This week we moved from the tender twelve days of Christmas proceeding December 25th, in which we linger in the preciousness of the Divine Mystery having been birthed anew (in, through, and as the very particulars of our lives), into the season of Epiphany beginning on January 6th. You don’t have to follow the liturgical year of the Christian tradition to lean into these rhythms.
Epiphany is about the manifestation or revelation of the divine here, now. Epiphany, according to the dictionary, means a sudden insight or intuitive understanding or grasp of reality through something simple and striking; a perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. It is curious that such a season would begin on a day with so much tumultuousness and agitation here in the United States. I can’t help but wonder if it is not a call to manifest and reveal that which is needed for the collective body right now.
Epiphany also marks the story of the three wise men bearing gifts - gold, frankincense, and myrrh - to the Christ infant that will accompany him as he begins to grow and develop. There is much to say about these substances and here is but a glimpse of what they represent. Gold is a precious metal associated with virtue, higher ideals, wisdom, and understanding. Although soft and malleable, it is the most reliable and durable electrical conductor. It is resistant to rust and corrosion and can be used to reduce swelling, bone damage, and relieve pain and stiffness. Frankincense is a symbol of prayer, holiness, and righteousness. It can be used as medicine for pain, inflammation, and swelling in people with various, sometimes chronic, diseases. It is thought to improve gut function, asthmatic breathing, and fight cancer. Myrrh has been used as both a sacred anointing and an embalming oil. It is a symbol of suffering and death. It can be used as an antiseptic, for healing wounds, for circulatory problems, and in Traditional Chinese medicine is seen as having special efficacy on the heart, liver, and spleen meridians along with ‘blood moving’ powers to purge stagnant blood from the uterus. Wisdom brought these elements to Christ. Pause and take that in. . .
I’ve been pondering the significance of this act and surmising its relevance for us now. Wisdom is needed as we navigate this fragile transition. Wisdom is knowledge of what is good, true, and just; it is not about knowing more but with more of you; it is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; it is the ability to make sound judgments, decisions and actions. Maybe we must bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh forth to the body of Christ, the collective Body now. Or maybe there are three different gifts that wisdom is bearing for each one of us for our unfolding and for the growth of and service to the whole. What might those gifts be?
In the East, Epiphany marks the the baptism of Jesus, the initiation into his post as a Wisdom Teacher, and honors the incarnate Christ as fully God and fully human, a truth that Jesus was revealing to the rest of us. Once you have listened to what gifts wisdom is bearing for you, you may want to engage the ritual of blessing yourself or your home with water. A baptism, an initiation of sorts as an outward symbol of an interior recognition of the ways wisdom will companion you as you begin this new year.
I invite us to make this our ongoing wisdom vigil, pouring out these gifts, during this season of Epiphany which continues through to the start of Lent.
May you be anchored.
May you be surrendered.
May you be connected.
May you be free.
May you trust the invincibility of your own heart.
Here are a some of the readings from the ‘collective contemplative pauses’ this week:
“Contemplative prayer is a form of unveiling, because it reveals what is going on beneath the polished and busy surfaces of our minds, our hearts, and our bodies. When we finally get still enough, contemplation can live within us in pure, open moments of right here, right now. This is enough, this is fullness. If it is not right here, right now, it doesn’t exist. If we don’t know God now, how would we know God later? The mystics say we won’t. We will not recognize God later if we cannot recognize God now. It is a matter of seeing God now through the shadow and the disguise.”
- Richard Rohr
“Dear Wisdom Friends. As we enter this Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of Holy Wisdom at the stable, I invite you all to join me over the next twenty-four hours in keeping Wisdom vigil for our American nation as we enter the eye-of-the-needle of what will surely be one of the sorest tests ever pressed against our democracy and against the resiliency and common sense of our people. Whatever your politics, there is a deep need for Wisdom to arrive again, bearing her gifts of steadfastness, lucidity, and forbearance. . . Lets’ surround our world tonight in a blanket of holy equanimity and remorse of conscience. Frankincense, gold, and myrrh.”
- Cynthia Bourgeault, click here for the full blog
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whasoever things are of good report, if there be any praise, think on these things.”
- Philippians 4:8
“Dear God and Father of us all, forgive our foolish ways,
Reclothe us in our rightful mind; in purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise…