The Third Epiphany
The Christmas season ends with Epiphany on January 6. The word epiphany means a manifestation or the appearance of something or someone.
The first recorded celebration of Epiphany was by Christians in Egypt in the late 2nd Century. Epiphany began as a celebration of Christ’s baptism which opened His public ministry. January 6th was chosen because that was the supposed birthday of the Egyptian god Osiris. The believers in Egypt were replacing a pagan holiday with something far better.
By the 4th Century Epiphany had become associated with Christ’s nativity and the coming of the wise men. In this we see Christ being manifest to the Gentiles world.
Later Epiphany became connected with the miracle at the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. This is why the New Testament reading for Evening Prayer on Epiphany is St. John 2:1-12. This connection was made in opposition to Dionysus the Greek god of wine. In mythology Dionysus is identified with Osiris and January 6.
Dionysus was not only the god of wine, but of dance and the theater. He was not one of the gods living atop Mount Olympus, but was much more earthy. His worshipers did not worship in temples, but out in the wild forests, where he took on various animal forms. There at night in the forest Dionysus’ worshipers would engage in wild dancing and singing. They would drink wine till they became intoxicated and in that drunken state they would tear an animal apart and drink its blood. Finally, collapsing in a drunken stupor they thought that they had become indwelt by their god.
Dionysian worship emphasized irrationality, the rejection of order, restraint and self-control as well as giving in to unbridled passion. Norman Melchert wrote, “Dionysus is the god of wine, of intoxication, of excess and loss of control. Where Dionysus lives, all order, form, and measure break down. Women are caught up in long lines, dancing beyond the civilized towns to orgies in the countryside.”
In contrast to Dionysus we are presented with the story of Christ at a wedding in Cana as the lesson on the evening of Epiphany. The wine runs out causing concern and anxiety, but at the command of Jesus water is miraculously transformed into wine. Instead of this wine leading to a loss of control or unrestrained irrational behavior, the wine Christ created restored the order and dignity of the occasion. Christ’s wedding wine represented hope, commitment, fidelity, and love. All of which are in stark contrast to Dionysus the pagan god of wine.
Unfortunately Dionysus lives on in our society today. As Melchert wrote, “Where Dionysus lives, all order, form, and measure break down.” We see this in our society today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the majority of first born children are to unwed mothers. Most of these are women in their 20’s and 30’s, not teenagers. We are also told that couples cohabitating increased from ½ million in 1960 to 4 million by 1997.
In a study on marriage and happiness by sociologists Steven Stack and J. Ross Eshleman it was reported that cohabiting couples are 75% less happy than married couples. This is so because of God’s design for humanity. God created marriage that among other things a man and woman might have a sense of security. However, there is no security when two people live together without marriage. It has been reported that 80% of cohabiting couples never marry. Without commitment there is no true love and without this there is no security. So it is easy to see why there is no high level of happiness for these people.
When Jesus turned the water into wine He manifest His divinity and part of His design for humanity. God’s design for marriage and for life includes commitment, fidelity, love, order and rationality, as well as security in relationships.
I don’t suppose anyone today would claim to be a worshiper of Dionysus. But the Dionysian influence lives on in our society, leading to unhappiness in marriages, families, and other relationships. At Cana Jesus Christ manifest His superiority to Dionysus and all false gods. The Lord revealed that the way to happiness is through unselfish love, commitment, and faithfulness.
By Rev. F. M. Levi
Rev. Levi attended the clericus at the new Cathedral of St. Mathias in Katy, Texas Nov. 30 – Dec. 1, 2006. St. Andrew’s donated a Tiffany window for the chancel of the new cathedral and it looks gorgeous. On Thursday Bishop John Fenwick from England spoke on the topic “Ecumenical Relations and the Anglican Communion.” On Friday Rev. Wayland Coe and Mr. John Clay presented a seminar on “The Claims of the Orthodox Church.” The various convocations and the Board of Examining Chaplains also met during the clerical.
The feast of St. Andrew was observed on Nov. 30, 2006. The pot luck dinner in the Parish Hall was followed by the Service of Holy Communion in the chapel. The Rev. Dr. Derrick Hassert preached and celebrated Communion in Rev. Levi’s absence.
At the coffee hour following church on Dec. 10, 2006, the Woman’s Guild had a Bake Sale and Mini Christmas Bazaar to raise money for missions.
The Woman’s Guild had as a Christmas project the collection of gift items for the Crisis Center for South Suburbia. A big thank you to all who donated.
Missionary of The Month
Sue Brodish, Christian Kindergarten. Schwalmstadt–1, Germany.
Jan. 1 – Judy Ashmore
Jan. 6 – Elaine Spencer
Jan. 8 – Shirley Drobnak
Jan. 11 – Laura Sutton
Jan. 11 – Henry Leenstra
Jan. 12 – Marie Bowman
Jan. 14 – George Yapp
Jan. 18 – Janet Toomey
Jan. 18 – Caroline Robertson
Jan. 19 – Will Garrison
Jan. 26 – David Sutton
Jan. 27 – Paul Christenson
Jan. 30 – Louis Buescher
By Helen Kitchell Evans
Steadily the old year passes;
Another year arrives again.
Will it bring a better way
To stamp out greed in hearts of men?
Another year extended to us
By our Lord’s amazing grace;
Another chance to overcome
The problems of our human race.
Another year of striving
To find a way for peace;
Another chance for planning
How to make wars cease.
Another year; the time flies on!
The rate is ever faster!
Let us cherish every hour
As we try to serve our Master.