Herod met with the three wise men privately, for reasons of his own. He told them to tell him when they found the child, so he could worship the infant king too. Herod was a cunning liar, but he did not fool the three wise men: they told him nothing. Herod’s response to their disobedience was to murder the innocents.
One could call Herod a remorseless psychopath, but it is truer to say he was a frightened ruler who overreacted in panic to any threat against his throne. The three wise men – or the three kings, as they are sometimes called – saw the Epiphany, or manifestation, of the royalty of the Christ Child. After giving the child prophetic gifts that foresaw his Kingship and his death, the three faded into oblivion, at least in the eyes of history.
Anyone who considers themselves religious has had an epiphany or two. I’ve had my share. I remember an altar call in the Baptist church I grew up in. It was a Sunday night in the summer. I was ten years old, or so. I was sitting next to the window, and felt a breeze come through. It was a warm breeze that gave me goose bumps. Funny that it seemed to come from outside the church.
Another epiphany occurred as a young adult. I was receiving massage therapy that triggered some painful past emotions. I was crying, asking God where he was during my childhood. I saw myself as a child, laying on a flat surface. I had no arms or legs, and my torso was bound with rope. I was laying in the darkness. Gradually I became aware of a light. A robed, bearded figure was standing near me, holding a lantern. He was keeping a vigil over me. It was the answer to my question.
My greatest epiphany, so far anyway, caused my conversion to Catholicism in 1993. As near as I can tell, it consisted of a number of events, and the prayers of two Catholics in particular, both religious men older than I. Their prayers, and a lot of pious reading, led me as if through a cavern into a widening expanse of light and splendor. It felt as if the glory of God was being revealed to me, gradually but intensely, for the next eighteen years. A long epiphany.
I suppose the zeal wears off everyone after a while. For the last year or so, since the divorce, it sometimes feels like I’m practicing the memory of my faith. Humans are inconstant, and faith waxes and wanes. Most of us feel, at times, that our faith is running on fumes. For me, this is one of those times.
Perhaps a desert crossing is occurring, or maybe another epiphany is yawning before me. On the ground it is difficult to pray, and the practice of my religion causes irritation as well as solace. Yet the more I feel my faith is dead the more I have the feeling of being rocked, ever so carefully, in the palm of God’s hand.