The Epiphany Star

January 2, 2022
The Epiphany of the Lord 

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we discover a star!

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.

Isaiah 60:1-2

The journey to the Epiphany is repeated in each our lives – many times over. As we – like young Jesus – grow in age and grace, God continually calls us to new Lights, ever deeper into Love’s Divine Universe.

And we, like the determined Wise Ones, move closer – by whatever means we can – to the Promised Revelation. We have our own trusted “camels” which carry us toward Truth: meditation, spiritual reading, sacred song, prayerful journaling, holy silence, merciful service, Gospel love.

Faithful commitment to our soul’s journey leads us to God’s beautiful promise. It is a difficult and sometimes challenging journey, as our poem will attest. But it is not a hopeless, pointless, or endless one:

Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.

Isaiah 60

In our second reading, Paul describes that “wealth” in these words:

“that we are heirs and partners 
in God’s promise in Christ 
through the Gospel.”

Ephesians 3:6

Poetry: Nativity Poem – Joseph Brodsky

Imagine striking a match that night in the cave:
Imagine crockery, try to make use of its glaze
To feel cold cracks in the floor, the blankness of hunger.
Imagine the desert – but the desert is everywhere.

Imagine striking a match in that midnight cave,
The fire, the farm beasts in outline, the farm tools and stuff;
And imagine, as you towel your face in the enveloping folds,
Mary, Joseph, and the Infant in swaddling clothes.

Imagine the kings, the caravans’ stilted procession
As they make for the cave, or, rather, three beams closing in
And in on the star, the creaking of loads, the clink of a cowbell;
(No thronging of Heaven as yet, no peal of the bell

That will ring in the end for the infant once he has earned it).
Imagine the Lord, for the first time, from darkness, and stranded
Immensely in distance, recognizing Himself in the Son
Of Man: His homelessness plain to him now in a homeless one.


Music: Magi Veniunt – Sistine Choir

Magi veniunt ab oriente Ierosolimam
quaerentes et dicentes:
Ubi est qui natus est [Rex Judaeorum]
cujus stellam vídimus?
Vidimus stellam eius in oriente,
et venimus [cum muneribus] adorare Dominum.
Interrogabit magos Herodes quod signum vidissent
super natum regem? Stellam magnam fulgentem
cuius splendor illuminat mundum et nos cognovimus.
Vidimus et venimus adorare Dominum

The wise men came from the East to Jerusalem
asking questions and saying:
Where is he that is born [King of the Jews],
whose star we have seen?
We have seen that star in the East,
and we have come [with gifts] to worship the Lord.
Herod questioned the magi what sign they had seen
above the new-born king? We recognized that brightly shining star
whose lustre lights the world and us.
We have seen, and have come to worship the Lord

Psalm 72: Governed with Mercy

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop

January 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 72 which will be familiar to us because it is used six times throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Psalm 72: 1-2

This short post-Epiphany season is all about “manifestation” – how Jesus begins to show us the face of God-become-flesh.

The core message, conveyed to us in the daily progressive reading of 1 John, is that God is Love.


Our Gospel today, the feeding of the 5000, shows how that Love is expressed – merciful action for those in need.

Our psalm, written a thousand years before Christ, exults in the expectation of such a merciful Messiah:


The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Let us begin once again, in this new year,
to soak in the words and images
describing this longed-for and loving Savior.


Poetry: When Little Was Enough – Irene Zimmerman, OSF

(LUKE 9:10–17)

“Send the people away from this deserted place
to find food and lodgings,” the twelve urged Jesus,
“for the day is advanced and it is almost evening.”

Jesus looked at the crowd (there were about five thousand)
and looked at his disciples, still excited and tired
from their first mission journey.

What had they learned from the villagers of Galilee
who shared bread and sheltered them from cold night winds?
What had they learned of human coldness on the way?

He remembered the pain in his mother’s voice
as she told of his birth night when they found no room
in all of Bethlehem, House of Bread.

“You give them something to eat!” he said.

“We have only five loaves and two fish!” they protested.
“How can we feed so many with so little?”
He understood their incredulity.

They had yet to learn that a little was enough
when it was all they had—
that God could turn these very stones to bread.

“Have the crowd sit down in groups of fifty,” he said.
Jesus took the food and looked up to heaven.
He blessed it, broke it, gave it to the disciples
to distribute to the new-formed churches.

Afterwards, when everyone was satisfied,
the twelve filled twelve baskets of bread left over—
as faith stirred like yeast within them.


Music: Justice Shall Flourish – Rory Cooney

The Epiphany of Our Lord

January 3, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, and on this glorious feast, we pray with Psalm 72.

It is a gorgeous psalm that fills our senses with lights, and scents, and the tactile experience of an ancient and sacred world:

  • we inhale the flower of justice
  • wrap ourselves in its profound peace
  • gaze on a distant, moonless universe
  • stretch our prayer from sea to sea,
  • and our praise to the ends of the earth

We see the ancient nations gather in homage,
carrying the gems, spices and bounty of their homelands.

We, too, kneel in astounded wonder that this vulnerable child, 
hidden in the far reaches of both geography and imagination,
carries to us the Promise of the Ages.

We, too, trust the star, rising in our own hearts.


Psalm 72 echoes our beautiful first reading from Isaiah, another masterpiece that, in itself, is enough simply to read and savor:

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  
Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.

Isaiah 60: 1-2

In Isaiah, these magnificent verses follow two chapters of gloom and darkness. They break forth in true epiphany to say, “Your Light has come!” – now your life must begin to shine as well.

Epiphany is not simply about kings and camels. It is not simply about a  crèche and a star. 

It is about Divine Revelation hovering over our dailyness. It is about us, opening our eyes in faith and responsiveness to our ever-present God.

The feast of Epiphany reminds us:

Look at your life today.
The star did not pass you by.
Open your eyes and find it.
Once you have seen it,
live in its Light.

Poetry: The Journey of the Magi – T.S. Eliot

Eliot wrote the poem after his conversion to Anglicanism ( He had been a Unitarian.) The poem conveys his struggle to grow in the light of his new faith. The “journey” is life-long and demanding in a world that often  contradicts that faith.

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.


Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


Music: The People that Walk in Darkness – Bob Dufford, SJ

The people that walk in darkness 
 have seen, have seen a great light.
 And on those who dwell in endless gloom, 
 a light has shone.
 
Refrain: 
For a Child is born this day: 
Rejoice, rejoice.
Daughter of Zion, awake. 
The glory of God is born.
 
And they shall name Him counselor, 
shall call Him mighty God.
And He shall rule from age to age: 
Prince of Peace.
 
Refrain
 
Darkness covers the earth; 
thick clouds govern its pe0ple.
But the Lord will bring them light; 
the Lord will bring them light.
 
Refrain
 
The people that walk in darkness 
have seen, have seen a great light.
And on those who dwell in endless gloom, 
a light has shone.
 

Refrain

The Unexpected within The Ordinary

The Epiphany of the Lord

January 5, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we travel with Isaiah, Paul, Matthew and the Three Kings into the revealed glory of the Lord!

Is60_1 splendor

It’s not always easy to find that glory though, is it?

Have you ever heard a troubled friend say, “I feel as if God has abandoned me! I can’t find God in my life!”? Well, I’d like to tell you a little story about that.

ducksOne spring morning, two country kids were walking to school across their local railroad tracks.  They had been drilled in the three essential steps before crossing: STOP, LOOK and LISTEN! On this particular morning, as they diligently executed these steps, they heard an unexpected, barely-audible sound.  Four tiny orphaned ducklings had taken refuge in a gully under one of the nearby ties.  What an epiphany!


Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.  The word means much more than just “discovery”.  It means an unexpected revelation of divine grace within our ordinary circumstances.  The Unexpected within the Ordinary.

kings_gifts

When the Three Kings experienced the Epiphany, it was not simply “dumb luck”.  They had prepared for that moment throughout their entire lives, just never imagining where they would find it —  hidden in a cold stable.  Through study, prayer and living good lives, they had perfected the all-important practice:  STOP, LOOK and LISTEN to your ordinary life; to what is happening just underneath the surface, underneath appearances, underneath the silence. Allow yourself to follow the star and be surprised by God!

It is in the life underneath that God waits to be revealed to us everyday.  The revelation doesn’t come like a loud, anticipated train.  It comes in the unexpected whisper we would have missed had we not stopped, looked and listened to our lives.  It comes in the otherwise unspoken need of a friend, in the finally recognized destructive practice or relationship we must change, in the belated act of forgiveness, in the long over-due and grateful acknowledgement of our life as the blessing that it is.

Before we go too far in this New Year, think about this practice.  When we feel as if God or the Spirit is not part of our lives, we may not be looking in the right places.  Each morning and/or evening, give yourself at least fifteen quiet minutes to breathe.  Point a telescope to your day, and ask yourself “Where is God hidden in these moments?”  If we really STOP, LOOK and LISTEN, eventually, the Star of the Epiphany will rise for us!

Music:  Star of Wonder – lyrics and the music written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. circa 1857; sung here by Jennifer Avalon

 

Epiphany!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the great feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, a day which commemorates Christ’s manifestation to the Gentiles.

is60_5 epiphanyjpg

Perhaps on this day, as little children, some of us placed the Three Kings in the crèche, fascinated by their journey and their majesty. These figures represented all nations bringing their gifts to the newborn Savior. In their humble generosity, the journeyers eyes were opened and they recognized Divinity in the most unlikely of places.

An epiphany is a special kind of vision. It is an insight to see something amazingly deeper in what we thought we had already perceived.

We might walk by a tree, a house, a person day after day taking them completely for granted. We see them – but don’t really see them. Then, one day, a certain turn of sun on leaves might let us see that tree differently. An open window with its curtains billowing might transform that house into a home. A caring exchange might change that person into a friend.

And we say things like, “Gosh, why had I never noticed that before…”

The Three Kings were given the grace of Epiphany to see God where others saw only  a poor newborn. They were given the wisdom to see Herod’s treachery where he pretended to offer only homage.

This feast reminds us that a sacred dimension exists beneath the surface of all appearances. Every reality contains the capacity for holiness, for goodness, for wisdom, for love. The more we are attuned to Grace, the more we recognize the presence (or the absence, as with Herod) of this capacity. The more we begin to live in deeper relationship with the seemingly ordinary in our lives.

Nothing is ordinary! Everything that comes to us is fraught with grace and divine possibility. We just need to live intentionally – to ask for and respond to the gift of Epiphany as it is given in our particular circumstances.

I think the sentiments of today’s feast thread through a beautiful poem by William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood – particularly in these lines:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Poetry lovers might like to read the entire poem here: 

Click here for full poem

Music: Please enjoy this gentle music as you pray your Epiphanies:
Walking through Clouds – Bernward Koch