“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Is 60:1-3).
Today I planned on sharing what Pope Francis had to say today about the Epiphany, and the I realized that he hasn’t said anything about it because in Rome it’s celebrated on the traditional date of January 6th, the twelfth day after Christmas. So this forced me to come up with some semi-original thoughts, something which, I’m sorry to admit, I was trying to avoid today.
The Epiphany is an ancient feast which predates the feast of Christmas, because in the earlier centuries of the Church Epiphany encompassed all of the occasions on which Christ manifested Himself to man: His Nativity, the adoration of the Magi, His Baptism in the Jordan River, and His first public miracle during the wedding feast at Cana. It was later on that that the celebration of the Nativity began to be celebrated separately. I was a Catholic for a long time before I ever knew any of this. In the monastery I always wondered why the divine office antiphons for today always spoke of the Magi, the Baptism and Cana. I wonder how many Catholics also have never heard this? I hope my experience was just a fluke.
Today most parishes are focused on the Magi, God revealing Himself to the Gentiles as a baby. But it leads me to think more deeply on God’s revelation not just two thousand years ago, but here and now.
With the beginning of this new year we are embarking on a journey, sort of like the Magi (and like their journey, it will be long, likely filled with steep hills, pot holes, and detours – and, please God, some restful and cooling oases along the way), to find the Presence of Christ, not in a distant land, but in our own lives. As a community we are beginning Forty Weeks, an Ignatian Path to Christ by Fr. William Watson, SJ (which you may have heard us mention on the radio or on this blog). Using the model developed by St. Ignatius we will make a detailed account of our own life histories (what Fr. Watson calls ‘spiritual archaeology’) in order to see more clearly the guiding hand of God throughout the whole of our lives – in the rough times as well as the smooth. When we thought our sins and failings had driven Him far away, or perhaps in our self-centeredness we didn’t even think of Him at all, our own “epiphany” will reveal that God was indeed there all along – praying, bestowing grace, weeping over our the self-wounding of our sins, and loving us back into relationship with Himself.
We’re excited at the opportunity to look at our own lives as a whole. Often “my story” just seems like a random assortment of disparate and disconnected memories. Sometimes all the parts seem to fit together; other times it’s like picking through an old coffee can of loose change that you’ve been saving over the years – some coins look shiny and pretty and new, others are old and grimy, covered with gunk, which you’d really rather not touch. But in truth, my life (and all our lives) is more like a vast medieval tapestry than a can of discarded change – it’s comprised of many stories which together all make up the One Story of my soul which God and I together are writing. I can stand close to the tapestry and see the little vignettes separately, and then I can step back and appreciate how they all connect to tell a larger story. And God’s Presence is the golden thread woven throughout, not always visible from the front of the tapestry, but always there nonetheless.
O holy Magi!, who regarded neither the severity of the season, nor the inconveniences of the journey that you might find the newborn Messiah; obtain for us the grace not to allow ourselves to be discouraged by any of the difficulties which may meet us on the way of salvation.
Please pray for us during these forty weeks as we undertake this “journey”. If you would like to learn more about Fr. Watson’s work you can go to his website: sacredstoryinstitute.net You can also find his books on Amazon here.