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!Isaiah 60: 1-2
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.
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:
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