Watch Out for Your Anagnorisis!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.” – Colossians 1:15-16

Dear People of St. David’s,

I hope you are enjoying the early summer, particularly some of the low-humidity warm days that are full of sunshine. Activities are slower at this time of year at St. David’s, particularly during the week. We all have a little more time, in these longer days, to be looking around for signs of God.

The Bible study I lead on Wednesdays has just finished The Gospel of Luke. As we completed Chapter 24 and got to the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, I learned a new word: anagnorisis. It describes the point in classical literature or drama when a discovery is made, or recognition achieved. In the Emmaus story, it refers to the moment when Cleopas and the other disciple recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. It isn’t his physical appearance that they recognize, it is the actions of blessing, breaking, and sharing that cause that moment of startling realization that Jesus, their own beloved friend, and teacher, is in their midst.

Perhaps like me, when you learn something new like this, you begin to see it all around you! We often use the phrase “scales fell from their eyes,” as a way of describing this feeling. It’s an “aha” moment.  This expression comes from the anagnorisis moment when Saul, who had been blinded by his encounter with the one he so vigorously persecuted, had scales literally fall from his eyes. After several days of blindness, Ananias, a reluctant emissary of Jesus, came to inform him that his period of blindness was over and that he would receive the Holy Spirit. We know where that led! Saul the persecutor became Paul, the evangelist, full of The Holy Spirit.

There are some lovely anagnorisis moments looming in this Sunday’s scriptures, so listen for them! Abraham is visited by The Lord, in the person of three men who turn out to be angels. Like the risen Christ, they can eat and drink, so Abraham doesn’t realize who they are for a time. The actual moment of recognition is accompanied, of course, by knowledge and understanding. Abraham has been waiting for a long time for God’s promises to be fulfilled, and God is faithful to Abraham.

Our Gospel is the story of Martha and Mary, perhaps a tricky kind of anagnorisis. Martha knows who Jesus is, but in her frustration, scales grow over her eyes, and she doesn’t see him for who he is. She needs to be reminded to take those blinders off.

Perhaps our lives are about waiting for anagnorisis. We wait for some sort of sign from God, and one day, there it is! There is a lot of living, hopefully faithful living, while we wait. Abraham’s great moment came at an advanced age. It might be tempting to think that God has forgotten us, or that we will never see clearly. But like Saul the persecutor, one of our earliest gifts is that of The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit appears in all shapes and forms, in likely and unlikely circumstances. The Holy Spirit may seem to be silent, but is always with us, as Advocate and Sustainer.

My prayer for you is that this summer you keep your eyes open. It may be that the startling gift of anagnorisis will come while you are on vacation, when you might not notice, because your surroundings and experiences are different than usual. It may come while you are enjoying a quiet summer evening at home. It may not come; you may be waiting. No matter where you find yourself, you can find assurance in the stories in our scriptures, and the constant presence of The Holy Spirit. No matter where you find yourself, keep your eyes open!

The Rev. Elizabeth W. Colton
Associate Rector