On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, Nancy Pelosi spoke to members of the Democratic caucus via video conference. She closed the meeting with these words:
“Today is the Feast of Epiphany, Jan. 6, [concerning] the Magi, the rest of the world seeing the birth of Christ. Let us pray in any way that you do, for our country, and that today will be an epiphany for the American people as they see the difference between our respect for the oath we take versus what they [the president and his allies] are up to, and let us hope that they will see the light and have their own epiphany on the other side.”
It was indeed a day of epiphany unlike any other our country has seen, just not the epiphany the speaker had envisioned. Instead of Magi bearing gifts, our temple of democracy was assaulted by MAGA bringing destruction and violence.
On this second anniversary of that day, I ponder, how is that we have fallen so low in this country to trade the Feast of Epiphany for the pigsty of insurrection? And I wonder this, who in that righteous mob shouting to hang Mike Pence even knew the significance of Jan. 6 on Christian calendars? Does anyone besides me see the irony, given the strong evangelical support for the MAGA movement, that it was the speaker who invoked the Epiphany tradition on that morning while the president stoked lies about the election?
Epiphany is from a Greek word meaning “revelation from above.” There were indeed many epiphanies revealed to us that day, but hardly from above, unless one is referring to the commander in chief of the Insurrection. Here are but a few of the most disturbing:
- That there are so many in this country, including any number of our elected leaders, who willingly and knowingly spout election lies in order to inspire disruption and even violence to overrule the will of the people.
- That so many gullible people accept conspiracy theories as truth even when courts consistently found them to have no basis in fact.
- That those who claim to be for “law and order” can so quickly turn against the officers of law and order when it suits their desires.
- That democracy is more fragile than we ever knew.
The Epiphany story, however, is not about doom and destruction but light shining amidst the dark, symbolized by that star leading the Magi. This too, we saw on Jan. 6:
- Officer Eugene Goodman, who had the presence of mind to lead the rioters away from the Senate Chamber, where lawmakers, including the vice president, were still gathered.
- The many other badly outnumbered officers who put their bodies on the line to defend not just the Capitol building, but democracy itself.
- The vice president, who perhaps for the first time since taking the job, refused the bidding of his boss and then of his security detail, remaining in the building to help orchestrate its defense and finish the constitutionally mandated duties of the day.
- The small handful of Republicans willing to put their oath to the Constitution above loyalty to the president, most sacrificing their political careers in the process.
- Light shining in the darkness of election lies and insurrection madness.
In the original Epiphany story as told in the Gospel of Matthew, those gift-bearing Magi were warned not to report back to the king, for he wanted to destroy the child. Seen in the light of Jan. 6, 2021, that child the king would destroy is our democracy, vulnerable as a new born baby.
This Epiphany I give thanks for those who follow a different star today, bearing gifts of truth, honesty and integrity. They are the Magi. Because of them, the light of democracy still shines, and darkness has not overcome it. May it so remain in 2023 and beyond.