A message at Epiphanytide: Look up to the glory of God

The Rt Rev Dorsey McConnell, Acting Bishop, sends a message to all in the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney at Epiphanytide

Dear Friends in Christ

I do a good deal of walking in Aberdeen, and I notice the others who walk.  They are a remarkable variety of human beings – Africans and Scots, Slavs and Asians, even the occasional American.  As we pass, I hear snippets of Hausa, Polish, Chinese, Doric, and other tongues I can’t begin to identify.  It is astonishing and beautiful, and always evokes in me an amazement akin to that of the crowd in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost (Acts 2: 8-11).

What unites so many of them, however, is not an inner language of the Spirit, but an outward appearance that nearly amounts an Aberdeen winter uniform – black coats over dark clothing, hoods pulled up – and a common posture: heads down against the wind, plugged into their headphones, barely noticing those around them, completely missing the glory above them, namely the Aberdeen winter sky!  Even when it rains, there is something splendid about this sky – dynamic, swift-moving, the sun breaking through for an instant, coloring the clouds in pink and gold, then hiding again.  I can barely resist reaching over to nearest passerby and saying, Look up!  Please, look at this glory!  Can you imagine the even greater glory of God?  (Not to worry: so far, I have behaved!)

I think of this all the more as we are in the last days of Epiphanytide.  It feels a long way from the visit of the Magi who beheld the glory of the Word Made Flesh.  It doesn’t help that these weeks are commonly referred to as Ordinary Time.  But there is nothing ordinary about them.  During the morning Office, I still pray the antiphon: The Lord has shown forth His glory: Come, let us adore him. 

It will soon be Lent, a season to take stock of our souls, a time of self-denial, repentance and amendment of life, to look inward and downward, as it were.  But we cannot do this well unless we have first looked upward toward the glory of God, toward Christ on the Cross, lifted up for us all, toward the light of the Resurrection and the power of the Spirit even now among us.  Suppose we take these remaining days before Ash Wednesday especially to look upward, to set our minds on the things that are above (Colossians 3:2).  We may then carry that vision with us into Lent, as we look inward to our souls in the light of God’s grace and truth.

To this end, in a few days, I will be sending out a programme to help us all observe a Holy Lent and a joyous Easter.  Developed by the Rev Canon Dr Jenny Holden, it will include materials for prayer and study and suggestions for practices that will deepen and enrich our experience of the season.  I hope you will find them helpful. May God richly bless you in the coming days and weeks.

The Rt Rev Dorsey McConnell
Acting Bishop
Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney