Thursday, January 5, 2017

Epiphany Eve

Tomorrow is the feast day of the Epiphany, the day that celebrates the arrival of the wise men who come to meet the young Jesus.

Of course, in literary terms, epiphany means something different, although related.

If you want to spend today thinking about epiphanies in literature, we might take a moment and read some of the masters of epiphany, like Flannery O'Connor or James Joyce. Here's what Garrison Keillor says about Joyce and epiphany on The Writer's Almanac:

"Around the time that Irish writer James Joyce was defecting from the Roman Catholic Church, he was investing secular meaning into the word "epiphany." In his early 20s, he drew up little sketches, sort of like "prose poems," in which he illustrated epiphanies. He explained to his brother Stanislaus that epiphanies were sort of 'inadvertent revelations' and said they were 'little errors and gestures — mere straws in the wind — by which people betrayed the very things they were most careful to conceal.' He also wrote that the epiphany was the sudden 'revelation of the whatness of a thing,' the moment when 'the soul of the commonest object ... seems to us radiant.'

It was a literary device that James Joyce would use in every story in his collection Dubliners (1914), a technique that he would become known for and that many modern writers would emulate. Joyce's Dubliners ends with a story set at a party for the Feast of the Epiphany, 'The Dead,' and the story ends: 'His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.'"

I tend to think of the use of epiphany as limited to fiction or essay writers, but I'm sure I'm wrong.  In fact, lately I've been thinking of epiphany in a spiritual context--but I suspect that our spiritual epiphanies might be less dramatic.  Or maybe more so.

 Perhaps these literary approaches to epiphany are too intellectual.  Maybe it's time for some bread dough!

Many cultures celebrate Three Kings Day with a special bread.  Many families have charms that are baked into the bread that signify what will come in the new year.  Even if you don't have special charms, you could use things you do have:  a nut, a foil wrapped coin, a dried cranberry, a piece of frozen fruit.

This blog post gives you a recipe, with photos, for a simple, no-knead 3 Kings Bread.  Why not bake it for tomorrow?

As you bake the bread, you might ponder the word "epiphany" and all its variants.  What epiphanies do you need/knead for the coming year?

No comments: