Shine

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The Collect for this coming Sunday, the Second after the Epiphany:

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacrament, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.

In the bleak, cold mornings of a northern winter, we pray for glimmers of light, shiny, to catch the eye and the spirit; but we are the ones called to shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory. In days designed for hibernation, it is a tall order.

But there is hope offered in the very prayer that we raise. We are not merely a reflective array, bouncing the light of Christ off our turned backs, our sleeping tortoise shells. Neither are we simply solar panels; machines designed to absorb the Son in order to power the world. While neither of these images is necessarily wrong-headed, neither of them comes close to describing the transformation that is asked for when we pray to be illumined by God’s Word and Sacrament.

When we pray to be illumined by Word and Sacrament, two images come to my mind.

In the first, as in a traditional gospel procession, light falls with the words of Christ, the Word, shedding itself over the people of God as we listen to the words of scripture, and listen for the Word, the voice of God. It is an external illumination.

In the second, as we receive the Sacrament set apart for us by Christ; as we taste and internalize the grace that God has shed upon us, then that light begins to shine from the inside out with the radiance of Christ’s glory.

It is the rhythm of our worship, our knowledge and obedience to Christ: the Word and the Sacrament, the external and the internal illumination; a light to brighten the gloom of January, that month of Monday mornings into which Sunday inserts itself with a startling cry:

Arise, shine!

__________

The Revd Rosalind C Hughes is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, Ohio, where hibernation season is in a fierce contest with the brightness of the Epiphany season.

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