The third Sunday after Epiphany or Epiphany 4 in the Old Testament series, takes us one step closer to the high point of the Season of Light, the Transfiguration. On that pinnacle, Christ, the light of the world, shining into the midst of our darkness will reveal himself to the nations as the true God, who is man on our behalf.
Remember that in both the historic one-year lectionary, and in Exile and Return: A Year in the Old Testament, Transfiguration comes earlier than in the three-year, leaving more ordinary time between that mountaintop experience and the somber days of Lent.
Exile and Return emphasizes this shift in order to draw a contrast with the acceptance of Jesus as a prophet and miracle worker, and the manic rejection of Jesus as the unexpected (i.e. “wrong kind” of) Messiah. The darkness of Tenebrae is about more than mere created light. It is about the darkened understanding of our fallen minds.
Thus, our preparation for the Day of Ashes (Ash Wednesday) will involve a gradual descent from the glorious mountain into a full experience of the valley of the shadow of death.
But for one more interim week, the unification of light with water/bread/God’s-Presence continues. Following their washing in the Red Sea, and following the gift of food directly out of heaven, the people of Israel still complain. The Lord has not done enough. They need something more than water which kills. They need water that gives life.
Better yet, they need miraculous water flowing from the riven side of the Rock whom God appointed. It would seem that the Stone which the builders rejected, the cornerstone, is more than a metaphor. He is the Lamb who is the Son of God, the Son of God who is a true man, the historic man who is sacrificed once and for all, the sacrifice in whom we participate when we eat and drink the real food and real drink that he left with us to be our lamp shining in this dark place.