, the most powerful light to touch earth, is but a shaft of the light for which we were created.

We know that we are invited to share this divine light eternally after our earthly life, but how does this help us in the midst of today’s tragedy, and the other burdens of life?

Well, the key is reality. Faith leads me to reality: both the reality of God, and the reality of my own life. We begin every Mass with the invitation: “brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries”. In other words: ‘let us us wake up to our personal (and communal) reality, that we might know our capacity for the reality of God to enter us in this Mass’.

Let’s be honest about this reality: while I am attracted to the light of truth, there are many times when this reality (that highlights every speck of dust and streak of stain) is too much for me. Like Adam and Eve in the garden I head for the seclusion of the shade. And at times I even prefer  darkness.

But our attraction to the light remains. Humans can survive darkness. We can exist in the gloom. But only the light provides an environment of growth and life.  We much prefer the freedom of openness and honesty to the fear of secrets and deception.

And once again, this is the heart of the Epiphany. Even the word “epiphany” in secular parlance means ‘an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure’.

T.S. Eliot has the Magi returning “to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation”. This is the effect on the one who has encountered the person of Jesus. We are never again fully at home on earth, even in the fullness of all that our world  has to offer. We are drawn to a greater light. And this is a sign that we are healthy, and even happy. We can never be happier in this world that when we are following THE light.

In the midst of the darkness of this morning’s ballooning tragedy, and the sufferings of all the people of our city our land and our world, we delight in the one who transforms our days of darkness into an eternal life of light.


  • Below: Leonard Cohen: “there is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in”

The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again 

I heard them say 

Don’t dwell on wha

has passed away 

or what is yet to be. 

Ah the wars they will 

be fought again 

The holy dove 

She will be caught again 

bought and sold 

and bought again 

the dove is never free. 

Ring the bells that still can ring 

Forget your perfect offering 

There is a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in. 

We asked for signs 

the signs were sent: 

the birth betrayed 

the marriage spent 

Yeah the widowhood 

of every government — 

signs for all to see. 

I can’t run no more 

with that lawless crowd 

while the killers in high places 

say their prayers out loud. 

But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up 

a thundercloud 

and they’re going to hear from me. 

Ring the bells that still can ring … 

You can add up the parts 

but you won’t have the sum 

You can strike up the march, 

there is no drum 

Every heart, every heart 

to love will come 

but like a refugee. 

Ring the bells that still can ring 

Forget your perfect offering 

There is a crack, a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in. 

Ring the bells that still can ring 

Forget your perfect offering 

There is a crack, a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in. 

That’s how the light gets in. 

That’s how the light gets in.


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