Faith seeking understanding: that, I learned early on, is the Catholic definition of theology. I realize it is also pretty much how I approach my life. I have a nearly bothersome need to make sense of my life and to understand where I am and where I am going. The longer I do this, the more I realize that Wisdom, that Love, is a real person Who desires to make Himself known. Wisdom is not the result of my cleverly balancing all the spinning plates in the air and having none crash down. Wisdom is seeing that life is about being called by God, and the adventure of the response I give.
The voice through which God calls is the liturgy. The liturgy is Scripture, it is sacrament, it is the Holy Spirit active in real time, and it is one continuous action handed down from Jesus to the present day through the Church. It is the Mass; it is the Liturgy of the Hours. It is miraculous.
The way I respond to the liturgy is varied. It has varied wildly throughout my life, and yet there has always been something absolutely magnetic that has drawn me. Even as a child going to a Lutheran church, I always felt a tremendous sense of anticipation every time we pulled in the driveway. I had extremely high expectations, even though I didn't understand this at all. I think it was a craving for the glory of God. When I was very new in my journey into the Catholic Church, like less than one month, the Lord told me clearly, "I want the glorious to become common-place in your life." And I dare say this is true now. We are surrounded by God's presence always, and God constantly calls everyone. But the key is in a consistent response. The glory is there; we but need new eyes to see it.
What I'm driving at is this: I understand something today. And I'm kind of shaking my head as I write this, because I know that "understand" really means "don't understand."
My conversion to Catholicism took place during the Midnight Mass of Christmas in 1991. It took me a few days to catch my breath and come into agreement, all of me, on that, but that was the moment where God made Himself known to me. At first I thought it was nice, and then I thought it was kind of interesting, but finally I realized it was absolutely sign-value, intentional-on-God's-part meaning-filled that it happened that day. I have literally spent decades meditating on the truth of the Incarnation and its meaning for my life.
But today is the Epiphany. Four years ago today, something else happened at a Mass. It too has profoundly changed me. Stepping into my parish choir seemed innocuous enough, but from the very beginning I knew it wasn't. I knew that God was up to something. I knew He was calling. But it has only been with time that I have come to "understand" that one doesn't say "God calls me" without awe, fear, and trembling.
I look at what this feast day is. Epiphany essentially fulfills Christmas in its universal, missionary dimension. Jesus is here: heaven and earth start to shake and move in response. "All kings see His glory."
There is something in this for my life, too. The last four years have shifted the orientation of my life from pretty much minding my own business and living in my own private family hobbit-hole, to stretching my heart out and constantly pleading for the conversion of the world.
I understand very little, but I know that this is the work of God in me. I know that He has an intention with this Epiphany calling. I see His hand, and I trust His purposes. And at the same time there are so many, many things I don't understand that require me to walk by faith through the dark.
Yeah, that's it. Epiphany this year is like a light, shining out through what has become very dark. The light is Christ. I go towards Him. It matters not where I exit, what I leave behind, or where I go. I see the Light, and again, He calls.
And I tremble.