Epiphany: The Season of Glory

Epiphany: The Season of Glory

Published by InterVarsity Press in late 2023, Epiphany: The Season of Glory, by Fleming Rutledge, is the latest entry in the Fullness of Time series. This series, book by book, examines the liturgical year and guides readers through the scripture, prayers, and traditions associated with each of these sacred times. The publisher's blurb about this volume says:

"We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." This line from the prologue of the Gospel of John declares the theme of Epiphany. Christmas celebrates Christ's birth; Epiphany manifests his glory. The feast of Epiphany and its following season are not as well observed as they should be. Many of us associate Epiphany with the visit of the Magi but don't know much more about it. In this short volume, priest and theologian Fleming Rutledge expounds the primary biblical texts and narrative arc of the season, inviting us to discover anew "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Epiphany opens with some broad observations about both the feast itself on 6 January and the traditions associated with the season between that feast and Ash Wednesday. Following this general commentary, each chapter delves into one of the Sundays or major events, such as the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple (Candlemas), and offers reflections on the traditions, prayers, and scripture readings associated with them.

As the title of the book suggests, Rutledge insists that the primary focus of Epiphany ought to be the glory of God. She holds to this throughout and offers many insightful comments on other potential foci, always offering a rationale for why the glory of God is a preferential option. This was, for me, a refreshing look at some theology more popular in the past than today, and an antidote to some of the basic moralizing that is common in preaching. For example, Rutledge encourages preachers on the Last Sunday after Epiphany to focus on the glory of God revealed in Christ flanked by Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration. She acknowledges the temptation for preachers to move right to Peter wanting to build shrines for the figures and turn it into some kind of object lesson about waiting for God, but discourages this as missing the intended primary focus of the day and season.

Rutledge returns several times to the idea that God's glory is something that might be experienced, in limited ways, by humans, but that our knowledge and experience of it is not due to our own seeking. God's glory always comes from God and is to be experienced with awe and wonder as a glimpse of God's very being. This consistent reminder that God responds to our requests out of love and a desire to be with us, not because God is beholden to us, is an important and worthwhile point to make.

I was surprised that Rutledge, an Episcopal (Anglican) priest, chose to ignore the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the season in favour of an older, now disused set of readings. She acknowledges that she prefers the King James Version of scripture and quotes it regularly in the book, occasionally referencing other translations. Rutledge claims that these choices are simply matters of her personal preference and there is no reason to doubt this. I suspect they are also choices that resonate with many of InterVarsity Press's target audience. Nothing wrong with this, though worth noting for Anglicans who gravitate to Rutledge's work that they may have to do some extra homework to make full use of the references she makes here.

Epiphany is well-written and a pleasant, engaging read as expected from Rutledge. She is very fond of mixing Latin names and titles for various concepts in the book which, in my opinion, were neither helpful nor illuminating. The content is a good mix of information about the feast and season of Epiphany and aids to people planning worship or preparing to preach. The utility of the information here will vary depending on the reader's context, of course.

Overall, Epiphany is a very fine book with some refreshing observations about this important season, has much fine exegesis and theology, and is a worthy contribution to the continuing conversation about the glory of God.

I received a free copy of this book from InterVarsity Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Andrew Rampton

Andrew Rampton

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