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FAITH AND CULTURE | The unfolding Epiphany and Presentation of Christ

One of the characteristics of our cultural sense of time is the ability to move from one event to the next with ease. Our calendars mark any number of personal and work commitments and show us how much of our daily social life is full of significant cultural, historical and religious moments. These moments each demand our undivided attention.

Adding to this flow of events, unforeseen circumstances need inclusion, so we do our best and keep on moving forward. When all is said and done, it’s interesting to see how, on the one hand, we spend significant time and effort preparing for things, and, on the other, we sail through them.

This aptitude to move quickly and adjust serves us well, especially in the contemporary world that values and rewards efficiency and multitasking. At the same time, however, we know that moving from one activity to the next affects our sense of appreciation and delight. Rushing back and forth not only limits our ability to enjoy the moment, but also diminishes our ability to focus on the bigger picture and discover things anew.

Our calendars bring opportunities to enjoy and welcome each life-giving moment, which requires us to find time to pause and rest. We know how important and meaningful it can be when we actually take the time to be present to one another, especially when everything around us appears to be in a frenzy.

The same holds true in our religious and faith lives. Our faith is replete with wonderful and meaningful celebrations and occasions for deeper reflection. Ours faith takes us through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent and Easter. However, the challenge is to appreciate the distinct gifts these seasons bring. If we are not careful, our reflections run the risk of feeling too mundane and deprived of real meaning.

More specifically, as people of faith, we go through religious celebrations and holidays, each with its own rich symbolism and grace. We move through Christmas, the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord — to name a few — living these distinct faith moments with some level of ease, routine and familiarity.

Yet, by pausing and focusing on the bigger picture, we can note just how significant and awe-inspiring the unfolding of these events really is, both at the individual and communal level. In the span of a few months, we move from Advent waiting to the birth of the Child Jesus and into the Epiphany and Presentation of the Lord. In these distinct religious moments, we learn to prepare spiritually and learn to recognize and affirm the mystery of faith.

If we are attentive, we can see that the full glory of the Lord is before us “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. …Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you” (Isaiah 60:1-6).

Already, this new calendar year presents myriad choices, resolutions, plans, dreams and aspirations. As we move through this time of opportunity and grace, it might be good to simply pause and reflect more intentionally on what God has done for us, and what we can do for others.

Orozco is executive director of human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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