06 January 2015

Enjoying the promise of Epiphany in
morning walks by the River Dodder

Sunrise through the trees behind the Ely Triumphal Arch in Rathfarnham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Christ Church Cathedral this evening for the Epiphany Eucharist, celebrated by Canon Aisling Shine. It was good to see a woman presiding at the Eucharist on a day that was traditionally known in Ireland as “Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas.”

The attendance at the Cathedral during the Christmas Season reflects some of the experiences in the Church of England, where the fastest growing “expression of church” is traditional cathedral liturgy. There were almost 500 people at the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols immediately before Christmas, and the the two Cathedral Eucharists on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day had a combined attendance of almost 1,000.

The three wise men, magi or kings were placed in the crib at the west end of the cathedral this evening, we hard the Gospel story of the Visit of the Magi (Matthew 2: 1-12), and we sang some of the traditional Epiphany hymns that I have been writing about in recent days, including ‘As with gladness men of old.’

But the celebration of Epiphany is about more than the journey of the Magi or three wise men. The lectionary readings also celebrate the Baptism of Christ by Saint John the Baptist in the River Jordan, and the miracle at the Wedding in Cana.

The word Epiphany in Greek (ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia) means “manifestation,” or “striking appearance,” especially of God. The companion word Theophany (Θεοφάνεια, theophaneia) means a “vision of God.”

Spring-like reflections in the River Dodder during a morning walk along the riverbank (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

These bright mornings, and a later start to the working day before the students return, encouraged me to walk along the banks of the River Dodder on my way into work this morning. And along the way there were “striking appearances” and “bright manifestations” along the way.

The late, low but bright sunrises this week means the sun was still rising slowly through the trees as I was walking along the banks of the river this morning from Rathfarnham Bridge to the Ely Triumphal Arch on the mound below the grounds of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

Above the weir at Rathfarnham Bridge, a swan was enjoying the seasonally unusual sunshine. Below the weir, a heron was waiting patiently, watching the life in the river water and oblivious to my presence on the opposite bank.

And as I passed, the heron swooped swiftly and elegantly, catching his prey.

On the way home from the Cathedral this evening, in the clear sky above, there was a bright, full moon. Despite the sharp cold weather and the fact that there are still no buds on the branches or the trees, it is possible on mornings and evenings like this to rejoice in the promise of Spring that it is in the air and in the sky.

A heron prepares to swoop by the waters of the River Dodder in Rathfarnham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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